Commentary

Who deserves inclusion in Hall

Updated: November 12, 2013, 9:25 AM ET
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com

I started going through the list of players eligible for the Hockey Hall of Fame's class of 2014 and immediately got a migraine.

So many good bordering on great players -- or is that great bordering on good?

So many factors to consider: individual awards, team success, character, how often did they blow off the media? Were they ever a dominant player at their position? How do you define dominant?

For all the carping we've done over the years about the Hall of Fame's selection committee and the closed society that it represents, it's a thankless job and then some.

Some years may be easier than others, and it's hard to argue with the past couple Hall of Fame classes that included Scott Niedermayer, Brendan Shanahan (a year late but who's counting?), Fred Shero, Chris Chelios, Geraldine Heaney, Adam Oates, Pavel Bure, Mats Sundin, Joe Sakic, Doug Gilmour, Ed Belfour, Mark Howe and Joe Nieuwendyk.

But the task doesn't get any easier moving forward for the selection committee. As time passes, it seems there will be more and more "bubble" candidates -- for want of a better term -- that will cloud the discussion and create a never-ending stream of often rancorous debate.

Not that that is necessarily a bad thing.

The Hall of Fame is in many ways the ultimate in subjective evaluation. Like art, we may not know how to define it, but we know it when we see it; we may not know intrinsically what a Hall of Famer is, but we know one when we see one.

Talk to 100 hockey people and there may be 100 variations on what constitutes a player worthy of enshrinement.

Makes me wish I had my own Hall of Fame. If I did, this is how I would handicap those eligible starting next fall.

Dominik Hasek -- Mr. Gumby is in. Book the trip to Toronto now. Yes, he may have been temperamental and did at one point try to choke legendary hockey writer Jim Kelley, but he was a man who dominated his position and did so with a flare and style that at times defied description. Six Vezina Trophies, two Hart Trophies and a couple of Stanley Cup rings (one as a starter in 2002 and the other as a backup to Chris Osgood in 2008) and that's ample currency for a ticket to my Hall.

Peter Forsberg -- Like a lot of great players whose careers were cut short or dramatically impacted by injury, there will be some who wonder if Forsberg's relatively short career (he played just 708 regular-season games) are enough. For me, it's the production: 885 points over that period and another 171 points in 151 postseason games, which speaks to Forsberg's impact on the game. Two Stanley Cup rings, two Olympic gold medals and a Hart Trophy spells a one-way path to the Hall of Fame, at least my version of the Hall.

Paul Kariya -- Here's where things get a bit fuzzy. Kariya, like Forsberg, saw his career accomplishments blunted by injury and specifically concussions that ultimately led to Kariya's retirement after he missed the entire 2010-11 season. What is undeniable is that Kariya was one of the game's most gifted players, a magical playmaker who was just as dangerous shooting the puck. He finished his career with 989 points in 989 games with 402 goals. He won an Olympic gold in 2002 and a silver in 1994. He was a three-time first-team All-Star and was a runner-up for the Hart Trophy in 1997. The classy Kariya made one trip to the finals in 2003, where he famously had his head taken off by New Jersey Devils defenseman Scott Stevens in Game 6, then returned to score as the Ducks forced a Game 7. His contributions, along with longtime pal Teemu Selanne, in helping hockey gain a foothold in the Anaheim area cannot be overlooked, either. In my book, he gets a ticket to the Hall of Fame.

Mark Recchi -- In the past, I've been critical of the Hall of Fame selection committee for opening the door to players whose main criteria seemed to be hanging around a long time. And Mark Recchi sure did hang around, finishing fourth all-time in games played at 1,652. But the fact that until the end, when Recchi helped the Boston Bruins to a seminal Stanley Cup in 2011, Recchi was a key element to his teams' successes -- especially to the evolution of Patrice Bergeron as an elite NHL leader -- is an important factor. His 1,533 points are 12th all-time and everyone around him on that list is either a Hall of Famer or, in the case of Selanne, headed there. Throw in three Stanley Cup rings and we're making the call to Recchi as well; come on down.

Jeremy Roenick -- This one is a struggle. Yes, he hung around a long time and managed to collect a few points (1,216). That's not chopped liver. But there has -- and frankly continues to be -- too much "me, me, me" in Roenick for my liking. Throw in his admission that he basically tanked after coming back from the 2004-05 lockout in spite of the handsome salary being paid by the Los Angeles Kings for his services. Then there was his petulant turn while with the Phoenix Coyotes, when he departed GM Place after coach Wayne Gretzky made him a healthy scratch and had a nice dinner at a nearby restaurant. Great career? Sure. Hall of Fame? Maybe in yours but not mine.

Mike Modano -- This one was easier even though Modano and Roenick are part of the same generation of U.S. players that helped put American hockey back on the map. Modano was a key part of a Dallas Stars team that not only won a Cup in 1999 after moving from Minnesota, but helped install the sport in the state. Look at the number of Texans being drafted and you can draw a line directly to the impact Modano and his teammates had. His 561 goals are the most by an American-born player (second to Brett Hull among American players, as there is a distinction). Modano, come on down to my Hall of Fame.

Eric Lindros -- One of the most polarizing figures in the game in recent memory, Lindros was a dominant player for a short time, winning one Hart Trophy and finishing second in the NHL scoring race once. He was part of Canada's gold medal effort in 2002, although he played a small role with just one goal in six games. He did produce 57 postseason points in 53 playoff games, but could never get his teams over the playoff hump. Tough call but you've got to draw a line somewhere, and Lindros is on the other side of my Hall of Fame line.

Don Cherry -- Bobby Orr believes his former coach should be in the Hall of Fame and there is an interesting argument to be made not for Cherry's work as a coach -- which was, oh, about a hundred years ago and amounted to just 55 playoff games coached along with 480 regular-season games. But his impact on the game, positive or negative, as a longtime analyst for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation cannot be ignored. Has Cherry driven the game's popularity to new heights, or have his dim views on European players and draconian ideas on how the game should be played been a drag on the game? Discuss amongst yourselves, but in spite of his popularity, no room in my Hall for Cherry.

Pat Burns -- The fiery coach who was a three-time Jack Adams Award winner as coach of the year and who won a Stanley Cup with New Jersey is a different story than Cherry. The selection committee should forever feel shame for not inducting Burns while he was still alive. I'll be shocked if Burns, who died after a long battle with cancer in November 2010, is not a member of the class of 2014. He's in my Hall of Fame, that's for sure.

Sergei Zubov -- Maybe it's because he was Russian, but the classy Zubov sometimes goes underappreciated when considering the game's great rearguards. There is a country mile between him and Sergei Gonchar and the rest of the Russian defensive crop, which suggests that Zubov was in some ways a groundbreaker. His 771 points in 1,068 games are good for 20th all-time among defensemen. He won two Cups and was plus-148. His 117 postseason points are 12th overall. Zubie? Get in the Hall.

Chris Osgood -- Along with Curtis Joseph, Chris Osgood represents a significant Hall of Fame dilemma. He won three Stanley Cups with Detroit -- two as a starter -- and came within a win in 2009 of collecting a fourth ring. His 401 wins rank 10th overall and his 74 playoff victories are eighth. Sounds like a Hall of Famer, no? Yet critics will suggest Osgood was merely an average goalie who played on exceptional teams. Like that's his fault. Come on down, Chris Osgood.

Curtis Joseph -- If you asked 100 hockey people to pick the better goaltender between Osgood and Joseph, how many would pick Joseph in a heartbeat? Ninety? Eighty-five? Joseph finished his fine career with 454 wins, fourth all-time. That's right, fourth. Worth noting is that everyone in the top 10 in wins, except Osgood and Joseph, are in the Hall of Fame. Hasek, who sits at 11, is going in as noted. Why not Joseph? The biggest obstacle for Joseph's inclusion is his lack of postseason success, although his 63 playoff wins still put him 12th overall. If you invite Osgood, don't you have to invite Joseph as well? Well, don't you? OK. He's in.

As for some of the other players eligible for inclusion -- Doug Weight, Brian Rafalski, Phil Housley, Chris Drury, Rod Brind'Amour and Rob Blake -- I have all the time in the world for you, but no tickets reserved in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

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