November 09, 2008

Honoring Glenn Anderson

With blazing speed Glenn Anderson became a dangerous clutch goal scorer playing on Mark Messier's right wing with the Edmonton Oilers and later the New York Rangers. He also played with the Toronto Maple Leafs and St. Louis Blues.

Anderson was a big part of the Oilers dynasty during the 1980’s, collecting five Stanley Cup rings. He picked up a 6th ring while playing with Messier and the New York Rangers in 1994. Glenn scored a career total of 498 goals, just falling shy of the magical 500 mark. "Andy" also added 601 career assists for 1099 points in 1129 games. Included in his totals were two 54 goal seasons and 3 100 point seasons.

Anderson was a skating contradiction. He played with reckless abandon, fearlessly crashing the net, doing whatever it took to score a goal. Yet at the same time there were periods of time where he was criticized for being lazy and uninterested. His mind would drift during regular season games, but he was all business come the playoffs. In addition to his 6 Cup rings, Anderson scored 93 career playoff goals (5th best in NHL history), 121 assists for 214 points (4th best in NHL history) in 225 playoff contests. Seventeen of his playoff goals were game winners.

Glenn briefly played Major Junior Hockey in the WHL, and spent a year with the University of Denver of the WCHA. But most of his pre-NHL training came with the Canadian National Team in 1979-80. Like most players on the national team the youngster with speed to burn was a little known prospect at that point. The team however did feature future NHL standouts Paul MacLean and Randy Gregg, as well as serviceable future pros Tim Watters, Jim Nill and Kevin Primeau.

Long before NHLers participated in the Olympics, the national team of prospects represented Canada's hopes against the "amateur" powers such as the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia. Canada played well in the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, and with a little more puck luck could have staged their own Miracle on Ice. Unfortunately the record book's 6th place finish does not adequately reflect that. Anderson scored 2 goals and 4 points in thattourney.

Anderson made his NHL debut the following season and instantly drew two comparisons to big name celebrities. One was Guy Lafleur. A early newspaper report had a Oilers scout quoted as comparing Anderson to the most electrifying player in hockey at that time, although the Oilers management was quick to dismiss the comments as they didn't want to place extra pressure on the youngster. They insisted the comment referred to his skating ability.

Anderson also had an uncanny resemblance to popular Hollywood comedian Robin Williams. His teammates called him 'Mork' after the famous Williams TV character. However Anderson hated that nickname and grew a beard to shed himself of the resemblance.

Number Nine let his play do the speaking as his rookie season rolled on. He excelled and finished the year scoring 30 goals in just 58 games. The Hockey News named him as the player of the week late in the season, and his teammates stopped calling him Mork and just called him Andy.

Tim Burke of the Montreal Gazette became a big fan of Anderson's and even published an article comparing him to Rocket Richard. As if Guy Lafleur skating comparisons weren't tough enough, even being mentioned in the same breath of Rocket Richard is quite numbing.

While no one has or likely ever will come close to being what Rocket Richard was, the comparison had good merit in that Anderson would be a poor man's Richard. Anderson was a great player from the blueline in. He had a flare for scoring exciting and big goals and was at his best in big games, especially the playoffs. He played a similarly reckless style - yet no one can be compared to Richard.

Glenn took his fine rookie season to the next level in the following years. He scored a career high 105 points (38 goals and 67 assists) in 1981-82. He nearly equaled that in 1982-83 when scored 48 times and had 104 points. He also was a strong part of the Oilers fantastic first run at the Stanley Cup - scoring 10 goals and 20 points in 18 games while falling just short to the New York Islanders.

Glenn just missed the 100 point level in 1983-84 when he scored 99 points but he did set a career high with 54 goals. That spring the Oilers captured their first Stanley Cup. Anderson played a nice role in that victory - scoring 6 goals and 17 points in 19 games.

After a strong showing in the 1984 Canada Cup, Anderson got off to a slow start in the 1984-85 season. He finished the season strong but by season's end his scoring totals slipped to 81 points (including 42 goals) in 80 games. He had perhaps his strongest playoff in the spring of 1985 - scoring 10 goals, 16 assists and 26 points in 18 games as the Oilers repeated as Stanley Cup champions.

