Monday, 17 December 2012

Trades That Made The Difference

If you're a Canadian, the sports channels and online media have been dominated by the news that the Toronto Blue Jays acquired Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey from the New York Mets. The Jays arguably boast the best starting five in the American League East, if not the entire American League, but there was a common theme to the Jays' recent flurry of moves: you won the winter, now go win the summer. It got me thinking about some of the trades that NHL teams have made to help them win a Stanley Cup, and there have been some notable ones that have paid immediate dividends in hoisting the Silver Chalice.

In 1980, the New York Islanders were missing that intangible quality known as grit. They had lots of skill in Bossy, Trottier, Tonelli, Potvin, Morrow, and Smith, but they needed that grinding, son-of-gun player who could wear the opposition's top line down while potting a few key goals. Los Angeles had a player who fit the mold perfectly as 29-year-old center Butch Goring was the piece for which Bill Torrey traded. While giving up Billy Harris and Dave Lewis was thought to be a high price, the return that Goring brought was a Stanley Cup in 1980. And 1981. And 1982. And one more in 1983. Not such a high price when you have that much hardware pouring in.

In 1991, the Penguins were rallying around Mario Lemieux, Kevin Stevens, and Jaromir Jagr, but teams knew that if they shut down that line, the scoring was thin behind them. The Penguins went shopping for a second-line scoring threat and found themselves two key cogs in their run to the 1991 Stanley Cup. The Penguins dealt John Cullen, Jeff Parker and Zarley Zalapski to the Hartford Whalers for Ron Francis, Grant Jennings and Ulf Samuelsson. The result? A Stanley Cup in 1991 and 1992 for the Penguins. The Whalers, on the other hand, would relocate to Carolina few short years later. Needless to say, the addition of Francis gave the Penguins two phenomenal centermen, and getting Ulf Samuelsson to patrol your blueline is a heckuva pickup.

In December of 1995, the Montreal Canadiens were being thumped by the Detroit Red Wings who simply outclassed them on this night. Patrick Roy, in net for the Habs, surrendered an astounding nine goals on a night that would see the Canadiens fall 12-1 to the Winged Wheelers. After the ninth Detroit goal, head coach Mario Tremblay yanked Roy who told team president Ronald Corey he'd never play for them again. Days later, Roy and captain Mike Keane were headed for Denver as they were swapped for Andrei Kovalenko, Martin Rucinsky, and Jocelyn Thibault. As one-sided as the trade looked at the time, the 1995-96 Colorado Avalanche would win the Stanley Cup over the Florida Panthers in a sweep with Roy and Keane both playing a large part in the Avalanche's success. Five years later, Roy would hoist a second Stanley Cup with the Avalanche as well.

The Detroit Red Wings, having been ousted by the Colorado Avalanche in a violent and physical series in 1996, needed to add some additional scoring and toughness, and they set their sights on one player. Brendan Shanahan had made it known that he was unhappy in Hartford and wanted to play for a contender and in front of passionate fans. Detroit offered up a hefty bounty at the beginning of the 1996-97 season: Keith Primeau, Paul Coffey, and a first-round pick in the 1997 Entry Draft for Brendan Shanahan and Brian Glynn. The result? Shanahan led the Red Wings in goals and points in both the regular season and the playoffs, and led the Red Wings to the 1997 Stanley Cup! Giving up Primeau, Coffey, and a first-round pick seemed like a lot, but Shanahan helped to deliver three Stanley Cups in his nine years in Detroit - a pretty good return for giving up a lot!

While there are some other trades that certainly made an impact and helped teams win a Stanley Cup - the Jeff Carter move that helped the Kings, for example - the price paid by the teams who made the deal to win in the present was considered high. Just as the Blue Jays did, they sacrificed assets to bring home a Stanley Cup, the game's highest honor. While I'm not saying the Blue Jays will win the World Series, it goes to show that the right move to put a team over the top can result in great things!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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