Editor's note: Our weekly "Faceoff" features ESPN.com NHL writers Scott Burnside (based in Atlanta) and Pierre LeBrun (based in Toronto), who duke it out over any given hockey topic. Let the games begin!
This week's topic: Which on-the-fence players are deserving of the Hall of Fame?
Scott Burnside: Hello, Pierre. Well, another Hall of Fame weekend is upon us. It's one of my favorite parts of the NHL schedule and not just because I get to return to Toronto for a few days of frivolity. One of the best parts is the debate over whether this class is worthy and who should be getting the call for next year's class. I know you answered a bunch of questions about that in your Question of the Week segment, but do you have a favorite dark horse for next year?
Pierre LeBrun: Before I start, Scotty, let me just paint you a picture. I'm sitting at my desk in my home office, and I can see kids playing hockey on my street below. Canadiana at its best. Anyway, back to the Hall of Fame chat. Two guys I really think have been overlooked are Doug Gilmour and Pavel Bure, but I don't see how they'll break into what looks like a slam-dunk foursome next year: Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Brian Leetch and Luc Robitaille. Yzerman and Hull, especially, are complete no-brainers. But hopefully, much like Glenn Anderson, eventually Bure and Gilmour will work their way in.
Burnside: I just wonder why those kids aren't in school. As for the Hall of Fame, I keep going back and forth on Gilmour and Bure. Given playoff success and the impact he had on the teams he played for, I give the nod to Gilmour, but I think it may be a wait for both of them. One of the guys I liked, whose name came up on your question of the week segment, was Dave Andreychuk. He remade himself from a pure goal scorer -- he had 640 goals and 1,338 points -- to a solid two-way player who was instrumental in the Tampa Bay Lightning's Cup win in 2004. I'm not saying he should be in, but I like him a lot more than, say, Dino Ciccarelli, whose name often comes up but who had less of an impact. By the way, I am assuming you're OK with this class going into the Hall.
LeBrun: I fear some people on the Hall of Fame committee may remember Andreychuk's last five or six years too much. He stuck around too long. But I agree, his numbers dictate he should be in the Hall. Glad you agree on Gilmour. Bure should also be in. One of my personal standards is whether the player was among the elite for a minimum of four to five years. Bure had two 60-goal seasons, plus seasons of 59 and 58. Electrifying.
This year's class? Anderson finally got his due. (Great piece by you on him, by the way. I took a sneak peek at your raw version.) He was Mr. Clutch with 93 playoff goals. Long overdue. And Larionov? As you know, Scotty, I was incensed he didn't get in during his first year of eligibility. Mark Messier, Ron Francis, Al MacInnis and Scott Stevens are no-brainers as well, but in my mind Larionov and Messier stand above the rest in that group. The committee showed its North American bias by making a pure legend like Larionov -- a trailblazer, visionary and superstar hockey player -- wait another year.
Burnside: I'm not sold on Bure. Career numbers don't stand up (I know, injuries, boo-hoo) and one appearance in a Cup final just doesn't do it for me. I like that the Hall of Fame has moved from its former standard of hey you stuck around for a long time or played on a great team or were just a nice guy, come on in, to a more difficult standard. That standard may mean that guys who are deserving, but aren't shoo-ins, get shut out just like in baseball. I don't think that's a bad thing. As for the anti-Euro bias, that, too, is going the way of the dinosaur. Larionov should have been in last year, but that's a tough class no matter how you crack it. He's in this year and joins old pal Slava Fetisov, Valeri Kharlamov in 2005 and, of course, Vladislav Tretiak. I'm not sure there's an obvious next European player, are you? Sergei Makarov, maybe, although he slides into that gray area for me.
LeBrun: Aside from Bure, who is Hall material, the next Russian to look at is Alexander Mogilny. Pretty impressive career. Makarov also deserves a long, hard look. A famed member of the KLM line, like Larionov, he had an outstanding international career, but his NHL sojourn was much shorter than Igor's. That has hurt his stock with the committee, but he still deserves to get in. You want to talk about biases? Let's address the elephant in the room. She's wearing pink. Our colleague Damien Cox wrote about how ludicrous it is that female players haven't been inducted yet in the Hall of Fame. It's 2008 for god's sake! Geraldine Heaney, Angela James, Cassie Campbell, Cammi Granato, let's move on this, people.