Anderson, who was best known as Mark Messier's right winger although he spent a lot of time in his early career on the left side as well, missed 8 games in the 1985-86 but he equaled his career high 54 goals and added 48 assists for 102 points. However his Oilers stumbled in the playoffs and were out in just 10 games. Andy had 8 goals in those 10 contests!

Anderson scored 35 and 38 goals in the following two years, both of which saw the Oilers win the Cup. However in 1988-89 - the first year without Wayne Gretzky - Anderson fell to just 16 goals and 64 points. It was an unusual blip for Anderson, who continued to play with his usual linemate Mark Messier.

Anderson returned to his usual form in 1989-90 - scoring 34 times and collecting 72 points. The Oilers went on a bit of an unexpected playoff run and won the Stanley Cup for the 5th time in 7 years. Anderson played a big role - scoring 10 goals and 22 points in the 22 post season games.

Anderson spent 12 years for the Oilers before he was traded with star goaltender Grant Fuhr (and Craig Berube) to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Vinnie Damphousse, Peter Ing, Scott Thornton, Luke Richardson and cash. The Oilers were being forced to dismantle as economic woes hit them hard. Toronto's new GM Cliff Fletcher wanted Anderson for his veteran leadership and playoff savvy.

Anderson's scoring tailed off once he left Edmonton. He only cracked the 20 goal level once and often spent more time in Europe or with the Canadian National Team than in the NHL. Late in 1994 he was traded to the New York for Mike Gartner. Andy played thirty-five games as a Ranger and went on to win a Stanley Cup with them. After playing with the Canadian Nats and teams in Germany and Finland, Glenn spent a brief time in St. Louis in 1995, before he left to play in Germany. He wanted to finish his career with the Vancouver Canucks, who were a strong contender and also Glenn's hometown. The Canucks signed him but first he had to pass through waivers. Glen Sather upset Canucks boss Pat Quinn by taking Anderson. Rumors persisted that Sather was returning a jab at Quinn who earlier in the decade snapped up the Oiler's Randy Gregg from waivers. Anderson reluctantly returned where he played 17 games in his second Oiler stint where he was then put back on waivers and claimed by the St Louis Blues.

Anderson had always expressed an interest in playing hockey in Europe, which is where he returned to in 1996-97 for one final season of hockey. Anderson's speed was a big asset for various Team Canada squads in International events. Anderson participated in the 1980 Olympics before joining the NHL. He also participated in 2 Canada Cup tournaments, 2 World Championships, and Rendez Vous '87. He had once stated he would like to have played in the Soviet Elite Leagues.

Glenn Anderson was a very nice player on a very strong team. In some ways that helped his status in the hockey world, but in other ways it kept him in the shadows and from greater individual acclaim.

After waiting several seasons, Anderson was finally rightfully inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2008, although his former Oilers co-horts couldn't understand why he was not inducted earlier.

"I don't even think there should be a debate about him," said Glen Sather, the Oilers architect.

"I was there for most of his accomplishments and he's achieved many more huge results than guys that are in the Hall. It kind of astounds me that every time I've seen his name mentioned that he hasn't been one of the guys who have been elected automatically."

"He was the kind of player who, the bigger the game, the better he performed. Just based on his credentials in the playoffs alone I think he's a guy who really qualifies."

Former teammate Kevin Lowe was also critical that Anderson did not sharea place in the hallowed hall along side Wayne Gretzky, Grant Fuhr, Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri and Mark Messier much sooner.

"Those five guys, to a man, would say it's ridiculous that Anderson is not in the Hall because they all view him on the same level as themselves," said Lowe. " When I sat in that dressing room with all those great players, when I looked around the room and we were in a big game, the one guy I thought would score the big goal was Anderson, and to his credit he did.

"Maybe, to his fault, a lot of the lesser games were less important to him. He would have scored 600 goals had they been. But anyone who has won championships recognized that Anderson was one of those big-game players. He has all the stats to support it."

Also See:
Glenn Anderson's Day Finally Comes
The Mork Identity
Anderson Anxious To Join Hall's Ghosts

No comments: