Down Goes Brown: 10 fun facts about Doug Gilmour’s 1992–93 season

Let’s roll back the clock to 1992 when the Leafs and Flames made their best and worst trade in franchise history simultaneously. Almost 26 years ago to the day, Calgary said goodbye as Toronto said hello to the man they called “Killer”.

Today marks the 25th anniversary of a big moment in Toronto Maple Leafs history. It was on this day in 1993 that Doug Gilmour assisted on a Dave Andreychuk goal to give the Leafs a 2–0 lead over the Oilers. The goal itself didn’t end up mattering all that much — the Leafs rolled to a relatively easy 6–2 win. But the assist gave Gilmour his 118th point of the year, breaking Darryl Sittler’s franchise record for points in a year that had stood since 1977–78.

As readers of this site are well aware, the Maple Leafs are an overlooked franchise that rarely gets much media coverage. So I thought it would be fun to look back on Gilmour’s big moment, with 118 fun facts about Doug Gilmour’s record-breaking season.

(Editor’s note: Yeah, 118 sounds excessive even for a Leafs homer like you. Maybe dial it down to 10?)

See what I mean? It’s tough to root for a team that gets so little attention. Fine, 10 fun facts it is.

1. There wasn’t exactly a ton of suspense when it came to Gilmour breaking the record

Gilmour had been on pace to shatter the record pretty much all season long, and he’d already become just the second Maple Leafs to ever hit the 100-point mark a few weeks earlier. When the Leafs took the ice in Edmonton that night, they still had 10 games left in the season, so barring an injury it wasn’t so much a question of whether Gilmour would break the mark but when, and by how much.

The “when” turned out to be that night, and the “how much” ended up being double digits, as Gilmour finished the year with 127 points. And he wasn’t done yet.

2. It wasn’t the only team scoring record Gilmour set that year

In addition to breaking the franchise-points record, Gilmour also topped two other important marks held by Sittler.

He finished the 1992–93 season with 95 assists, shattering Sittler’s mark of 72 (also set in 1977–78). That remains one of the highest marks ever, with only five players having ever recorded more helpers in a season – Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr, Adam Oates and Joe Thornton.

Maybe more impressively, Gilmour established another Leafs record for points in a single post-season. Sittler had set that mark in 1977, with 21, but Gilmour had him beat before the end of the second round. He finished the playoffs with 35 points, which remains tied for the eighth most in NHL history, as well as the most ever by a player whose team didn’t make the final.

The good news for Sittler is that at least he got to keep his NHL record for points in a game, although Gilmour managed to get his name into the record book for a different single-game mark. On Feb. 13, he assisted on all six Maple Leafs goals in a 6–1 win over the Dallas Star. That left him one back of the all-time NHL record for assists in a game, but tied the Leafs’ team mark, matching Babe Pratt’s output from a 1944 contest.

3. Nobody really saw all this coming

In hindsight, Gilmour’s transformation from respected top-six centre to unquestioned superstar feels inevitable. He’d been underused and perhaps under-appreciated in Calgary, where he was simply one of several top forwards on a Cup contender. The trade to Toronto was his opportunity to show what he could do as The Guy, and he made the most of it, embracing the big-market spotlight and having the sort of breakout season he’d always had in him.

It makes sense, and there’s probably a certain amount of truth in it. But even with the benefit of a nice narrative, it’s still remarkable how much of a jump Gilmour made in that first full year in Toronto. After all, this wasn’t some kid just entering his prime — Gilmour was already 29 years old and playing his 10th NHL season in 1992-93. He’d put up decent numbers for just about all of that time, but never anything approaching his 127-point breakout. His previous career best had been 105 points with the Blues back in 1986–87, and he’d had only one other season in which he’d even been over 90.

Even after coming over to Toronto midway through the 1991–92 season, Gilmour’s numbers were very good but hardly jaw-dropping. He put up 49 points in 40 games, just about exactly a 100-point pace. Heading into the 1992–93 season, that seemed about right – Gilmour seemed like an easy bet to lead the Leafs in scoring, but with limited talent around him the ceiling didn’t seem that high.

That thinking lasted a few weeks. Gilmour had 10 points through the team’s first five games and 20 through their first 10, and the race towards the record book was on. In hindsight, it all seemed obvious. But at the time, not so much.

Of course, at least some of that surprise had to do with some important context: The entire 1992–93 season was ridiculous.

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4. For all of that, he still finished only seventh in scoring that year

This is the part that Maple Leaf fans tend to forget. As good as Gilmour’s season was, he was far from the only player putting up pinball numbers during the 1992–93 season. Average scoring nudged back up to about 7.25 goals per game after two years of falling under seven; that was still less than league average for every year during the 1980s, but the boost helped several players reach career highs in points.

That year’s Art Ross went to Mario Lemieux, who returned from battling cancer to blow by Pat LaFontaine and finish with 160 points in just 60 games. LaFontaine finished with 148, which remains the 19th highest total ever. Adam Oates also cracked the 140-point mark, finishing with 142, and Pierre Turgeon and Teemu Selanne both had 132.

