Less than 10 months ago, when Nicklas Lidstrom announced his retirement after two decorated decades in the NHL, stocks of Detroit-area calendars for the year 2015 were likely purchased and highlighted for the first week of November.
Lidstrom is the latest NHL retiree impossible to envision going to the Hockey Hall of Fame any later than the minimum three-year waiting period. Chris Chelios, Peter Forsberg and Mike Modano are some of the others.
Among those still playing, there is a long list of likely first-ballot inductees from the post-2005 lockout influx of talent, many of whom will surely meet that feat if they stay the course for the next decade-plus. The same can be said of such players as Zdeno Chara, Pavel Datsyuk and the Sedin twins, who began to burgeon in the seasons between 2000-01 and 2003-04.
But just to play it safe and not bank on too many long-term, on-ice assumptions, this list is limited to those who have been NHL regulars since before the turn of the century circa 2000.
The 10 players who have been familiar faces for that long and are most likely to go to the Hall as soon as they are eligible are as follows.
Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics for this slideshow were found via nhl.com
Only three times in Daniel Alfredsson’s 17-year career, spent entirely in Ottawa, has he finished a season with a negative rating. Those were in 1995-96, when the same could be said of all of his fellow Senators regulars; 2010-11, when it held true for all regulars except Ryan Shannon; and this year, when it is fair to say he is on the decline and was hurt by the lockout.
Apart from that minor detail, there is hardly anything not to like about Alfredsson’s resume. The only other downer is relatively beyond his control, namely the fact that his career output of 1,103 points has never been rewarded with a Stanley Cup title.
The closest he has come in that regard was in 2007, when he tied Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza for the team lead with 22 points and stood alone at the top with 14 goals in the playoffs. The rest of the Sens were simply too shallow, overmatched and overwhelmed by the victorious Anaheim Ducks in the finals.
This may require the least explanation to the many devout, attentive puckheads and even followers of a lesser level. But it is only fair to go through the formalities anyway.
Martin Brodeur has logged 666 career wins, 115 more than the second all-time leader, Patrick Roy. Even if you want to consider that number inflated by the shootout, there is no question he still would have breezed his way to the top of the list.
Roughly 18 percent of those victories have come in the form of Brodeur’s unsurpassed 120 shutouts, 17 more than previous all-time leader Terry Sawchuk.
With 1,214 career games on his transcript, that is an average of nearly one goose-egg for every 10 outings. Furthermore, only Brodeur and Roy have scraped the blue paint more than 1,000 times, a testament to durability and dependability.
It does not hurt to add the fact that he has backstopped the New Jersey Devils to five Stanley Cup Finals, including three championship victories. Ditto the four Vezina Trophies and five William Jennings Trophies he has accrued.
With 216 goals and 770 points, Gonchar leads all active blueliners in the career production department. He is No. 20 in that heading on the all-time list and could surpass both Sergei Zubov and Rob Blake before this regular season is over.
Gonchar will turn 39 next week and despite a recent slump he has still been doing a sound all-around job. He leads the Ottawa Senators with 20 assists and has allowed an average near or below two opposing goals per 60 minutes played.
It is hard to imagine he will not re-sign for another year or two and continue to enhance his Hall of Fame resume, thus hastening his enshrinement to the conventional three-year limit after he retires.
He has already played 1,010 career games and scored 928 points in that span, and at age 34, Marian Hossa should still have another handful of seasons yet to come.
Over his first 14 seasons in the NHL, Hossa has worked with such elites as Alfredsson, Ilya Kovalchuk, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Yet he was the top producer on the 2002-03 and 2003-04 Senators, the 2006-07 Atlanta Thrashers and the 2011-12 Chicago Blackhawks.
His recent concussion history is a bit of a worry, but if the worst is behind him, the 1,250-point plateau is perfectly within Hossa’s reach.
There are only three active NHL skaters who have balanced a brimful output of at least 1,000 career points with at least 500 goals and 500 assists. They are Jaromir Jagr, Teemu Selanne and Jarome Iginla.
Between 2000-01 and 2011-12, Iginla led the Calgary Flames in point production 11 times out of a possible 11, and was their top goal-getter 10 times.
Iginla has twice garnered the Rocket Richard Trophy as the most prolific goal-scorer in the league, doing so with 52 strikes in 2001-02 and 41 in 2003-04. He later tallied 50 in 2007-08, eclipsed by only Ilya Kovalchuk (52) and Alexander Ovechkin (65).
One of only six active players with 1,000 career points, Jaromir Jagr is also the only current player with 1,000 career assists. He is also one of only 18 all-time NHL players to have cracked the 600-goal plateau.
The Czech winger’s individual trophy case consists of five Art Ross prizes, a Hart Trophy and three Lester B. Pearson Awards.
The most recent of those accolades came when his peers deemed him the top performer in the league in 2005-06, when he tallied a 54-69-123 scoring log for the Rangers. At that point, he had already been in the league for 15 years, not counting the season that never was in 2004-05.
The most recent defenseman to win the Hart Trophy, which he did in 2000, Chris Pronger is the second highest all-time scorer among active blueliners and first on the plus/minus leaderboard.
He has finished only six of his 18 NHL seasons with a negative rating, four of them in low single digits. Conversely, he has finished another six seasons with swollen double-digit positive ratings.
With the help of Pronger, the Blues posted the NHL’s best regular-season record in 1999-00, no small feat given the might at the time of such conference rivals as Colorado, Dallas and Detroit.
Later on, the Oilers went on a Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006, the Flyers likewise in 2010 and the Ducks won the Cup in 2007.
Martin St. Louis has finished three seasons in the 90-point range, including an MVP year in 2003-04, as well as a 102-point romp in 2006-07. A four-figure collection of career points is not out of the question as he is still under contract through 2014-15.
Selanne is second to Jagr among active NHL players with 674 goals and 1,429 points. Among all players, past and present, he is No. 15 on the all-time points leaderboard and No. 11 on the goal-scoring chart.
With a peerless 47 goals in 1998-99, Selanne was the inaugural winner of the Rocket Richard Trophy. Had that award been introduced a year prior, he would have shared it with Peter Bondra, having tallied 52 strikes in 1997-98.
Or, if it existed in 1992-93, Selanne would have had a Richard Trophy to share with Alexander Mogilny (76 goals apiece) and to go with his Calder Trophy.
Nearly a point-per-gamer with 1,113 in his first 1,114 NHL twirls, Thornton is one of the most accomplished playmakers among today’s NHL players.
He trails only Jagr in the active career assists category. He has finished two of his first 14 seasons in the 50-assist range, four in the 60-range and one each in the 70s and 90s. He led the league with 67 helpers in 2007-08, 92 in 2006-07 and 72 in 2005-06.