Monday, June 30, 2008

The Centre of The Universe Whines Again

An open letter to the noted hockey expert Theo Caldwell:

Dear Theo Caldwell,

I have no idea why some investment advisor gets to write an op-ed piece in a national newspaper about the merits of some Make Belief player for the HHOF (Doug Gilmour's exclusion from the 2008 Hockey Hall of Fame inductees), but good on ya.

Yes, Adam Oates who helped Cam Neely and Brett Hull to their greatest successes deserves a place in the HHOF even if he's not really all that "famous."

Dino Ciccarelli (by the logic of putting the faceless 600 goal scorer Mike Gartner in) probably deserves a place even though the Red Wings dumped him because he didn't get it done in the playoffs (bar maybe his rookie year with Minny and that 4-goal game he had for the Caps).

Glenn Anderson is deserving but number of Cups is an illogical reason to put him in. Cups or not, he scored enough in both the regular season, playoffs and internationally plus had a signature style as a kamikaze. Cups are a nice bonus but don't tell me Anderson was a better player than Marcel Dionne given his six Cups to none. By that logic, put Rick Chartraw in the HHOF.

Your point that Igor Larionov potted less than half the points of Gilmour and Oates is statistics without context. Larionov was not allowed into your precious NHL until the age of 28 or do I need to enlighten you on the Cold War? Now, if Larionov could have joined the NHL at age 20 like Pavel Bure, then maybe he'd be up there with Oates and Gilmour NHL points-wise. Given the mileage and wear and tear on a 28 y/o who spent years stuck in the militaristic Soviet system, he did pretty good in the NHL, I'd say. We just never got to see him here in his prime other than in Canada Cups.

Considering Larionov was the center on arguably one of the best hockey lines in history (the KLM Line with Sergei Makarov and Vladimir "pre-Canuck Donuts R Me days" Krutov) that destroyed the NHL's best in the 1981 Canada Cup by the score of 8-1 and was also on that fine 1987 team that pushed Canada to the limit, I'd say he's pretty deserving for that alone.

He also is arguably more "famous" worldwide than Doogie has ever been. He was THE player willing to stand up to the Soviet system and fight for players' rights. Add to this his being a pioneer as one of the first "star" Russians to come over, he should be in the Hall and ahead of Gilmour and his ilk for sure.

Hate to say this, too, but prior to Doogie joining the Laffs, I'd say Ed Chynoweth in hockey circles was more well known and Ray Scapinello, too (plus you have to love a guy who despite a life spent of skates still loves road hockey). The average NHL fan probably had little clue but it is the "Hockey" HOF not the "NHL players" HOF after all despite the various marginal NHL talents in there.

When you say in 93/94 that Doogie was touted as the best hockey player in the world, most of that nonsense came out of the Centre of the Universe media. Well, that "best" player choked in the Western Conference Final vs. the Canucks (the Doogie era Leafs were shut out twice in a five-game series so good work, Doogie, setting up that Wendy Clark there in that series).

The most ridiculous "best player in the world" type press was the suggestion that he was getting consideration for the Conn Smythe back in 1993 when his team had been eliminated in the Conference Final. I guess that's why playoff top scorer Peter Forsberg whose Avs were also eliminated in the Conference Final was considered for the Conn Smythe in the 2002 playoffs...NOT!

I would argue there was a time when Larionov would have been touted as the best player in the world but I guess only the T.O. press counts so I'll leave that at that.

Doogie being captain of two Original Six teams is an important selling point? Both teams he was capatin of have not won a Cup since the 1960s so, yeah, that makes about as much sense as the NHL's salary cap.

Yeah, Doogie has an impressive resume but so does Bobby Smith along those lines--a Stanley Cup, a Calder Trophy, a leader (maybe not captain) on both the Habs and North Stars (OK, Expansion Six), went to the Finals four times (each time scoring at least 15 pts per playoff year).

Once upon a time, yes, 400 goals meant something in an era when Rocket Richard got 544 for his regular season career. I think the 500-goal mark is the one that is celebrated from Jean Beliveau's days onwards so Doogie scoring 450 is very good but not NHL great.

