Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Why Glenn Anderson is not a Hall of Famer

Yesterday, I wrote about why I think Mike Vernon should not be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Today I will turn my attention to Glenn Anderson. For the record my picks are here.

Glenn Anderson played in the highest scoring period in hockey history on the highest scoring team in hockey history. From that context alone, if he is to make the Hall of Fame as an offensive force he had better have some outstanding numbers. He definitely had some good numbers, but were they good enough? In his career, Anderson only once finished in the top 10 scorers in any given season (he was 9th in 82/83) and he never once made the post season all star teams. So, in any given season he was seen as a very good winger, but never a truly great one. He managed 498 career goals and 1099 points. Those are very good numbers, but in the context of where and when he played, they are not good enough. Those numbers do not differentiate him from others who are not likely going to the Hall of Fame such as Dave Taylor, Bernie Nicholls, Pierre Turgeon, Vincent Damphousse and Brian Bellows - and with the possible exception of Taylor (who played with Dionne - though I would argue LA was nowhere near as good a team as the Oilers), Anderson had better linemates surrounding him. I cannot see him making the Hall of Fame for several outstanding individual seasons or his career numbers.

Anderson did have playoff success. He won 6 Stanley Cups in Edmonton and New York. On the Edmonton cups he was one of the core players on the team. Nobody would argue that he was the best player on the team. He was a lesser player then Gretzky, Messier, Coffey, Kurri, Fuhr. He was roughly equal to a Kevin Lowe. Historically, halls of fame have had trouble deciding how many of the lesser stars on dynasty type franchises should make the hall of fame (hockey is no different - see for example Jacques Lemaire inducted as a player from the 70's Habs). Is it reasonable that a core player on a perennial cup winner makes the Hall when an equivalent player on a losing franchise does not? Yes ... if the player can be plausably shown to be the reason that his team won. Did Anderson ever win a Conn Smythe? No. Did Anderson manage a point per game in his playoff career? Again no. Although if we remove his "hanging on" years at the end of his career when he playing in his last 3 playoffs (94 with the Rangers and 95 and 96 with the Blues) then he would have a point per game. Of course we are removing his final Stanley Cup year. So there can be no claim that he was anything more than a hanger on when the Rangers won their cup.

Still, Glenn Anderson is the fourth highest playoff scorer of all time. This fact is probably the strongest argument for his induction into the Hall of Fame. His Oiler teammates Gretzky, Messier, Kurri and Coffey round out the top five playoff scorers of all time. Although, that is more a function of playing many playoff games in a very high scoring period of the NHL. Any player of near hall of fame calibre scoring ability playing under the same circumstances likely would have at least as many playoff points.

It can be argued he had "playoff longevity" if he played that many playoff games. Longevity is important and is valuable in getting a player to the Hall of Fame. Anderson didn't last nearly as long in the NHL as many of his contemporaries (some were still going up until the start of the lockout - and may continue when it ends). By his mid-30's, Anderson was more or less out of the NHL. He played parts of his last two seasons with the Canadian National Team and in Europe when he was unable to get signed to an NHL deal - he was brought back to the NHL for the stretch runs two more times. His defence was not too spectacular. As soon as his offence began to fade, there was little use for Anderson in the NHL. That's why he had trouble maintaining an NHL roster spot. His "playoff longevity" comes from playing with a dynasty team Edmonton when the length of the playoffs was expanded. It got him into more playoff games than players from older eras and players from lesser teams (including those that only managed a couple Stanley Cup victories).

Glenn Anderson was a very good offensive player. He played on one of (if not the best) teams in NHL history. He was a core member of that team when they won the cup. Howver, he was overshadowed by the other stars on the team. He was never quite as good as them. His offensive numbers benefitted somewhat by getting a chance to play with such a talented cast. He never had a season in the NHL that was truly great. His career numbers are among the best that have been acheived by non-hall of fame players, however there are others who also lack hall of fame credentials who played with weaker linemates who matched those numbers. He did put up some very good playoff career totals - despite never having a truly outstanding playoff. This was largely a function of being on a top offensive team that had many deep playoff runs in the expansion era NHL. His defence was never stellar, and as soon as his offense began to dip, Anderson was out of the NHL. This kept him from the longevity of many of his contemporaries who will make the hall.

