Friday, June 20, 2008

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.)

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19 Comments:

At 1:21 PM, June 20, 2008, Anonymous buddy said...

One thing is clear from all this--Greg Wyshynski never saw Glenn Anderson play, and never saw the Oilers in the 80s. He could have just stated that up front...

 
At 1:25 PM, June 20, 2008, Blogger Bruce said...

Well said, Buddy, I was just going to make the identical point. Maybe he should watch a few "classic" games on the NHL network from ANY of those playoff seasons. Great player, clutch performer, winner. And exciting as hell to watch.

 
At 2:01 PM, June 20, 2008, Anonymous PPP said...

Did I miss when "you must not have watched much hockey" became a rebuttal?

Wyshynski has clearly watched a tonne of hockey.

 
At 2:37 PM, June 20, 2008, Blogger Art Vandelay said...

GW couldn't have been watching in the 80s. Nobody who saw Anderson play could possibly suggest he wasn't memorable.

Doug Gilmour? Memorable for getting kissed on national TV by Canada's biggest closet case and, um, over-tipping the babysitter.

 
At 3:28 PM, June 20, 2008, Blogger Julian said...

James, I'm surprised you used the "clutch" argument... it's a concept a lot of stats-heads tend to laugh at.

I remember Tom Benjamin once pointing out that calling a guy "clutch" was a bit of a backhanded compliment, you're saying he was capable of playing at certain level when it mattered most, but he wasn't interested at playing at that level all the time.



I'm an Oilers fan, but I'm not 100% sold on Anderson's right to the HHOF.
That said, I don't think Gilmore was any more memorable than Anderson, and Bure was memorable because he was flashy and fun to watch. Anderson may well have the best resume of the three.

 
At 3:32 PM, June 20, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Discussion about Anderson is useless because he is Hall-of-Famer, now.

Gilmour was the best player in the NHL when Fedorov was voted as MVP. That's something besides his career numbers.

Art Vandeley should concentrate on hockey instead of this juvenile crap. And I think Gilmour should be considered as innocent because The Babysitter case was thrown out of court.

 
At 3:34 PM, June 20, 2008, Blogger PJ Swenson said...

You forgot to mention his save percentage.

 
At 4:02 PM, June 20, 2008, Blogger Sean said...

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

I think thats worth repeating. If winning cups is the goal then Anderson should be there - he was not a playoff passenger. Almost 20% of his playoff goals were game winners.

 
At 4:06 PM, June 20, 2008, Anonymous ken said...

Mr. Wyshynski (if you're reading), what do you think of Lanny McDonald being in the HHOF?

Good / bad ?

 
At 4:11 PM, June 20, 2008, Anonymous ken said...

Whoops, never mind. Just re-read your comment. Somehow I missed that the first time around.

I don't know. Both their regular-season numbers are SO similar, I can't see how one is a slam-dunk and other deserves to be left out.

 
At 4:18 PM, June 20, 2008, Anonymous matskralc said...

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.

This playoff games argument means nothing to me other than the fact that he played on good teams. Good for him, but unless one can demonstrate that Anderson's teams minus Anderson wouldn't have even made the playoffs, it's fairly meaningless.

All of his other "great" playoff stats are mostly derived from the fact that he played lots of playoff games. Again, good for him, but we're talking about how good an individual is here, not his team.

 
At 12:06 AM, June 21, 2008, Blogger mike w said...

All of his other "great" playoff stats are mostly derived from the fact that he played lots of playoff games.

Uh, he averaged almost point a gmae in those games, dude.

HoF worthy numbers.

 
At 3:13 AM, June 21, 2008, Blogger The Puck Stops Here said...

Mike W

Not only did Glenn Anderson average almost a point per game in the playoffs. So did Craig Janney, Bernie Nicholls and Ken Linseman - in fact all three of those players have a better playoff points per game than Anderson. I guess that means their Hall of Fame inductions are on the way.

Also. Igor Larionov started his career as a Canucks. You sure you want to say nobody is in the hall for the Canucks the same year a former Canuck gets inducted?

 
At 10:26 AM, June 21, 2008, Anonymous matskralc said...

Uh, he averaged almost point a gmae in those games, dude.

Which is actually LESS than he averaged in the regular season. Tell me again why he gets extra credit for having good teammates?

 
At 1:15 PM, June 21, 2008, Blogger canablach said...

Glenn Anderson cutting down the middle, making Ray Borque always look like a pylon, that's alone is worth the HHOF.
He never rode the coat
tails of anyone, often he carried them. He was a player Mike Gartner could only dream of. He should have been inducted long ago.
And I'm beginning to believe you may watch tons of puckgames and dislay little understanding yet.

 
At 3:06 PM, June 21, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

>> "Glenn Anderson cutting down the middle, making Ray Borque always look like a pylon, that's alone is worth the HHOF." <<

LOL Excellent point. Best comment I've read so far.

 
At 11:35 AM, June 22, 2008, Blogger Black Dog said...

I saw those Oiler teams play.

Glenn Anderson was not a complimentary player. He was as big a superstar as the rest.

Well, except for 99.

 
At 5:55 AM, June 23, 2008, Blogger Gideon said...

Winning Cups usually helps you get into the HHOF - case in point, Larionov is in.

That's why I think Gilmour will get in before Bure.

 
At 7:52 PM, June 26, 2008, Blogger Bruce said...

Which is actually LESS than he averaged in the regular season.

1) Most players score less in the playoffs than they do in the regular season. Some (Tkachuk, Yashin, Bertuzzi, Thornton) far less.
2) Anderson was one of the rare exceptions whose rate went up in the playoffs, e.g. as an Oiler, 1.03 PPG regular season, 1.08 PPG playoffs.
3) At the end of his career when his scoring fell off, he played a disporportionately high number of playoff games (because teams kept picking him up for successful playoff runs) which dragged his postseason average down more than his regular season average. Of his last 108 games, 40 (!) were in the playoffs.

 

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