February 23, 2010
The day Wendel was traded
By LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
16. Don’t Beam Scotty Up
Aug. 1, 2008
Scotty Bowman has won much Stanley Cup bling, including multiple gems with a pair of Original Six teams.
He might have had vat least one diamond-encrusted Maple Leaf rock, but we’ll never know. The Leafs have brought in three president/general managers from Cup winners since 1967, Cliff Fletcher, Ken Dryden and now Brian Burke, but the much-decorated Bowman tops an impressive list of managerial masterminds who said ‘no thanks’, in part because they feared the meddlesome reputation of Leaf ownership. At 74, Bowman joined the Chicago Blackhawks on this date as senior advisor.
Bowman had been doing a long-distance dance with the Leafs since the 1980s, when he had a chance to see them up close as a broadcast analyst. After leaving the Red Wings in 2002 with a third ring, Bowman wasn’t quite prepared to pack it in and though the bungled transfer of power from Pat Quinn to rookie John Ferguson might have been an opportune time to come in as GM, Bowman was interviewed as a senior advisor until 2007 and that would have been with Ferguson still around.
But Bowman wanted the clout that MLSEL had given Bryan Colangelo on the basketball side. When that wasn’t negotiable, Bowman backed away. It’s believed he had been offered at least three different job titles over the years, but a match was never made.
Others considered for the job if not actually interviewed included Bob Gainey, John Muckler, Ken Holland, Steve Tambellini, Jim Rutherford and Doug Armstrong. On two ocassions, MLSEL made overtures to David Poile, once when then-president Ken Dryden approached him in 1997 after Poile was let go by Washington. But the odd way Dryden had structured the hierarchy steered Poile to try his luck with the expansion Nashville Predators.
When the Preds faced ownership issues, he discussed the senior advisor’s role in ‘07, but once again, the job description didn’t favour a man who liked to run his own show.
“In Nashville, I knew I would have my fingerprints over everything we did,” Poile said.
17. Wendel off the Cliff
March 13, 1996
When he bumped into a group of writers the day he traded beloved captain Wendel Clark to the Quebec Nordiques at the ‘94 draft in Hartford, GM Cliff Fletcher asked them if fans had begun tearing the CN Tower down in protest. And he wasn’t joking.
His acquisition of Mats Sundin in the deal, the future franchise scoring leader, would eventually justify the bold move, but Clark would not be forgotten by fans on the street or those residing in the ivory tower of MLFG Ltd.
Many believe Fletcher undid a good trade by paying too high a price to recover Clark on this day in 1996. It hadn’t escaped the notice of the bean counters on the board hat after back-to-back visits to the Conference final with Clark, there followed a first-round playoff elimation without the fan favourite.
Never mind Clark was showing the signs of wear and tear with the New York Islanders at the time, the call went out to bring the captain home. The deal re-attained Clark, Mathieu Schneider and junior D.J. Smith for defenceman Kenny Jonsson, forward Darby Hendrickson, junior Sean Haggarty and a first round pick in 1997.
Schneider was a warrior, but the much younger Jonsson had been a rarity, a defenceman drafted and developed by the Leafs. The big loss was the pick, which the Isles turned into Roberto Luongo, one of the new century’s dominant goalies.
18. Jacking up the rent
March 3, 2004
GM Brian Burke is fond of saying that none work harder to sustain and promote the game of hockey than the 30 NHL general managers, yet no group acts as irresponsibly around every first week in March.
Squeezed between visions of winning a Cup in a few months and the clock ticking towards the trade deadline, their year-long patient plans are often thrown away in mad pursuit of a Cup ring that only one of their company will eventually wear each year.
The Leafs have been no different, but already low on high draft picks, they’ve often left their cupboard totally bare. On this date, they gave up two prospects and a first and second round pick for Brian Leetch of the Rangers. They won one round.
Deadline deals also saw them pursue Benoit Hogue, Mathieu Schneider, Aki Berg, Tom Barrasso, Glen Wesley, Owen Nolan, Phil Housley and Ron Francis, plus re-acquire Tie Domi, Wendel Clark and Doug Gilmour.
The Leafs deserve points for trying, but since engaging in such gambles, they haven’t even made it past the third round, while only a few of the names above stayed longer than a year or two. Whether the lost picks turned out well or not, Toronto had given up its chance.