The Stanley Cup in its home at the Hockey Hall of Fame
The best of all time. A living legend. A Hall of Famer.
There is a lot of hyperbole thrown around when talking about sports stars, and it often is an emotional or contentious subject when debating who is the best at a given position.
With that in mind, when looking at current players in the NHL that might be in this discussion, it is best to use the most selective criteria, that of the Hockey Hall of Fame: “Playing ability, sportsmanship, character and their contribution to the team or teams and to the game of hockey in general.”
While the selection criteria seem rather short, there are some unwritten rules that can be observed when looking at who has been inducted.
First, a player has to be an impact player or star. You won’t find many fourth-liners in the Hall of Fame. You have to score a lot of goals or win some major awards to be in the Hall.
Second, a lengthy career at a high level is a plus. You might find players like Cam Neely or Pavel Bure who had careers cut short by injury, but that is the exception, rather than the rule.
Third, while it isn’t explicitly stated, the Hockey Hall of Fame is an NHL club. There are token inductees who primarily played outside the NHL, but they are few and far between. Play in lower leagues or in Europe is generally discounted. International play falls into this category as well, although competitions like the Olympics after 2002 or the 1972 Summit Series are considered more favorably.
Fourth, you have to be respected. This is essentially a popularity contest, and someone who is considered to play hockey “the right way” or is judged to be a good guy by his peers is more likely to get in than another player if all other factors are equal.
Fifth, playing in a big market helps. Most of the inductees are from Original Six teams, which is only to be expected given their history. But playing in an Original Six market or another big hockey market (Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Edmonton or Vancouver for example) is an asset in getting media attention and therefore being more popular when it comes time to vote.
Six, winning trumps all. You can be the biggest jerk off the ice, play on small-market teams and be considered one of the dirtiest players in the league...but if you win, you’ll get in. You could call this the Chris Pronger rule. Or the Mark Messier rule if you prefer.
With all this in mind, let's look at who might potentially make the Hall of Fame from each NHL team’s 2012-13 roster.
This is an easy one. The Ducks have many good players, but Teemu Selanne will be a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee. If anyone is a sure thing in this slideshow, it is the Finnish Flash.
Still playing at 42, he has teammates who weren't even born when he scored 76 goals in his rookie season back in 1992-93.
Still putting up the points, albeit at a more modest pace, Selanne is currently sitting at 1,424 points over 1,367 regular-season games.
Norris Trophy as the league's best defenceman? Check.
Stanley Cup ring? Check.
One of the most feared defenders in the NHL? Check.
Zdeno Chara captained the Bruins to their 2011 Stanley Cup, and despite his reputation in some cities, he is regarded as one of the best defenders in the NHL today.
Ryan Miller won the Vezina trophy as the top goalie in 2010, the same year he was awarded the tournament MVP and Best Goaltender awards in the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.
Miller hasn't been blessed with a good team around him lately, but he is one of the best goalies in the NHL today.
Jarome Iginla is a Canadian icon. He is revered in Calgary, and respected across the rest of the NHL, as a hard-nosed forward who plays the game the right away, never taking a shift off.
He is in rare company as one of only seven players to score 30 or more goals in 11 consecutive seasons, although that streak looks to be coming to an end during this lockout-shortened season.
Iginla has never won a Stanley Cup, although he came close with Calgary in 2003. He had a distinguished international record, playing integral roles for Team Canada on the 2002 and 2010 gold-medal teams.
Eric Staal is the captain of the Carolina Hurricanes, and that always helps since the Hockey Hall of Fame likes leaders.
But more importantly, he is a member of the exclusive Triple Gold club, which practically guarantees him a spot in the Hall of Fame regardless of how the rest of his career turns out.
The Triple Gold club is populated by only the very best players of the modern era. To get in, you have to have won the Stanley Cup, as well as earned gold at the World Championships and Olympics. Only 25 players have ever met these criteria.
Staal won the Stanley Cup in 2005-06, the World Championship in 2007 and Olympic gold in 2010.
In all honesty, there are probably half a dozen players on the Blackhawks who could make the Hall of Fame. But without any insult to Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa or Patrick Kane, no one is more likely to get in than their captain, Jonathan Toews, the youngest member of the Triple Gold club. All Toews does is win:
Gold medal at the U-17 World Championship in 2005.
