Big news today from the NHL: John Davidson is going to replace Jim Gregory as Chairman of the Selection Committee by the Hockey Hall of Fame. This is HUGE! The HHOF needs a fresh look, and Davidson (along with new members) will give the Hall a chance to fix the damage done during the Gregory regime.
Many cried foul when Clark Gillies and Bernie Federko entered the Hall, but for me the addition that defines Gregory's term was Dick Duff .
Duff was a charter member of the last Leafs dynasty (he was on the Stanley teams of 1962, 1963 and 1964) and an excellent hockey player 1955-1972. There's no doubt in my mind he was both worthy of consideration and well short of what would be a reasonable "line in the sand" for a respected Hall of Fame.
Hockey's Hall has never managed to spark the imagination the way baseball's has, for several reasons: baseball is very stats oriented, so that when Steve Carlton won his 300th game or Stretch McCovey slammed number 500 everyone knew they'd make Cooperstown. Also, unlike baseball, the ridiculous selection process which allows guys who played in the same era to elect their friends into the Hall seems to be getting worse (imagine).
Baseball has plenty of guys who had massive counting numbers that will never ever reach the Hall of Fame. Rusty Staub (a childhood favorite) played almost 3,000 games and had 2,700 hits but no one ever suggested him for Cooperstown. If hockey's braintrust ran baseball, Staub would be in the Hall of Fame and they'd be talking up the entire 1987 Minnesota Twins infield.
The problem I believe comes down to definition. Bob Pulford and Dick Duff made the Hall due partly (mostly?) to their presence on some very famous hockey teams (Stanley winners in Toronto and Montreal).
Is that a good line in the sand? I don't think it is, especially in a 30-team league. Davidson's addition gives me hope that a more modern approach to the HHOF will produce better results, and those who remain on the outside looking in because of 0 Stanley's (hello, Eric Lindros) will finally get their due.
Bobby Clarke, Serge Savard and David Poile were also named to the selection committee, all three have a chance to help Davidson make the Hall truly representative of the best of our beautiful game. It is not ideal, as players are still voting for men who played in their era, but the new look for the Hall can perhaps bring some sanity to the process and reduce the number of truly wonky choices. It would also be a grand idea to include players who spent their careers outside the NHL more often, but some of today's appointees are not fans of the idea based on their own past comments.
A very good article on the Duff selection is here. This should be considered bad news for Ron Ellis and other members of the 1960s Leafs. Damn near every one of them is in the Hall now, but they couldn't get Ellis in.