In fact, Gilmour’s 127 points were only good enough to leave him tied with Alexander Mogilny for seventh in the league. He wasn’t even named a first or second-team all-star at the end of the year, which seems odd for a guy who finished second in the Hart Trophy race and won the Selke. But the voters went with Lemieux and LaFontaine instead, which was hard to argue.

Still, recording 127 points and finishing seventh in the scoring race seems insane. Less than a decade later, Mats Sundin would finish fourth with just 80 points. Phil Kessel had three top-seven finishes in his Toronto career despite never scoring more than 82 points. Gilmour got to 127 and couldn’t crack the top five.

You know the rest of the story. League-wide scoring fell almost a full goal in 1993–94, then dropped under six goals per game by 1994–95 as the Dead Puck Era settled in. These days, the crazy totals of that 1992–93 season seem like a distant memory that we’ll never see again. There’s a reason it was the best season ever.

5. The Dave Andreychuk goal that Gilmour assisted on was important in its own right

The record-breaking goal itself wasn’t all that memorable. Gilmour made a nice drop pass to Andreychuk near the middle of the faceoff circle, and the big winger beat Ron Tugnett low to the stick side. (You can see a quick clip of the goal here.) Nice enough, but hardly highlight-reel material.

But the goal was Andreychuk’s 51st of the season, making him only the third Maple Leafs to ever reach that mark… sort of. Andreychuk had come over in a mid-season trade with the Sabres, so not all of those goals had come as a Maple Leaf. Andreychuk would finish the year with 54 goals, and added 53 the next year in a full season in Toronto. The only other two Leafs to get over the 50-goal mark were Rick Vaive (who did it three times), and the player Gilmour was traded for, Gary Leeman.

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6. Gilmour’s scoring was ridiculously consistent

Maybe the most impressive fact from Gilmour’s record-breaking season was that he very nearly managed to go the entire year without ever going back-to-back games without a point.

It wasn’t until the last week of the season, when Gilmour was held off the board in each of the Leafs’ final three games, that he had anything approaching a slump. Until then, he’d never gone consecutive games without at least a point. By contrast, he had six streaks during the season where he went at least three straight games recording multiple points, including a seven-game stretch in February in which he racked up 22.

7. It’s kind of too bad he wasn’t held pointless that night in Edmonton

Gilmour didn’t put up many goose eggs that year, but it would have been interesting if it had happened that night in Edmonton. That would have given Gilmour an opportunity to set the Leafs’ record in their next game. And that one came the very next night, in Calgary.

The monster 1992 trade that sent Gilmour from the Flames to the Maple Leafs has been picked apart over the years, and today it’s generally viewed as one of the most lopsided in NHL history. You can slice and dice the trade any number of ways (and we have), and it’s true that Gilmour forced the Flames’ hand after walking out on the team. But even the most sympathetic reading of the deal still comes out as a disaster for the Flames, and a franchise-redefining win for the Maple Leafs.

All of which would have made it especially cruel and/or fun to see Gilmour break Sittler’s record back in Calgary. The deal was already seen as a debacle by 1993, and Leeman had already been sent packing to Montreal weeks earlier. Within another year, all five players the Flames got from the megadeal had moved on, and Calgary had turned Gilmour into Dan Keczmer, Brian Skrudland and a fifth-round pick. Watching Gimour break the record in Calgary would have been some extra salt in a wound that was already overflowing with it.

(Gilmour had a goal and an assist against the Flames that night, in case you were wondering.)

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8. Setting the record apparently meant you were allowed to high-stick Gilmour in that year’s playoffs without getting a penalty

Not that any of us are still bitter about it. Just worth a mention.

9. His 1993–94 encore was almost as good

If the Maple Leafs’ 1992–93 season was a feel-good blockbuster, the 1993–94 version felt like a sequel: Same characters, same plot points, some of the same fun, but just not quite as good. Gilmour’s season followed that pattern, as his scoring totals took a dip across the board.

But only a small dip. Gilmour finished that 1993–94 season with 111 points, good for third all-time on the franchise list. And because of the league-wide drop in scoring, his 1993–94 season saw him finish higher in the scoring race; he ended up a career-best fourth.

It still wasn’t enough to earn him a post-season all-star nod; he’d finish third again, this time behind Wayne Gretzky and Sergei Fedorov, and ended his 20-year career without ever earning an all-star nod. While he’d play nine more seasons, he never hit the 100-point mark again, or even got all that close, topping out at 82 in a 1996–97 season split between the Leafs and Devils.

10. It’s fair to say the record will stand for a while

With apologies to Auston Matthews and friends, it seems unlikely that Gilmour’s team record will be falling any time soon. That’s partly due to how good he was during that 1992–93 season, but mainly because of the change in scoring rates. Players just don’t score 127 points anymore; you’d have to go back to Jaromir Jagr in 1999 to find the last time anyone finished with that many points, and to Mario Lemieux in 1996 to find the last player to have more.

To put the difference in perspective, consider that last year’s top two Leafs scorers, Matthews and James van Riemsdyk, barely edged Gilmour’s year with 131 points combined. And in 2015–16, the Leafs’ top three scorers as a group finished with just 122 points.

Maybe someday they’ll make the nets bigger or the season longer. But until then, you’re probably safe, Dougie.

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