Two more gold medals at the World Junior Championships in 2006 and 2007.
Another gold medal at the World Championship in 2007.
Olympic gold in 2010, where he was also named the best forward of the tournament.
A Stanley Cup in 2010.
A Conn Smythe trophy in 2010 as the playoff MVP.
2010 was a pretty good year for Toews. On the strength of that year alone, he'd be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. And he is only 24, so expect that trophy case to get bigger before he hangs up his skates.
This one is a bit of a stretch given his tender age, but based on his potential and achievements in the NHL so far, Gabriel Landeskog could very well end up in the Hall of Fame.
The youngest captain ever in NHL history, beating out Sidney Crosby by a mere 11 days, Landeskog had a stellar rookie season, racking up 52 points and winning the Calder Trophy.
With Colorado's young core, he'll have a chance to make some deep playoff runs in the near future. And as a member of Team Sweden, he can be assured of some international success as well.
Ryan Johansen is the player most likely to make the Hall of Fame from the Blue Jackets' current roster. Unfortunately for Columbus fans, being the most likely still isn't a very good bet.
Johansen was picked fourth overall in 2010 and has plenty of potential. Now in his second season, he is still working to turn that potential into success in the NHL.
Jaromir Jagr should already be in the Hall of Fame. However, he decided to return to the NHL rather than retire after a stint in the KHL.
A member of the Triple Gold club, Jagr won an Olympic gold medal in 1998, the first year NHL players participated in the Olympics. He already had a pair of Stanley Cup rings with the Penguins in 1991 and 1992. And he completed the trifecta with a pair of World Championship gold medals in 2005 and 2010.
Oh, and he also owns a Hart trophy as the regular-season MVP, three Pearson trophies as the player voted MVP and five Art Ross trophies as the NHL's scoring leader.
Aside from his impressive achievements, the voters for the Hall of Fame are generally older, so I'm sure they'll appreciate a man still willing to rock an '80s-style mullet in 2013.
If this were last season, I'd have said Nicklas Lidstrom. But with Lidstrom having finally hung up his skates, along with his perennial lock on the Norris trophy, fellow Swede Henrik Zetterberg is the most likely Red Wing to make the Hall of Fame from the current roster.
Zetterberg has won the Calder trophy as the NHL's top rookie, the Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward and the Conn Smythe as the playoff MVP. He took home the Conn Smythe in 2008, the same year he hoisted the Stanley Cup in Detroit.
Combine those impressive achievements with his gold medals with Team Sweden in the 2006 Olympics and 2006 World Championships, and Zetterberg is a lock for the Hall of Fame.
He may not be as flashy as Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but if anyone makes the Hall of Fame from the current Oilers lineup, it will be Jordan Eberle.
He has already won gold with Team Canada at the World Junior and U-17 level, and he should be in the mix for Team Canada at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. And at some point, the Oilers will achieve critical mass and start making some noise in the playoffs, so expect a Stanley Cup ring or two over the next decade as well.
Jonathan Huberdeau was drafted third overall by the Panthers in 2011, and as a teen, he is leading the Panthers in scoring during his rookie season. The sky is the limit for Huberdeau, and he might get some time on Team Canada as well in the future.
The only downside in his potential for the Hall of Fame is that he plays in Florida, which isn't a traditional hockey market. Still, that shouldn't hold him back if he continues to produce like he has in his rookie year.
Mike Richards is a winner. Of course, you could say that about quite a few players on the Kings, but Richards has a slightly better pedigree.
Aside from hoisting the Cup last spring, he has won gold at the 2010 Olympics and 2005 World Junior Championships.
Richards is also the only player to have won the Memorial Cup, Calder Cup and Stanley Cup as the champion of the CHL, AHL and NHL respectively.
One of the best forwards for Team USA, and the most coveted free agent last summer, Zach Parise is primed to start winning.
Whether it comes in the NHL playoffs with the Minnesota Wild or with Team USA in Sochi, Parise's career has been filled with great personal achievements and close calls with championships.
In 2010, he was named to the Olympic team. Despite his personal heroics to send the gold-medal game to overtime with a last-minute goal, Team USA fell short and he settled for silver.
