Not that there are any easy years for the Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee, but the oft-maligned group has its hands full when considering the Class of 2013.
Chris Chelios -- did he actually retire? -- headlines a top-end group of defensemen who are eligible for selection beginning next fall. Chelios, whose 1,651 NHL games are the most played by a defenseman all-time, is a lock (or should be), as is Scott Niedermayer, one of the greatest defensemen of his generation and a man whose trophy case includes championships at every level.
But the selection committee will also have to consider the merits of former Norris Trophy winner Rob Blake and Mathieu Schneider, who played 21 NHL seasons and collected 743 points. And what of Phil Housley, thus far ignored by the Hall of Fame but who ranks fourth all-time among defensemen with 1,232 points?
The decision doesn't get any easier when considering the forward contingent.
Brendan Shanahan was overlooked a year ago but has Hall of Fame credentials and should get a call.
And what about Rod Brind'Amour, the consummate team leader and Cup winner who finished with 1,184 points? Or Paul Kariya, who was among the most skilled players in the league during his prime, finished with 989 points in exactly 989 regular-season games and won a gold medal with Canada in 2002? Or Keith Tkachuk, an important U.S.-born player who scored 538 goals in his 1,201 regular-season games?
And that's to say nothing of the builders, guys like Pat Burns and Fred Shero, who are also Hall-worthy but have been thus far ignored by the selection committee.
One thing is for sure: No matter which way the selection committee goes with the Class of 2013, it will generate more than a little discussion.