Trades #21-25 of the 25 Worst Trades in the modern history of the Montreal Canadiens
The Montreal Canadians have a long and storied history in the NHL. They have won many Stanley Cups, and a large number of Hall of Fame hockey players have worn their colours. However, they have also made their share of outright bone-headed trades (the bulk of which occurred in the 1990s and early 2000s), which has resulted in their failing to win a Stanley Cup victory in 20 years (a drought Leafs fans would happily accept instead of our 46-and-counting tally). I have taken a look at Montreal’s trades in the Modern Era of the NHL (post-1967), and compiled a list of the 25 Worst Montreal Canadiens Trades of All Time. One thing to mention as a qualifier: I largely ignored whomever the Canadiens’ trading partner selected with the draft pick received, as there is no guarantee the Canadiens would have chosen that player. I put the most weight on ex-Habs who went on to great things (post-Montreal), Montreal draft picks that didn’t pan out, and the failure to make the most of players/assets in the long-term. With that, here are the trades that ranked #21-25.
#25: Montreal trades Bob Berry to the Los Angeles Kings for cash (October 8th, 1970)
Montreal has a long, proud history of ripping off the six 1967 expansion teams, especially the West Coast teams. The Habs turned draft picks from the Kings into Mario Tremblay, Larry Robinson, Steve Shutt and Claude Lemieux. Meanwhile, a trade for Oakland/California’s first round pick gave them Guy Lafleur. Sadly, this is not one of those trades. For whatever reason, Bob Berry was deemed a player Montreal could live without. While not an all-star, Berry was a solid contributor for the Kings, and he spent seven seasons (the remainder of his career) in Los Angeles. He recorded five seasons of 20+ goals, including a high of 36 in ’72-73. He also cleared 60 points twice, and had another season with 50+ points. All in all, he was a fairly productive player on a team that sorely lacked offensive talent in its formative years. Granted Montreal was a dynasty at the time, and it was unlikely that Berry would have received a similar opportunity (and ice time) with the Canadiens. But you would think they could have gotten more than just cash.
#24: Montreal trades Gerald Diduck to the Vancouver Canucks for a 1991 4th Round Pick (Vladimir Vujtek) (January 12th, 1991)
Gerald Diduck was a hard-hitting, stay-at-home defenseman who filled a valuable role on an up-and-coming Canucks team. He certainly wasn’t an offensive juggernaut, but he was tough and responsible in his own end. In parts of five seasons, he played 265 games for the Canucks, scoring 72 points and registering a +15 rating. He also had 553 penalty minutes, the bulk of them coming in the ’91-92 and ’92-93 seasons. Diduck also did what you need his type to do in the playoffs: he stepped up his game. He never scored more than 6 goals in the playoffs, but in 1993 he scored 4 goals and 6 points in 12 postseason games. The following year (1994), where Vancouver finished one win shy of the Stanley Cup, he scored 8 points in 24 playoff games (vs. 11 points in 55 games during the regular season). He was eventually traded to Chicago for Bogdan Savenko and a draft pick (Larry Courville), making this a dead end for Vancouver asset-wise. Diduck went on to play another 321 NHL games, retiring with 932 career games played. Meanwhile, Vladimir Vujtek scored 7 goals and 38 points… none of them in Montreal. After two games as a Hab, he was sent to Edmonton in the deal that brought Vincent Damphousse to Montreal. While he attained some measure of value in making that deal happen, Vujtek was a dud as an NHLer, playing just 110 regular season games (and zero playoff games). Diduck was exactly the kind of player that Montreal could have used in in the mid-1990s: a big, physical defenseman who could clear the front of the net. And they lost out when they acquired him as well, as we’ll see in our next entry.
#23: Montreal trades Craig Ludwig to the New York Islanders for Gerald Diduck (September 4th, 1990)
Montreal swapped defensemen with the New York Islanders before the ’90-91 offseason. Gerald Diduck played just 32 games with Montreal before being traded to Vancouver (see Trade #24). He ended up playing another 618 NHL games after leaving the Canadiens. On the other side of the deal, Craig Ludwig only spent one season in New York: he scored just 9 points and registered an ugly -24 rating. But Ludwig developed a reputation as one of the best shot-blockers in the league after moving to Minnesota (which then became Dallas). He played an additional 659 NHL games after leaving Long Island, and he won a Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars in 1999. Either Ludwig or Diduck would have been a boon for the Habs (especially when they were getting knocked around by the Cam Neely’s Bruins), but sadly they instead opted to trade both of them within four months of each other for Vladimir Vujtek.