Last spring, he led the underdog Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals, only to fall to the L.A. Kings.
P.K. Subban is a polarizing figure for the Habs. Whether he is scoring big goals, throwing a big hit or sitting out as a restricted free agent to land a big contract, Subban is always in the news.
As the Canadiens lead the Eastern Conference down the stretch, look for P.K. to play a big role in any playoff drives.
And next winter, look for him to play a big role on Team Canada in the Sochi Olympics.
The captain of the Predators is one of the best defencemen in the NHL. Also, he is one of the best defencemen on Team Canada.
While a Stanley Cup has eluded him with the Predators, Weber has won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2010 Olympics and looks to defend that title as one of the defensive stalwarts at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. He has also won gold at the World Championships and World Juniors.
At 40, Martin Brodeur is on the downside of his career. But what a career it has been.
Arguably the best goalie of his generation, Brodeur holds the record for most career wins, most wins in a single season, most games played, most playoff shutouts and most regular-season shutouts, among other milestones.
He won Olympic gold medals in 2002 and 2010, Stanley Cups in 1995, 2000 and 2003 and a gold medal in the World Cup of Hockey in 2004.
Brodeur revolutionized goaltending with his style and puck-handling ability. The NHL even changed the rules to prevent goalies from handling the puck in the corners because of Brodeur.
The only question about when Brodeur will go into the Hall of Fame is how soon—depending on whether or not he retires this year.
Toiling in hockey purgatory—otherwise known as playing for the New York Islanders—since being drafted first overall in 2009, John Tavares has put together a young career that would draw accolades in a better market.
He has won gold at the World Juniors in 2008 and 2009 and should be representing Team Canada at the 2014 Olympics. If the Islanders make the playoffs, it will be through the strength of their captain, not their front office.
Prior to this season, Rick Nash knew exactly how John Tavares felt as a great player toiling on a mediocre team.
Since being freed from the shackles of Columbus, Nash has a chance to make a splash on the big stage with the New York Rangers. And if he can do that while playing in the biggest city in North America and for an Original Six franchise, all the better.
Along with his impressive individual achievements in the NHL so far, the 28-year-old power forward has picked up gold medals with Team Canada at the 2010 Olympics and 2007 World Championships.
Team achievements might have eluded Erik Karlsson so far, but the 22-year-old certainly has crossed quite a few individual accomplishments off his bucket list.
Joining a distinguished group along with legends Bobby Orr and Denis Potvin as the only players to win a Norris trophy under the age of 23, Karlsson put together an astounding 78-point campaign in 2011-12.
Unfortunately, he was sidelined with a serious injury this season. But the future is bright for Ottawa's newest defensive star. Hopefully they don't trade him away like they did Zdeno Chara.
With the caveat that he is on the injured list, Chris Pronger is the most likely player on the Philadelphia Flyers to make the Hall of Fame.
Hated by the players and fans of the 29 teams he isn't currently playing for, Pronger was a violent, dirty player who holds the infamous distinction of being the player with the most playoff suspensions.
However, remember that unwritten rule that winning trumps all?
Well, Pronger is a winner, so despite his reputation, he'll be a Hall of Famer as soon as he officially retires.
Winner of Olympic gold in 2002 and 2010, World Championship gold in 1997 as a teenager and the Stanley Cup in 2007, Pronger is a member of the Triple Gold club.
He won the World Championship as a teen because once he hit the NHL, he didn't have time off in the spring. Pronger played in 173 playoff games, missing the playoffs only in the first two years of his career, back in 1994 and 1995.
A few of his other accomplishments are the Norris and Hart trophies in 2000 and taking both the Flyers and Oilers to the Stanley Cup Finals. He racked up 1,590 regular-season and 326 playoff penalty minutes as well.
Shane Doan falls into a similar category as Jarome Iginla: respected veteran forwards who can score and hit, who are the longtime face of their respective franchises and yet have not won a Stanley Cup.
In his time in the desert, Doan has managed to get as far as the Western Conference Finals, but no further. On the international stage, he has gold medals from the World Championships and World Cup.
No longer Sid the Kid, but still the greatest player in the NHL (when healthy), Sidney Crosby is leading the NHL with 47 points currently.
