Gilmour, Vaive Earned Banners In Rafters

Dave McCarthyCorrespondent IJanuary 29, 2009

On Saturday night, for the second time this season, the Toronto Maple Leafs will enshrine another player in the rafters of Air Canada Centre by raising the banner of Doug Gilmour. They will officially honour No. 93 for his years with the team—years that were quite clearly his best as a National Hockey League player.

Unlike earlier in the season when the same honour was bestowed upon Wendel Clark, there really is little room to argue Gilmour’s place among the other legends whose banners hang from the rafters.

Not only was Gilmour a hugely popular player during his tenure in Toronto, his numbers over his first two seasons with the Maple Leafs stand in a league of their own when compared with other greats. No other Toronto numbers can equal the 301 points Gilmour racked up during 1993 and 1994 campaigns through any other two year stretch. To reach a total that lofty, most other Leafs needed at least four seasons to achieve a similar mark.

Before coming to the Maple Leafs midway through the 1991-1992 season in one of the most lopsided trades in NHL history, Gilmour was a good—but not great—player. The same applies following his departure. But for those two springs in 1993 and 1994 that saw the Leafs go on two magical playoff runs, Gilmour was just that himself—magical. He was arguably the best player the NHL had to offer.

The next player to join Gilmour and the other honoured Maple Leafs should be Rick Vaive. Vaive had three consecutive 50-goal seasons and is one of the best players during a very dark decade in Maple Leaf history. Today, the team longs for a player to have three consecutive 30-goal seasons.

Following that, don’t expect any more players to be honoured until Mats Sundin. This will happen whenever it is the Maple Leafs have decided enough time as passed.

But hey, all that was just rigmarole.