Mirtle vs Wyshynski
The great Glenn Anderson HOF debate
James Mirtle is a staffer at The Globe and Mail and a hockey blogging pioneer. Greg Wyshynski is the editor of Yahoo! Sports' Puck Daddy blog. The only thing they can agree on is that they disagree more often than not.
Their debates about hockey and life in general will be published here on a semi-regular basis. Here begins rhetorical warfare ...
WYSHYNSKI: James, I received a rather nasty e-mail concerning my stance that Glenn Anderson does not, in fact, belong in the Hockey Hall of Fame:
"You conveniently failed to recognize his stats in your article. You conveniently failed to recognize that he was one of the greatest clutch players in hockey - six Stanley Cups, (not all with the Oilers), fourth all-time in playoff goals and points and second only to Maurice Richard in overtime goals (five). When the Rangers needed help to win their Stanley Cup they called Glenn Anderson. For you to say he got in on the coattails of Gretsky because he was a linemate is just pathetic. I thought you were supposed to know something about hockey. Maybe you should cover another sport as you don't seem to know much about this one......"
While I never take a "you don't know anything about hockey" rant from a guy who can't spell "Gretzky" correctly all that seriously, I'm still rather baffled about this. If it's about stats, then Dino Ciccarelli should be in the Hall of Fame 10 times before Anderson. If it's about clutch impact, well then shine up a plaque for Claude Lemieux, who actually has a Conn Smythe.
My Hall of Fame is about fame. Give me a player like Pavel Bure or Doug Gilmour, someone whose name stirs something in the mind about the way they played the game. The words "Glenn Anderson" evoke Gretzky or Messier (almost literally) handing him the Cup.
MIRTLE: Where's the Wyshynski Hall of Fame located anyway? Brick, New Jersey?
The thing is, every single Hall of Fame debate these days is going to come down to a discussion about what the Hall should be and what the Hall is. The Hall should be a very exclusive destination for the game's all-time greats, players where there's little debate as to their qualifications.
What the Hall is, however, is a home to stars instead of superstars. I find it incredible that hockey's Hall of Fame has more player inductees than baseball's, despite the fact MLB has been around longer and had far more active players throughout its history.
Just a thought.
If you're in the camp that the Hall's too inclusive, then, no, of course you're not going to want Glenn Anderson. He was a high-flying, offence-first winger who didn't break the 500-goal barrier.
Based on who's already in the Hall, however, he's a slam dunk.
WYSHYNSKI: I'll have you know the Wyshynski Hall of Fame would be located at what is now the Molly Pitcher rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike.
When you say "based on who's in the Hall" in regards to Anderson, are you talking about players who made the cut based on their stellar numbers yet insignificant careers (Mike Gartner) or players who rode coattails into the Hall from dynastic teams like Clark Gillies? He's one of the two ... or perhaps a little bit of both.
I'll admit that my perception of what the Hall should be is rather warped. I believe it should be reserved for the elite, but I also think there is some specialization that can be allowed. The selection of Gillies was rather ridiculed, but for the role he played — offensively inclined enforcer — was there another better player in his era? That's why I'd never chuckle at someone who wants to make the case for Guy Carbonneau — three Cups, three Selkes, and his own award down in the QMJHL. For a defensive center, he was the standard for a good portion of years; for that position, it's a Hall of Fame career.
Again, it's hard to mesh putting a player like Carbo in with arguing the Hall should be for the elite. But you're talking to a guy who once made the argument that Jesse Orosco belonged in the Baseball Hall of Fame as the best middle reliever of all time.
Point remains: There was nothing special about Glenn Anderson. Even if you wanted to make the postseason points argument, the fact that he never won a Conn Smythe submarines that. Bure is memorable. Gilmour is memorable. Anderson isn't, and it's a shame the Hockey Hall of Fame has veered away from honoring, you know, fame.
MIRTLE: Memorable's pretty hard to define. And if we strolled down the halls at the Hall here in Toronto, I guarantee both you and I would be doing an awful lot of "who?" on the way.
(I'm not going to make a laundry list of those who are undeserving because, as Lowetide said last year, that's "a lazy way to make a point.")
What makes Anderson different, what distinguishes him, is those postseason numbers. The regular season ones aren't anything special, let's face it.
But eighth in career playoff games played (225) — which is more than Gretzky and more than any other former Oiler not named Messier — fifth in playoff goals (93), seventh in assists (121), fourth in points (214) in a league where anything over 160 is a Hall of Famer, and the majority of his production came at even strength.
History's rewritten Anderson's tale a little, as he didn't have nearly the longevity or popularity of Messier, Gretzky or Coffey, but he was still an integral part of those Oilers teams. In 1987, he played for Canada in its Canada Cup win and was given the Oilers interim captaincy when Wayne went down with a knee injury.
He was a winner.
WYSHYNSKI: I think memorable is rather easy to define, James. The player has to have meant something more than just numbers and names on the Cup to a generation of fans. Larionov's contributions to this sport go well beyond his stats in the NHL. Players like Rod Langway and Cam Neely were iconic for their positions. Players like Lanny McDonald and Bernie Federko were iconic on a specific, local scale, but still deserved enshrinement.
Glenn Anderson wasn't iconic, he wasn't the most important player for his franchise at any point; he was a cog in hockey's greatest machine. It's hard to penalize a guy for playing on a dynastic team, but had he not been an Oiler from 1980-1990 and accumulated 769 points in the regular season, he'd be Claude Lemieux with a better Q rating.
Putting Anderson in the Hall of Fame is like giving Pip No. 3 his own plaque next to Gladys Knight.
But, in the end, Hall of Fame debates are like prostate exams — the older you get, the more you're bound to have, unless you're a woman. The last word is yours.
MIRTLE: One last thought: How sad is it that Anderson becomes the sixth Oilers great to go in the Hall when the Canucks, who have been around nine years longer, don't yet have a single inductee?
(And Messier doesn't count.)