On second thought...
Maple Leafs' general managers have authored some of the most disastrous trades in NHL history
Chris Selley | Apr 4, 2008 | 16:51:21
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Ask Leaf fans about the club's great trades and they'll invariably point to Cliff Fletcher's masterpiece—the astonishing ten-player deal with Calgary that brought Doug Gilmour and Jamie Macoun to Toronto in exchange for Gary Leeman and assorted used parts, and launched two runs to the Stanley Cup semi-finals. They might also mention Fletcher's brilliant acquisition of a young Swede named Mats Sundin from Quebec. Though no trade that sends Wendel Clark packing will qualify as universally popular.
Ask those same fans about the club's worst trades, however, and their eyes will darken. During Harold Ballard's tenure, the Leafs traded some of their best under the worst possible circumstances. Other times, they simply traded good players for bad ones. And the draft-pick-gone wrong has been a constant theme. Indeed, if the Leafs' record at drafting players was half as good as that of the teams they've traded their first-round picks to, they might very well have won a Stanley Cup by now.
What follows are seven of the very worst trades in the last 40 years—a window into the Leaf fan's torment:
March 3, 1968—Frank Mahovlich and Carl Brewer for Norm Ullman and Paul Henderson
In a blockbuster deal that brought the often-testy relationship between 12-year Leafs veteran Mahovlich and coach Punch Imlach to a close, The Big M was shipped to Detroit with Pete Stemkowski, Garry Unger and Carl Brewer in exchange for Norm Ullman, Paul Henderson and Floyd Smith. Mahovlich went on to score 237 more goals for the Red Wings and Montreal, where he won two Stanley Cups. And even leaving aside Mahovlich's status as one of the team's most storied players, the final tally from the trade is as lopsided as it gets: the departing Leafs went on to score 832 goals and 1850 points in 2428 games; the incoming Leafs scored 353 goals and 848 points in just 1074 games.
December 29, 1979—Lanny McDonald and Joel Quenneville for Wilf Paiement and Pat Hickey
In a move widely viewed as a calculated effort to annoy captain Darryl Sittler, whose relationship with Imlach (by then general manager) and owner Harold Ballard was rapidly deteriorating, the team dispatched McDonald and Quenneville to the woeful Colorado Rockies. In return they got Paiement, who had a fruitful 187-game stint with the Leafs, scoring 78 goals and 203 points, before being traded to Quebec for occasionally useful forward Miroslav Frycer, and Hickey, who scored 47 goals over two seasons for the Leafs before being sent to the Rangers for future considerations. McDonald played 11 more seasons for Colorado and Calgary, scoring 66 goals for the Flames in 1982-83 and famously hoisting the Stanley Cup in his final season. Quenneville played ten more seasons as a steady defenceman for the Colorado/New Jersey franchise and Hartford.
January 20, 1982—Darryl Sittler for Rich Costello and Peter Ihnacak
Sittler stuck around after McDonald's departure, but not without temporarily ripping the captain's C from his jersey in protest. With relations again worsening during the 1981-82 season, and rumors of an imminent trade to one of Philadelphia, Minnesota, Buffalo or the New York Islanders dragging on for weeks, Sittler eventually left the team citing stress. He was shipped to Broad Street for 18-year-old prospect Rich Costello, who played all of 12 NHL games, and a second-round draft pick that would turn into forward Peter Ihnacak, a mainstay of mediocrity during the deepest Leaf doldrums of the '80s. Sittler played three more productive seasons, scoring 95 goals and adding 110 assists in 252 games for the Flyers and Red Wings.
November 7, 1988—Russ Courtnall for John Kordic
Canadiens' GM Serge Savard was desperate for a speedy offensive player, and the Leafs had one—Courtnall—languishing in coach John Brophy's doghouse. By way of compensation, 31-year-old Leafs GM Gord Stellick had his eye on Kordic, a rambunctious winger eager to prove he could be more than just a goon. Not surprisingly, Savard took the bait. Detractors point to Courtnall's lack of physical play, but he did log 720 more NHL games, scoring 207 goals and adding 319 assists. Kordic played just 104 games as a Leaf, scoring 10 goals and racking up 441 penalty minutes. Less than four years after the notorious trade, he was dead from heart failure.