...it wouldn't be troubled by arguments like the one raised by Eric Duhatschek at GlobeSports.com.
Neely was, at times, a dominant physical presence, but he didn't win a Stanley Cup and he didn't win a scoring title, or a major award. Now, compare Neely's stats to another 13-year veteran who was, at times, a dominant physical presence, but has also endured a star-crossed, injury-riddled career. We are talking, of course, about one Eric Lindros, who has undergone something of a renaissance in the early season with the Dallas Stars, his fourth NHL team.
Duhatschek goes on to make a convincing case. But it's not based on Lindros' merits as a player or his impact on the game. It's based on the fact that a man with similar credentials - Neely - already has a plaque under the dome on Yonge Street.
That's the sort of debate the Hockey Hall of Fame has brought on itself by welcoming too many B-list members.
A good-to-occasionally-great player like Eric Lindros is not Hall of Fame material. But if Neely is the standard, how can he be denied? Joining the Hall this year is Dick Duff, who averaged half-a-point per game over his career. So why not a plaque for Bernie Nicholls, who doubled that output?
Duff's record looks good because he won Stanley Cups, while Nicholls did not. But if Duff had spent his entire career (1952 to 1972) with the Rangers, he would have retired without winning a championship. Yet he surely would have been the same player.
If you would rather use personal statistics as the yardstick, how come Dino Ciccarelli and Glenn Anderson remain on the outside, when their numbers are comparable to those of Joey Mullen? Why is Clark Gillies in and Dave Taylor out?
A Hall of Fame that took itself seriously would exclude all of the above, and would maintain more appropriate standards by admitting no more than two players every year (the current maximum is four).
The Class of 2006 will be inducted on Monday. It includes two players, Patrick Roy and the aforementioned Dick Duff. Roy is an easy choice. Duff must be a really nice guy.