A quick summary of his career would reveal 656 points in 463 regular-season games, a Stanley Cup in 2009 and an overtime goal in the gold medal game of the 2010 Olympics. Art Ross, Rocket Richard, Pearson and Hart trophies round out his trophy case as well.
He may have his critics, but does anyone truly doubt he is the face of the NHL and a surefire Hall of Fame player?
Joe Thornton was the first overall pick of the 1997 draft. While he has yet to drink from the Stanley Cup, Jumbo Joe has gold medals with Team Canada from the 2010 Olympics, 2004 World Cup and 1997 World Juniors.
His international record and a point-per-game pace over his lengthy career (currently at 1,104 points over 1,103 games) guarantee Thornton a close look by the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Alex Pietrangelo may not be a household name yet, at least outside of St. Louis, but he will be. Only 23, Pietrangelo has already racked up 115 points in 204 games. That would be a healthy pace for a forward, but Pietrangelo is a defender.
As the Blues continue to improve, Pietrangelo will continue to shine. And he has an outside chance of starting for Team Canada in the Sochi Olympics as well.
Martin St. Louis has the numbers to be a member of the Hall of Fame, but the 37-year-old winger will make it for another reason.
Almost all of the people on this list were drafted in the first round, many first overall.
They are also tall enough to ride the roller coasters at Disneyland.
While I jest about his height, the 5'8" St. Louis is definitely the shortest player on this list. And he is the only one that wasn't drafted.
The underdog story of an undrafted forward, who didn't let the criticism of his size deter him from pursuing a career that would span 889 points over 959 games and counting, is a classic Hollywood sports story.
St. Louis has a Stanley Cup ring from 2004, a Hart trophy, an Art Ross Trophy and a Pearson Trophy.
Not bad for a player whom every team in the NHL passed on repeatedly and who passed through waivers and the expansion draft on numerous occasions before emerging in Tampa Bay.
While he gets some bad press because Brian Burke infamously overpaid for him, Phil Kessel is a great hockey player. Only 25, he has 174 goals already to his name. If the Leafs are to end their playoff drought this year, it will be on the back of their leading scorer.
Playing in the center of the hockey universe is never a bad thing for a player's chances at making the Hockey Hall of Fame. After all, it is located in Toronto.
If I could pick two players for this list, it would be the Sedins. But since I'm limiting myself to one player per team, I'll go with a singular, and more controversial, player.
Roberto Luongo is a Hall of Fame goalie. Putting aside rhetoric, lazy cliches perpetuated by the media and emotion and looking just at the stats, it is undeniable.
With a 0.919 save percentage and 2.51 GAA over a 740 regular-season game career, Luongo has been pretty good considering he's played on perennial lottery pick teams in Long Island and Florida prior to being traded to Vancouver.
Luongo also has gold medals from the 2003 and 2004 World Championships, 2004 World Cup and 2010 Olympics for Team Canada.
Luongo also backstopped the Canucks to Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, which normally wouldn't be that big of an achievement for a great player. But he did so while the Canucks only scored eight goals over the entire seven-game series.
Essentially Luongo stole three games of the finals for his teammates, and if they had managed to win Game 7, he surely would have been named Conn Smythe winner.
And if nothing else, he deserves an award for his comedy.
When the 2004 lockout ended, the NHL was treated to two young stars competing to be the face of the NHL and the greatest player of their generation. Sidney Crosby has won that competition soundly, but Alexander Ovechkin is still one of the great players of the modern era.
While he has slowed down in recent years, Alex the Great has 701 points in 580 games. He has won the Hart trophy as NHL MVP in 2008 and 2009, the Art Ross trophy as scoring leader in 2008 and the Rocket Richard trophy in 2008 and 2009.
Ovechkin will be looking to add a gold medal to his resume next year at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Evander Kane is only 21 but has already scored 74 goals and 146 points in his 240-game career. He has also won a gold medal in the World Juniors for Team Canada in 2009.
Fans in Winnipeg love him, and the rest of the NHL is slowly taking note of him now that the franchise was freed from Atlanta. Kane plays old-school hockey, going hard to the net to score.
He isn't afraid to run guys over and is willing to drop the gloves and defend himself and his teammates, as Matt Cooke infamously found out.