#22: Montreal trades John Van Boxmeer to the Colorado Rockies for a 1979 3rd Round Pick (Craig Levie) (November 24th, 1976)
John Van Boxmeer is a name that doesn’t get a ton of consideration as a solid player, likely because he played for some lousy teams and he never had any high-profile success in the playoffs. But he was a very talented offensive defenseman in the late 70s and early 80s. He played two-and-a-half seasons in Colorado (with the Rockies, before they became the New Jersey Devils), scoring an impressive 110 points in 197 games. He scored 12 goals and 54 points with a shockingly even +/- rating in ’77-78 for a Rockies’ team that was awful defensively. He then followed that up with 43 points in 76 games (along with a more expected -26 rating) in ’78-79. Van Boxmeer was then dealt to Buffalo for Rene Robert, who put in a 28-goal, 63-point season before being shipped to Toronto. So Colorado got some decent offensive output from this deal. Montreal however, not so much. Craig Levie never even played a single game for Montreal, and he was claimed by Winnipeg in the waiver draft in 1981. He ended up scoring 75 points in 183 career NHL games, none of them coming in a Montreal jersey. So Montreal gave up a defenseman who scored 77 goals and 333 points in 509 games (post-Montreal) for quite literally nothing (aside from the monetary pittance they would have received from Winnipeg as compensation for the waiver pick).
#21: Montreal trades Darcy Tucker, Stephane Richer and David Wilkie to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Patrick Poulin, Igor Ulanov and Mick Vukota (January 15th, 1998)
Stephane Richer was (and as of 2012-13, still is) the last Canadiens player to score 50 goals (achieved in ’87-88 and ’89-90), so fans were happy when he was re-acquired from the New Jersey Devils before the start of the ’96-97 season (in a trade that will show up later in this series). But Richer’s second tour of duty in Montreal lasted just 77 games before he was dealt in a six-player trade to the Tampa Bay Lightning in early 1998. Patrick Poulin was the centrepiece for the Habs; a big hulking winger, Poulin scored 20 goals and 51 points as a rookie, but never again reached either of those milestones with four teams during a 634-game career. Poulin did last a long time in Montreal, playing 277 games over parts of five seasons. But he scored just 31 goals and 75 points in total, and never recorded more than 10 goals or 25 points in a season. Poulin never played another NHL gave after leaving Montreal, and he retired in November 2003. Mick Vukota was nothing more than a goon: he recorded 76 penalty minutes in 22 games, and then never played another NHL game. Igor Ulanov was a competent defenseman, but didn’t amount to much in Montreal. He recorded 19 points and a -16 rating in 123 games over parts of three seasons before being dealt to Edmonton in a trade that saw relatively little (Christian Laflamme and Matthieu Descoteaux) come back. So Montreal ended up with essentially nothing out of this deal after Poulin retired.
Tampa Bay didn’t benefit too much from the deal either, actually. Richer was clearly on the downside of his career: he scored 28 goals and 65 points in 110 games along with a -15 rating for the Lightning, before being flipped to St. Louis for Rich Parent and Chris McAlpine. Defenseman David Wilkie played 75 games over two seasons in Tampa, scoring just 14 points and registering an awful -40 rating on the blueline. But the reason why this trade shows up on this list is one Darcy Tucker. Tucker developed into an effective agitator for Tampa Bay. In his first full season in Tampa, he scored 21 goals and 43 points along with 176 penalty minutes. He ended up with 41 goals and 91 points in 167 games (although he did have a terrible -57 rating). He was flipped to Toronto in a deal that didn’t do much for Tampa Bay, essentially getting them Mike Johnson; however, Johnson was used to pry Nikolai Khabibulin from Phoenix, which led to Tampa Bay winning the Stanley Cup in 2004. Tucker then played a further 665 games (mostly with the Toronto Maple Leafs), scoring 166 goals and 359 points along with an okay -17 rating and an impressive 870 penalty minutes. The Habs missed out on a terrific agitator who, despite being hot-headed, was able to get under his opponents’ skin while also chipping in offensively. He played in a total of 832 regular season NHL games (and 64 playoff games) after leaving Montreal. Was that really worth 277 games of Patrick Poulin?
We are now on the road to examining some of the bigger blunders in the history of the Montreal Canadiens. The next portion of the list takes us all over the past 50 years, stretching from 1967 all the way to 2004. If you’re a Habs fan who wants to take a painful trip down memory lane, or if you’re an anti-Habs fan who wants a chuckle at their expense, click here to see trades #16-20.