All told, Anderson is nearly a hall of famer. He is a better pick then Mike Vernon is, but I don't think he belongs. Better choices exist. Had Anderson been an equally good player but spent his career with a weaker team (for example Vancouver or Washington), I think it would be much clearer that he did not have a hall of fame career. He benefitted by being a frontline player on a top team surrounded by hall of fame talent, but he was not quite a hall of fame talent himself.


According to this HOF Monitor, Glenn Anderson ranks ahead of HOFer Hawerchuk and some others... I may delve more into this if I have time...Mark Howe is the obvious choice to make it, IMO.

Attempting to apply sabremetrics to hockey is an interest of mine. I am convinced it cannot be done nearly as successfully as baseball due to the inadequacy of hockey statistics.

Daryl Shilling's work to come up with a HOF monitor is very interesting - although I think flawed.

I do not have the exact formula he uses (I emailed him to ask) although I can guess one of the flaws by the example of Anderson ranking ahead of Hawerchuk.

He overvalues very goods but not great play in the playoffs. Hawerchuk has a better playoff point per game then Anderson, but Anderson has so many more playoff games that his playoff point total dwarfs Hawerchuk's. I think this is why Anderson is ranked ahead of Hawerchuk. Its all based on the fluke that Anderson happened to play with the dynasty Oilers and Hawerchuk with the weak sister Jets. Reverse the teams they play on and Hawerchuk would likely be well ahead of Anderson.

I think the topic of sabremetrics in hockey is a very interesting one. I will address it further in this blog in ther near future.
Actually, I am wrong to credit (or blame) Daryl Shilling with that hall of fame monitor (I just assumed it was his). I am incorrect.

He correctly picks Hawerchuk ahead of Anderson.

I guess this "study" is from somebody called pnep on hfboards. I'll try to get in touch with him and understand his methodology.
I get the author's point for sure. That is why he didn't go in the first or second time he was eligible.

But to say that he got all those points because he played on the highest scoring team in history is backwards. They were the highest scoring team in history because guys like Anderson scored all those points.

Anderson wasn't a one off like Kevin Stevens or even Dave Lumley. He consistently, year in and year out produced at an elite level.

You can't evaluate how many points he would have scored on a lesser team because he never played there. Maybe he scores less. Or maybe he scores 60 goals a year playing on the top line with first team power play minutes. The comparison is impossible.

If you watched the Oilers Cup wins on CBC, Anderson was a dominant player who scored clutch goals. That should put him in the HOF.
He is not in The Hall because of discrimination;whether it's because of his off ice life,being overshadowed by an elite group of the single greatest players to grace the game,(since you seem to be basing much of your analysis on numbers...).In terms of "CLUTCH" play in important situations,you can't find many better and he was there ,many times!It's such a convenient way to flip flop the case against his inclusion;either they were so much better and he dosen't have their numbers or he needed them to get those numbers?As a season ticket holder of that era ,I witnessed his one of a kind,abilities far too many times to believe your case!
from Wikipedia;

"Glenn Anderson has not been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame (HHOF). Many supporters felt that his 6 Stanley Cup rings and his statistics - particularly in the playoffs - warranted inclusion. However, his playing career was clouded by problems relating to the media, and his retirement has been marred by documented failures to make child support payments.[1]

Anderson was noted for his aggressive "to the net" playing style, typifying the NHL power forward in the early 1980s. As an NHL player, he scored 498 goals and 601 assists in 1129 regular season games, and added another 93 goals and 121 assists in 225 playoff games. Noted as a "clutch" player, he was able to score key goals when the team most needed them. He scored 5 playoff overtime goals, third only to Joe Sakic's 7 and Maurice Richard's 6. On top of that he had 17 playoff game winning goals, good for 5th in the all time history of the NHL."

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