Through his career, Doug Gilmour had a spectacular sense of timing.
He arrived in Calgary in time to lead the Flames to their only Stanley Cup.
When the boat hit the rocks there, he arrived in Toronto in time to lift the Leafs to a pair of final four appearances.
Gilmour was one of those rare players who could wait for a man to clear before launching a perfect pass or waiting behind the net before pivoting and stuffing home an overtime winner. Just ask Curtis Joseph about the 1993 Conference semi-final.
Gilmour agitated judiciously, skated relentlessly and played every game on the razor’s edge. But the sense of timing that distinguished him as a player may have deserted him in his retirement, at least as so far as the Hockey Hall of Fame is concerned.
Gilmour is Hall of Fame eligible. Unless the induction rules are suddenly and spectacularly liberalized to usher in Felix Potvin, Sylvain Lefebvre and Todd Gill, Gilmour is the sole player in the running easily identifiable as a Leaf.
There are ample reasons why Gilmour should skate into the Hall. Did I mention the Cup and his standing as one of the premier-two-way players in the game. He played like a very angry Dave Keon. A Leafs captain, his leadership skills were among the most pronounced in club history. Want numbers. He scored 450 goals and recorded 1414 points.
Didn’t you know there had to be a but? Gilmour’s name is bobbing among what has to be the best collection of Hall of Fame eligibles ever.
Start with the backlog. Oilers great Glenn Anderson has been regularly passed over by the 18-member selection committee. He scored 498 goals and won six Stanley Cups. Two more six-time winners, Ralph Backstrom and longtime Oiler Kevin Lowe, are outside looking in.
You have a 600-goal scorer in Dino Ciccarelli, a premier two-way player in Steve Larmer and the great Pavel Bure, who warrants consideration even though injuries limited him to a dozen seasons and 437 goals. Don’t forget the goalies, specifically two-time Cup winner Mike Vernon, Stanley Cup and World Cup star Mike Richter and Tom Barrasso, who won two Cups with Pittsburgh and banked 369 wins.
Now, throw in this year’s first-year-eligible candidates.
Mark Messier is, of course, a slam dunk, a six-time Cup winner and one of the most decorated players in league history.
Al MacInnis potted 1,274 points along the blue line in Calgary and St. Louis, won a Norris Trophy, a Conn Smythe Trophy and finished as a first team all-star for four years. Defensive kingpin Scott Stevens tethered a stultifying New Jerseys Devils defence and distinguished himself as the most feared bodychecker in any game he played. Ron Francis recorded 1,731 points, won two Cups and set the standard for two-way forwards. Igor Larionov was one of the game’s most elegant players and he keyed a Renaissance of Russian players.
Hockey Hall of Fame rules dictate that no more than four players can become honoured members in one year. The list of players who genuinely deserve consideration is three times as long.
Based on all that, Gilmour, now the Leafs Professional Development Advisor, will have a hard time earning a monogrammed jacket this year. As he did countless times, he will wait for the crowd to clear before making his move.