Compelling case for Gilmour

STEVE SIMMONS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

The Hall of Fame case for Doug Gilmour is much like the player himself. It darts back and forth, is statistical yet empirical, creative but contradictory, and, in the end, absolutely convincing.

No matter what criteria is chosen by the Hockey Hall of Fame committee -- Gilmour doesn't just meet the standards, he exceeds them.

How best to measure a Hall of Fame player? A Hall of Famer must be exceptional, even if there are too many hockey examples to the contrary. A Hall of Famer must have a playoff resume. A Hall of Famer must make his teams and his teammates better. A Hall of Famer must be a player you can't take your eyes off and must be at his best when it matters most.

THE PLAYOFF RESUME

The statistical case for Gilmour is most compelling with his playoff numbers. He is seventh in career playoff scoring. All six players ahead of him -- Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson, Paul Coffey and Brett Hull have been voted to the Hall. In 20 NHL seasons, Gilmour played for seven teams, but only one of those, the Calgary Flames, could be considered a great team. Yet, he is fifth in career playoff assists, behind only Gretzky, Messier, Paul Coffey and Raymond Bourque, playing in significantly fewer playoff games than the four ahead of him.

Gilmour is only one of two top-50 career scorers to record more points per game in the post-season (1.03) than in the regular season (.959). The other player: The ultimate leader, Messier, who was 1.075 during the season and 1.250 in the post-season.

The fact that Gilmour played for lesser teams and managed to put up remarkable playoff numbers should work in his favour with Hall voters. He is the only player of the past 40 years to lead the Stanley Cup playoffs in scoring while playing for a team that didn't even make it to the final. He did that in 1986 with the St. Louis Blues. But that wasn't all that unique for him.

Four different times in his career, Gilmour was the Stanley Cup playoffs leading scorer on the day his team was eliminated from the playoffs. The only player to lead the playoffs in scoring more than three time in the past 30 years: Wayne Gretzky.

And while Stanley Cups are measured by Hall of Fame voters, Gilmour has but one. In that 1989 final, he scored the winning goal for the Flames, one of his 22 playoff points. The teams he played for in St. Louis, Toronto, New Jersey, Buffalo, Chicago and Montreal were never considered serious contenders, yet he twice led the Blues to the conference final, outscoring Hall of Fame teammate and first-line centre Bernie Federko in both playoff seasons. He twice led a limited Maple Leafs team to the conference final, scoring 63 playoff points over two remarkable years.

How much did he carry that team? His 63 points over two seasons were 25 points better than the second-leading Leafs scorers of those two seasons.

THE ENHANCEMENT FACTOR

Gilmour had a way of making those around him better, and the evidence is in the numbers. Dave Andreychuk was a 30-40 goal-scorer in his prime and far less than that in the second half of his career. But after being traded to the Leafs, he was able to experience some of the Gilmour magic. Gilmour wasn't a scorer, as much as he was an artist. He made plays rather than finished them. In his first 114 games in Toronto, Andreychuk scored 78 goals -- an astonishing 54-goal pace playing with Gilmour. He never scored at or near that pace again. Andreychuk scored more than 50 goals just twice in his career -- both in two seasons playing with Gilmour. His average the five seasons before Gilmour: 35. Conclusion: Andreychuk was 45% more effective playing with Gilmour than he was playing with the other centres of his career.

Joey Mullen, a Hall of Fame player, scored 50 goals once. The year he played with Gilmour. That same season Mullen scored 16 playoff goals to lead the post-season in scoring. In the seven years that would follow, including two Stanley Cup seasons in Pittsburgh, Mullen, a 30-40 goal scorer most seasons, scored a total of 19 playoff goals.

THE DEFENSIVE END

Gilmour began his career as a shut-down centre with the Blues. He ended his career in similar roles in Montreal and Buffalo. He is one of just a handful of offensively gifted players who have won the Frank Selke Trophy as best defensive forward in the NHL. Bobby Clarke, Ron Francis and Steve Yzerman have won the Selke. All three are in the Hall. So should Gilmour, the 17th leading scorer in NHL history.

Of the 16 players who scored more, 13 are in the Hall. Joe Sakic will make 14 when he becomes eligible. Adam Oates and Mark Recchi, we're not sure about. And the players right behind Gilmour -- 18th to 22nd, Dale Hawerchuk, Kurri, Luc Robitaille, Hull, John Bucyk -- are where Gilmour should be one day.

It's just a question of when.

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THE RANKINGS

WHERE GILMOUR'S STATS STAND

- 7th in playoff scoring

- 5th in playoff assists

- 17th leading scorer in NHL history

-12th in career assists

- Higher points-per- game playoff average than Gordie Howe, Rocket Richard, Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull.


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