It is interesting sometimes how some players, if they don’t catch the initial wave from their own era, get lost in the shuffle when it comes to their Hockey Hall of Fame induction chances.
One such player is Doug Wilson, 15th all-time in scoring among defensemen but still overlooked year after year at induction time. Between 1977-78 and 1992-93, the Ottawa native put up 827 points (237-590) in 1,024 career regular-season games with mostly the Chicago Blackhawks before ending his career with the San Jose Sharks, where he eventually became the club’s longtime general manager. Wilson had a cannon of a shot, was a great two-way defender, won a Norris Trophy as the league's top defenseman and played in eight All-Star games. But somehow his call from the Hockey Hall of Fame never came ... not yet, anyway.
The Case For
Wilson’s 827 points rank him ahead of Red Kelly, Borje Salming, Rob Blake, Mark Howe and Scott Niedermayer, all deserved Hockey Hall of Fame inductees. Wilson also had 80 points (19-61) in 95 career playoff games and to this day remains the all-time scoring leader for defensemen in the storied history of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Another Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, Denis Savard, says it’s high time his former teammate gets in.
"No question," Savard told ESPN.com. "He was a great teammate, he was a guy that was awesome for all of us to have on the team. Just a great person. ... He had 39 goals the one year, was a Norris Trophy winner, I don’t know how many have ever won the Norris and not been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame, do you?"
Wilson, the 1982 Norris Trophy winner, is joined by 1981 Norris Trophy winner Randy Carlyle as the only winners of the top defenseman awards pre-2000 to not make their way into the Hall.
"Willy was an all-around great player," said Savard. "He played well defensively, he played in all situations. It was no fluke he scored all those goals. And defensively, he played against top lines every night. ... The way he handled himself on and off the ice throughout his whole career, he’s not just a Hall of Fame player but a Hall of Fame person."
The Case Against
Savard wonders if what’s held not just Wilson back but also former linemate Steve Larmer -- another player Savard feels should be in the Hall -- is that the Blackhawks team of that 1980s era never reached the pinnacle of the sport.
"What went against us in a sense is playing those Oilers teams all those years, we never got to win a Cup together," said Savard. "We’re probably one of the top teams never to have won a Cup, ever. For me, I was fortunate to win a Cup with the Canadiens and I think that helped me to get into the Hockey Hall of Fame. You just wonder how much part of the criteria that is."
Others might know Wilson for never being in the same class during his heyday as multiple-Norris-Trophy winners Paul Coffey or Ray Bourque. But let’s look at it another way: The Hockey Hall of Fame inducted Rod Langway in 2002, a premier defensive defenseman during Wilson’s era in the 1980s who didn’t belong perhaps in the same breath as Coffey or Bourque, but was a great defenseman nonetheless. There are many who would argue Wilson should be seen on the same level, albeit as a different type of player.
I believe Doug Wilson deserves to be in the Hockey Hall of Fame and his numbers prove it. And not winning a Cup should not count against anybody. It is a team game and being fortunate enough to be on a team that happens to win a Cup is more luck of circumstance than it is whole-heartedly linked to an individual players’ career. Marcel Dionne, Mats Sundin and Cam Neely are not any less deserving of their place in the Hall despite not having Cup rings. Doug Wilson deserves to get in.
ESPN Panel: 34 percent voted into Hall.