Little room at the inn

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

The Hockey Hall of Fame has gone from a perceived lack of quality candidates to hitting the motherlode.

But a growing number of deserving nominees are going to be double-parked after the 2007 class is announced following a meeting of the selection committee tomorrow.

Since becoming eligible in 2004, it has been written widely that the Fab Four of Mark Messier, Scott Stevens, Ron Francis and Al MacInnis were a lock to take the four maximum induction spaces.

They represent multi-winners of the Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe, Hart, Pearson, Norris, Selke, King Clancy and Lady Byng Trophies, plus two of the top-four career points leaders, three of the top-12 career assist leaders and three of the top five in games played.

The problem is the logjam of other fine candidates that started a couple of years ago with Glenn Anderson, grew to include former Maple Leafs captain Doug Gilmour in 2006 and now likely will include Russian NHL pioneer Igor Larionov, as well as Adam Oates and any pre-expansion era veterans already waiting.

With the recent addition of two international hockey figures on the committee, Peter Stastny and Jan-Ake Edvinsson, there is a chance Larionov could nudge out Francis. Gilmour's candidacy might get some support from Lanny McDonald, who also joins the committee this year along with Sports Illustrated's Michael Farber.

As for the top of the order, there's no doubt Messier will be fast-tracked, as he was the last player from the 1980s Edmonton Oiler dynasty to hang up the blades.

With 1,887 points and 1,756 games played, Messier sits second only to Oilers teammate Wayne Gretzky in points and Gordie Howe in games played.

Francis, who finished his NHL career with the Leafs, is third in games played and fourth in points.

Both defencemen, MacInnis and Stevens had their careers ended at least two years prematurely, MacInnis with an eye injury, Stevens through post-concussion syndrome.

Gilmour's comeback with the Leafs a few years ago was aborted by a knee injury, but he was already 16th in career NHL scoring with 1,414 points. But his hallmark through 20 years was tenacity and leadership, in St. Louis, Calgary, Toronto and four other NHL cities.

Fetisov didn't play in the NHL long, but his candidacy should be based on the Hall being a world-wide entity, with his work on behalf of the sport in Russia worthy of recognition.

In addition to Oates, who wound up with six more points than Gilmour in one less season, multi-Cup winner Claude Lemieux is in his first year of eligibility.


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