With yet another NHL lockout well underway, it's certainly a difficult time to be a hockey fan, especially if Kontinental Hockey League, American Hockey League or major junior and college hockey action doesn't excite your senses.
Until the world's greatest league resumes play, one way for hockey fans to kill time while the NHL and the NHLPA continue to butt heads over a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is to engage in spirited historical debates, and here are a few ideas to help tide hockey enthusiasts over until the NHL eventually opens its doors.
Wayne, Bobby or Mario?
In any discussion regarding who the greatest hockey player of all time is, with all due respect to Gordie Howe and Maurice Richard, there are three names that stand above all the rest: Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky.
There's a case to be made for each of the three, as Mario was arguably the most dominant forward ever for a short period of time (thanks to back injuries and cancer), Orr was the most revolutionary defenseman ever to lace up a pair of skates and Gretzky holds virtually every meaningful scoring record in the book.
Ultimately, the title still seems to belong to Gretzky, and rightfully so, as the Great One has more assists than any other player had points, but there are still many that would argue for either Orr or Lemieux.
Who Will Be Among the 2013 Hall of Fame Inductees?
Yes, Scott Niedermayer and Chris Chelios are slam dunks to be inducted, but after them, there's a logjam of worthy candidates who will be at the mercy of the selection committee for the final two spots.
Among the most notable candidates are former Hart Trophy winner Eric Lindros, three-time Stanley Cup winner and Olympic gold medalist Brendan Shanahan, former Norris Trophy winner Rob Blake and a slew of perennial All-Stars including Jeremy Roenick, Theo Fleury, Paul Kariya and Keith Tkachuk.
It's still a wonder how Shanahan didn't get picked in his first year of eligibility, but assuming he gets in in year two, the fourth and final spot is still very much up for grabs.
Greatest International Team of All-Time?
Hockey fans tend to get very passionate when discussing international teams, so another spirited debate to be had is which international squad is the greatest of all time.
Here's my short-list, in no particular order: Team Canada's Olympic teams from 2002 and 2010, the Soviet Union squads of the late 1970s, Team Canada's Summit Series team from 1972, Team USA's World Cup squad of 1996, Sweden's Olympic team of 2006 and Team Canada's entry from the 1991 Canada Cup.
Which Draft Class is the Best Ever?
This one's a little less subjective, because unless you're arguing in favor of the 1988 or 1979 NHL draft classes, there's one class that stands head and shoulders above the rest.
That's because in less than a decade since the 2003 NHL draft, the first-round produced 14 NHL All-Stars, as well as another eight in the later rounds.
Among the 30 players who heard their names called during the first round, there are only a handful of guys who didn't materialize into top-flight NHLers.
Who is the Greatest Captain in NHL History?
Generally speaking, Mark Messier has been widely regarded as the most decorated leader in modern hockey history, but in the discussion of greatest captain ever, he faces stiff competition from Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic, Scott Stevens, Brian Trottier, Mario Lemieux and even the likes of former teammate Wayne Gretzky.
Going further back, former Montreal Canadiens greats Jean Beliveau (10 cups, five as captain) and Henri Richard (11 cups, two as captain) have pedigrees that speak for themselves, so there are a number of captains who have built defensible cases for themselves.
Who Will Have the Best Career: Ovechkin, Crosby, Malkin or Stamkos?
Since the last NHL lockout, there have been a number of star players who have burst onto the scene, but the four most noteworthy (without delving into another debate) are likely Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Two years ago, Ovechkin with his two Hart Trophies and Crosby with his Olympic gold and Stanley Cup, appeared to be the co-faces of the sport by a long-shot. However, with Ovechkin's numbers in a steep decline, and Crosby still struggling to get back to where he was prior to his well-documented concussion troubles, Stamkos and Malkin have hopped into the driver's seat.
Coming off a season that featured a two-man race for the scoring title between Malkin and Stamkos, the pair appear to be in a good position to push Crosby and Ovechkin out of the spotlight to some extent, at least for the time being.