Doogie you claim was a playmaking "great" but you have to look at the stats in context. I think the 92/3 and 93/4 seasons where the Leafs finally had a decent team are attributable in large part to the myth that is Doogie. The godlike one had strong competition league-wide in 92/3--Mario Lemieux, Pat Lafontaine and Oates all had over 90 assist that season and all had more goals that Douglas.

In 93/4 he certainly was number two to Gretzky in assists but Sergei Fedorov and Oates outscored Doug and in fewer games, too. Doug was sensational in the playoffs again but bombed out vs. the Canucks, as I said. (Sorry, couldn't help bringing that up again.)

The man also DID NOT "score" a pt/g for 20 seasons unless my division is wrong as 1414 pts into 1474 GP is not a pt/g. In fact in just half of his 20 seasons did he average a pt./g in the regular season.

Compare that to his contemporaries (I'll leave out #99 and #66 for obvious unfair comparison reasons):
Adam Oates 11 regular seasons over a pt/g
Dale Hawerchuk 13
Steve Yzerman 13
Joe Sakic 16
Bernie Federko 11

Onto Clark Gillies. He is not in the HHOF because of his point total, by the way. The guy was the premier power forward on a Cup dynasty. He also was a two-time first team All-Star and last I looked good ole Doogie was not the best center or even second-best center in the NHL even in his glorious Make Belief years or he'd have made the end-of-season NHL all-star teams.

Yes, it is possible to construct an all-star team from guys not in the HHOF. Considering Gilmour, the depised Claude Lemieux (who never even made an All-Star Game!) and Brian Burke's doppleganger Kevin Lowe never made an end-of-season all-star team, I'll stack my non-HHOF (and should be in) all-stars in their prime vs. yours:
G Tom Barrasso (despite not being able to stop a beachball in his lousy seasons--hello, David Volek in Game 7)
D Mark Howe (at forward too as in the WHA he was fantastic w/ dad and his bro')
D Doug Wilson (for cannonading shots on goal or off the glass)
F Ulf Nilsson (for the true "air hockey" innovators w/ Hedberg)
F Anders Hedberg
F Aleksandr Yakushev (even before HOFer Valeri Kharlamov!)

By the way, last I looked the name of what you call this "national" institution is the "Hockey" Hall of Fame not the "NHL" Hall of Fame nor the "Canadian" Hockey Hall of Fame.

I mean we could go on and on about who should be in there--J.C. Tremblay, Pat Stapleton, Bill White, Dave Taylor, Danny Gare, Rick Middleton, John Tonelli, Marian Stastny, Mats Naslund, Bobby Smith, Luc Robitaille, Pavel Bure, Alexander Mogilny, Vladimir Krutov, Sergei Makarov, Aleksandr Maltsev, Milan Novy, etc. We could even go back to the old pro WHL and AHL days when the Original Six was a closed shop and guys were buried in the minors and never given a fair shot. We're not even counting guys who will soon be eligible like Dominik Hasek, Theoren Fleury, John LeClair, Brian Leetch, etc.

I will agree with you about the lameness of so-called Canadian culture esp. the Mr. Dressup CBC so give yourself a point for that.

As far as sending Don Cherry in, the guy may be shocking the fashion world, but listen to his rant about Detroit Red Wings fans not selling out the Joe during the early rounds of the 2008 playoffs saying they prefer Joey Kocur and Bob Probert type hockey...uh, nice 1980s reference there, Don, but "it's the economy, stupid." They sold out when it counted in the Conference Final and Cup Final. Plus if you had Don picking guys for the HHOF forget Gilmour, we'd have Kirk Muller and any other fine broth of a lad born within a stone's throw of Kingston up for consideration. That might be worse than having all these marginal Make Beliefs from the '60s getting in.

Anyway, Theo Not Fleury, you've convinced me never to invest my wealth with Coldwell Asset Management, Inc., if that is the way you research and frame an argument.

Doogie does deserves to be in and he will get in as if average workmanlike Make Beliefs stiffs like Dick Duff, Bob Pulford and Harry Watson can get in, you know the Centre of the Universe will get Doogie in no sweat.

I would like to see more outrage about far more deserving players like Mark Howe and the Swedish Jets who need to be reunited with the Golden Jet in the HHOF.

Highly entertaining article at least, if a bit, as per usual, too Tarrana-centric.

All the best to you in your Doogie "Quest for the Hall"...and a hearty "1967" to you as well!


Johnny Canucklehead

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