Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Second Sports-Related Post

With the NHL trade deadline just around the corner, the experts and the pundits have been tossing around names and teams, and reflecting on past trades, what worked, what didn't. The most popular Leaf trade bait is captain Mats Sundin, but there is also a chance that the Leafs will be able to trick someone into taking on Darcy Tucker or Bryan McCabe's contracts. But, this post is actually designed to look back, not forward. This post will look at the absolute worst trade in Toronto Maple Leafs history.

There are plenty of trades from the Harold Ballard era, when Ballard did what he could to make the Leafs a laughingstock. Then there are the losses of players like Brad Boyes, Steve Sullivan, and Jason Smith for whom the Leafs apparently had no use. One of the worst non-trades in Leaf history involved a chance to get Eric Lindros.

In 2000, the Philadelphia Flyers were trying to get rid of Eric Lindros. The Leafs and the Flyers had worked out a deal, but the Leafs were unwilling to part with one player - Nik Antropov. That's worked out, eh?

In 2001, Lindros began playing for the New York Rangers and scored 82 goals and assisted on another 124 throughout the rest of his career before retiring this season. Who knows what the rest of his career might have been like if he'd been removed from a couple of those concussions by being in a new city. Antropov, for the record, has scored 80 goals and added 106 assists (as of today). Not a great difference, but again, what might have happened to Lindros' numbers if he hadn't played in a couple of those games? That, and Antropov was booed for basically three years, so I have a feeling Lindros might have been welcomed.

But, back to the point of this. The worst trade, by far, in the history of the Toronto Maple Leafs occurred in 1989. (If you've read the latest edition of The Hockey News, you already know that they mentioned this first).

The Leafs have always had a history of dumping draft picks (and abusing the ones they have), but this was the worst. In 1989, they traded away their first-round pick in the 19911 draft for a defenseman named Tom Kurvers. Kurvers actually wasn't too bad for the Leafs, scoring 52 points in 1989-90, but he got off to a slow start in 1990-91, he went to Vancouver after playing just 19 games for Toronto. Unfortunately, the Leafs sucked in 1990-91, and as a result, had handed the New Jersey Devils the third overall draft pick in 1991.

That draft is memorable for a couple of reasons - the Quebec Nordiques drafted "The Next One" in Eric Lindros (he pulled a Mario Lemieux and refused to report and eventually got traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in a bit of a rip-off for Quebec that netted them Peter Forsberg), and then the San Jose Sharks drafted Pat Falloon, who turned into a phenomenal bust. The Devils (with the Leafs pick), picked a defenseman from the Kamloops Blazers. This guy hasn't had a bad career - four Stanley Cups, one Norris Trophy, one Conn Smythe Trophy, three times an end of season league All-Star. His name is Scott Niedermayer.

The Leafs, by the way, didn't have a pick until the 47th pick, with which they selected Yanic Perreault, who did prove to be a serviceable player. After that, they picked guys by the names of Terry Chitaroni (69), Alexei Kudashov (102), Jeff Perry (113), Alexander Kuzminski (120), Martin Prochazka (135), Dmitri Mironov (160), Robb McIntyre (164), Tomas Kucharik (167), Guy Lehoux (179), Gary Miller (201), Jonathan Kelley (223), and Chris O'Rourke (245). Now, they didn't pass up much (Brian Savage at 171, Brian Holzinger at 124, Dmitri Yushkevich at 122, Mariusz Czerkawski at 106, Chris Osgood at 54, among others), nothing quite like Pavel Bure at 113th in 1989, or Dominik Hasek at 199th in 1983, but it's who they could have had and what they got for giving him up.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the worst trade in Toronto Maple Leafs history, on October 16, 1989.

1 - The Devils actually had the choice between 1990 and 1991, and chose 1991. Had they picked 1990, they would have had the 10th overall pick. Some of the players available at that point? Keith Tkachuk, Martin Brodeur (New Jersey made out okay with the 20th pick), Doug Weight, Geoff Sanderson, Slava Kozlov, Sergei Zubov, Roman Turek, Craig Conroy, Robert Lang, and Peter Bondra. The Leafs, for the record, picked Drake Berehowsky.

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