Burnside: I know, I shed a few big fat tears when I read Damien's piece on the site. Boo-hoo, I say. There are two hockey-playing nations in the world when it comes to women. You want to honor women's hockey by putting someone like Granato, Heaney or Hayley Wickenheiser in as builders or by having a section in the Hall reserved to educate people about women's hockey, OK. But players in the Hall? Come on. To suggest any female player deserves to share space with Gretzky, Lemieux, Richard et al completely runs into one of the things that drives people crazy about the Hall -- that anyone can get in. Sorry. Not in my Hall of Fame.
LeBrun: Well, and I guess we'll never see a black U.S. president, either. Oh wait, that happened! Scotty, I know you're still smarting from women getting the right to vote 90-odd years ago, but give me a freakin' break. The best women's hockey players deserve to be recognized. It's not the NHL Hall of Fame. I'm sure people argued 30 years ago during the Cold War that no Russian should ever get into the Hockey Hall of Fame, either. Guess what, it's not our Hall of Fame. It's not just for boys, either. Time to break down the barrier. As Barack Obama would say, "Yes we can!"
Burnside: Let's see, Obama-Cammi Granato, yes I see the link. By the way, Mr. Defender of Women's Hockey, when was the last time you saw a women's hockey game? I thought so. I don't recall you jamming your way into the press box in Torino. I was there. It's like watching mediocre high school hockey. Again, I have all kinds of respect for the progress made in women's hockey -- as limited as it is to North America -- but that's not a ticket to the Hall of Fame. Or it shouldn't be.
LeBrun: Scotty, I'll let you hang yourself on this one. No need for me to pile on. I'm a polite Northern Ontario native. Let me gently shift the focus to future Hall of Famers. The other day I was having a pop with some colleagues, and one of them needled me for referring to Joe Thornton as a future inductee. I was taken aback. I mean, if Bernie Federko, Clark Gillies and Dick Duff are Hall of Famers, how the heck can't Big Joe be one?
Burnside: As I thought. You've never seen a women's game. Fair enough. I won't embarrass you further. As for Joe Thornton, hmm, might be nice to see the big center actually win something of importance before we start hammering out his likeness on a Hall of Fame plaque. What about a guy like Rod Brind'Amour, who has 1,122 points and counting, and may have saved hockey in Raleigh by leading the Hurricanes to the Cup in 2006? How about Paul Kariya, considered one of the top three or four players in the game for a period of time (your criterion, not mine)? We assume Kariya's old pal Teemu Selanne is a lock. (I do anyway.) But Kariya will be an interesting case given his international success.
LeBrun: Ah Scotty, I covered the 2002 women's gold-medal game in Salt Lake City when my country beat yours for gold. Stuff it.
Kariya and Thornton are very similar. Big numbers, but no ring yet. Brind'Amour, for sure, gets in. And then there's your pal Eric Lindros. I'm in the minority on this one, but yes, because he dominated for a certain period of time, including winning a Hart Trophy as league MVP, I think the Big E gets in. After all, how does Cam Neely get in and not Lindros?
Burnside: So you catch up on women's hockey once every six years. Then of course they deserve to be in the Hall. As for Thornton or Lindros, the problem with the Hall is that previous inductees (and I'm not singling out Cam Neely, necessarily) are always used as the benchmark, and that's not the right way. Sorry, Lindros waits with the women. At any rate, time to move on. I'm sure you'll be in a hurry to get to Lake Placid this weekend to cover the big Four Nations Cup. That's a women's hockey gig, by the way. Until next time.
LeBrun: Ooooh, brownie points for Scotty for knowing what the Four Nations Cup is. Drop it, Dinosaur. I'm tired of talking to you. See you this weekend in Toronto. Don't expect me to buy you a beer.
Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun cover the NHL for ESPN.com. Neither Scott nor Pierre has received any votes into the Hockey Hall of Fame.