This isn't the first time that Gilmour has come up big in the playoffs. He was the leading scorer in the 1986 postseason when he lifted the underdog St. Louis Blues into the conference championship. Three years later he helped the Calgary Flames win the Stanley Cup. But never before has he been the center of attention the way he is now.
"There's no question about it," says Los Angeles coach Barry Melrose. " Doug Gilmour is the Toronto Maple Leafs. I don't think anyone could possibly argue with that."
Gilmour effectively took possession of the team in January 1992, when he arrived from Calgary in a 10-man deal, the biggest trade, and one of the most one-sided, in NHL history. This season he had a team-record 127 points on 32 goals and 95 assists while leading the Maple Leafs to third place in the Norris Division and a spot in the playoffs for the first time in three years. "He elevated his game to get us into the playoffs," Baumgartner says. "And he's elevated it even higher now that we're here."
Not satisfied merely with rekindling the love affair between Canada's largest city and its moribund hockey team, Gilmour went into overdrive, pushing the Leafs to victory in seven-game wars against the Detroit Red Wings and the Blues, double-shifting, playing as many as 40 minutes a game. "I've been saying Dougie's the best player in the league since October," says outspoken Canadian TV commentator Don Cherry. "This guy is already the best defensive forward in the NHL, and now he's the best offensive player in the playoffs, when it really counts. I've never seen anything like it."
A grateful Gilmour planted a big wet kiss on Cherry's cheek during an interview after Game 1. "I think he's very knowledgeable," says Gilmour, who grew up in Kingston, Ont., which also is Cherry's hometown. "Plus, he's an old friend of my family's."
Gilmour is just the sort of rock-'em, sock-'em Canadian-bred player Cherry loves. In Game 2, a 3-2 Los Angeles win, Gilmour tried to head-butt the 6'1", 225-pound McSorley, who had nailed him with a wicked forearm in the opener. "Doug's trying to do too much," said Toronto coach Pat Burns after Game 3, in which the Kings held Gilmour to one goal in a 4-2 victory. "He has to understand that he's our best player. He can't allow himself to be taken off his game by Marty McSorley. You can't have a 160-pound guy going around the rink trying to run over a guy like McSorley. You can't blame him for it. You certainly don't hate him for it. He's just got to settle down a little bit."
Burns is a former cop, and Gilmour's mom and dad both worked at a prison. The law-and-order coach and his star player usually see eye-to-eye. Now, however, Gilmour is resisting. His breakneck style has already carried the Leafs to their unexpected appearance in the conference finals, and who knows when they'll get a shot at the Cup again? Toronto is among the league's oldest teams, relying on Burns's guile and Gilmour's determination. "I'll relax later," Gilmour says.
McSorley may not believe it, but Gilmour's fuse isn't nearly as short as it used to be. Age and the experience that comes with having to cope with a host of off-the-ice difficulties have mellowed him. He was practically run out of St. Louis in 1988, amid a storm of bad publicity, after he was accused of having sex with his daughter's teenage babysitter. However, a grand jury refused to bring an indictment against Gilmour, who denies that the alleged incident took place. He found solace in Calgary but only for a while. Gilmour walked out on the Flames on New Year's Eve in 1991 shortly after losing an acrimonious arbitration hearing. "I heard exactly how important I was to the Calgary Flames," he says. "They said my skills were diminishing. I wanted to prove that's not true."
For the second time Cliff Fletcher gave him the chance to exorcise his demons. As general manager of the Flames, Fletcher had sent a bunch of forgettable players to the Blues to get the tarnished Gilmour. As general manager of the Leafs, he unloaded another batch of forgettables to get Gilmour, Macoun, forward Kent Manderville and two others. Fletcher's prot�g�, Calgary general manager Doug Risebrough, must wake up nights in a cold sweat.
"The trade rejuvenated my career," says Gilmour. It didn't rejuvenate his marriage, though. He and his wife, Robyne, separated last summer, and he spent this season living in a hotel next door to Maple Leaf Gardens. Robyne has retained custody of eight-year-old Maddison. "I love my daughter," Gilmour says. "I love my wife. That doesn't mean you can always be there. That doesn't mean you can always get along."