The Three Greatest Trades That Won Stanley Cups

My top-3 deals leading to Stanley Cup wins; Sabres win!!!; Jack Campbell is one hot Leaf, and Panthers sign Spencer Knight

With the trade deadline just around the calendar general managers of contending teams are dreaming up trades that will bring them that one missing player to bring them a Stanley Cup.

And while The Great Gretzky trade from Edmonton to Los Angeles proved to be a landmark deal for the NHL -- and hockey in general -- it did not assure them a Stanley Cup. 

My point is simple, if Kyle Dubas in Toronto or Lou Lamoriello on Long Island can secure that final piece to the puzzle, Lord Stanley's mug could belong to them.

The following are my choices for the greatest trio of trades that wound up winning the ultimate professional hockey championship.

Favored to win The Cup both in 1978 and the following year, the star-studded Islanders failed both times. It frustrated and puzzled Isles boss Bill Torrey.

"I huddled with my sidekick Jim Devellano," Torrey explained, "and we realized that the club had one major shortcoming. After our top center Bryan Trottier, we lacked a good back-up down the middle."

After studying the list through five months of the 1979-80 season, the general staff agreed that the best choice would be Butch Goring of the Los Angeles Kings.

"To get Butch," added Devellano, "we knew we had to give L.A. quality in not one but two places; up front and on defense. Earlier we had dealt for defenseman Gord Lane and got Ken Morrow from the U.S. Olympians.

"That meant we could unload Dave Lewis and not hurt our roster. The forward part was tougher because the Kings wanted our right wing Billy Harris. He was our first overall pick in 1972. But we had to do it."

The deal was made just prior to the 1980 deadline and the Islanders suddenly bloomed like apple blossoms in spring. Goring seamlessly fit into the lineup as second line center relieving Bryan Trottier.

Torrey: "Until we got Butch the opposition could throw its best checkers against Trots, Mike Bossy and Clark Gillies. Once that trio was silenced it nullified a lot of our offense. With Goring we had a lot more balance."

A peripatetic skater, Goring doubled as a first-class penalty=killer and playmaker as well as his ability to illuminate the red light. With Butch in tow, the Islanders went on to win their first Stanley Cup in 1980.

And if there was any doubt about Goring's clutch-ability -- and there shouldn't have been -- it was erased in 1981 when he was voted the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoffs MVP.

That was the year that the Nassaumen won their third straight Cup with one more to come -- a four-game sweep of Gretzky's Oilers. In each of the quartet Cup seasons, Butch Goring was the factor.

No other single trade ever produced four consecutive championships.

Toronto's hockey king Conn Smythe was delighted when his club upset the favored Canadiens to win the Cup in the spring of 1947. 

"It was a stunner," Smythe allowed. "Now I wanted to be sure we had

the best team in the league. The way we could do that was have the best three centers in the league."

His Leafs already boasted two of the best, future Hall of Famers Syl Apps and Ted Kennedy. One more outstanding pivot would do the trick. The man Smythe wanted was Chicago's ace Max Bentley.

"I knew (Blackhawks manager) Bill Tobin needed players," Smythe asserted "and I knew I had to gamble. And I did."

The Leafs package was astounding by any standard in any era. Toronto offered a complete forward line, "The Flying Forts," including Gus Bodnar, Gaye Stewart and Bud Poile; each a Grade A forward. 

But then, Smythe added two defensemen, Bob Goldham and Ernie Dickens. That's a starting lineup minus the goalie.

Max Bentley arrived in Toronto with suitable fuss and fanfare and this Hall of Famer wound up on the Leafs third line. Imagine that!

"Maxie was everything we'd hope he'd be," said Leafs coach Hap Day. "I could put him on a line with a third-stringer like Joe Klukay and he'd still be a star."

And that he was, galvanizing the Leafs to Stanley Cups in 1948, 1949 and 1951. The five players sent to Chicago couldn't even get the Blackhawks into the playoffs!

Maple Leafs emperor George (Punch) Imlach already had won Stanley Cups in 1962 and 1963 but wanted one more to tie the previous three-straight record of Hap Day, set in 1947, 1948 and 1949.

"I felt I needed one more gunner just to keep the team loaded," said Punch. "The fella with the big shot on the Rangers, Andy Bathgate was in my crosshairs so I talked to (Rangers g.m.) Muzz Patrick about a trade."

That was in mid-February 1964. Patrick needed bodies and he felt that Bathgate was jaded in the Gotham. Punch was willing to deal big but asked Muzz to toss in center Don McKenney with Bathgate. 

"I wanted some darn good -- and young -- skaters for Andy and Don," said Muzz, "and I got 'em,"

Imlach dispatched forwards Dick Duff, Bob Nevin and Bill Collins as well as young blue liners, Rod Seiling and Arnie Brown to the Rangers. Next up was to determine whether Bathgate was worth it. 

Andy had the answer on April 25, 1964, Game Seven of the Red Wings-Maple Leafs Stanley Cup Final. With just over three minutes gone in the deciding match, Bathgate got a clean breakaway against Terry Sawchuk.

"I cradled the puck," Andy remembered, "and shot it over Sawchuk's shoulder."

It turned out to be the Cup-winner in the 4-0 rout, making it another three-straight titles for Toronto but the first for Bathgate.

Andy: "Finally, I knew what it was like to win the Stanley Cup, to hold it skyward, cradle it like a baby and hug it like a loved one!"

P.S. The Rangers never even came close despite the bundle of talent they received for Handy Andy.



THE JIVE: Ace insider Darren Dreger says Toronto must find a goalie. I say, nix to that. They've got one, Jack Campbell. He beat Winnipeg -- allegedly the best offense in the NHL -- 3-1 last night. The guy is undefeated at 7-0. Plus, the players love him like crazy.


THE JIVE: The fact is just about everyone in the hockey world -- including Torts -- has been rooting for these Buffalo fellows. Topping Philly 6-1 last night prompts the question; can they make it two in a row by beating the Rangers?


THE JIVE: Boston College whiz-kid Spencer Knight -- also starred in the World Juniors -- is now in the NHL. His deal with Florida means he might be playing for the Cats real soon. Could be best goalie in the NHL!


THE JIVE: The Oilers Goal Machine did a Gordie Howe on Montreal's Jesperi Kotkaniemi. The cost, via NHL fine, is five grand. When Gordie used the hammer it was free!

TRIVIA CORNER: Which Original Six arena has curiously curved corners that enabled the home team to exploit them, billiard-like?

(Answer below.)

FUNNY LINE FROM YESTERYEAR: Brian Sutter was asked what was the ailment affecting Harold Snepsts.

-Sutter's reply: "OLD AGE!"

TRIVIA ANSWER: Detroit's Olympia Stadium had the only boards in the NHL during the Original Six Era that did not have the normal corner curvature.

As a result the Production Line of Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay an Sid Abel was especially adroit at exploiting them, billiard-style to make plays.