In the history of hockey there was no one better at crafting a deal than legendary Canadiens general manager Sam Pollock. In tribute, let’s look back at the ten best trades made during the years where Pollock ran the team.
June 28th, 1964
Montreal Canadiens trade Guy Allen and Paul Reid to the Boston Bruins in exchange for Alex Campbell and the rights to Ken Dryden.
One of Pollock’s first deals may be the most lopsided deal in NHL history. Neither, Allen or Reid ever played a game in the NHL and for that matter neither did Alex Campbell, but Ken Dryden became the greatest goalie of the 1970’s, winning six Stanley Cups with the Canadiens.
Particularly painful for the Bruins was Dryden almost single handedly derailing their dynasty in 1971, and then defeating them in the finals in 1977 and 1978 and the semi finals in 1979.
June 11th, 1968
Montreal Canadiens trade Gerry Desjardins to the Los Angeles Kings for Los Angeles’ 1969 first round pick and 1972 first round pick.
Gerry Desjardins would go to have a decent NHL career before his career was cut short with an eye injury in 1977. Pollock would trade away the 1969 pick, with the 1972 pick he would select Steve Shutt.
June 6th, 1969
Montreal Canadiens trade Garry Monahan and Doug Piper to the Detroit Red Wings for Bart Crashley and Pete Mahovlich.
The Canadiens had always been big fans of Pete Mahovlich. In the 1963 draft however, they chose Monahan over him. In the summer of 1969, Pollock corrected this mistake.
While Piper would never play in the league and Crashley would enjoy a brief career in the mid 1970’s the principles of the deal went in different directions. Monahan would bounce around the league for a few more years and never lived up to his potential.
As for Mahovlich, in his 82 games with the Red Wings spread over four years he had scored 9 goals, he would score 223 goals in the next eight seasons with the Habs
January 23rd, 1970
Montreal Canadiens trade Dick Duff to the Los Angeles Kings for Dennis Hextall and Los Angeles’ 1971 second round draft pick.
Having won four cups with the Canadiens to add to his two with the Toronto Maple Leafs, a 34 year old Dick Duff was packaged to L.A. Duff would play in 100 more NHL games and score 38 points. With the pick in 1971 the Canadiens selected Larry Robinson.
May 22nd, 1970
Montreal Canadiens trade Ernie Hicke and Montreal’s 1970 first round draft pick to the California Golden Seals for Francois Lacombe, cash, and California’s first round draft pick.
The trade that Sam Pollack will always be most remembered for actually is a two part deal. This trade was made a year in advance of the 1971 draft. The Canadiens had already identified Guy Lafleur as their pick the next year. With the rules having changed and the Canadiens no longer holding the rights to all French players, Pollack bargained that the Seals would finish in last place and that the first pick would be Montreal’s.
However as the 1970-71 season played out the Seals actually were ahead of the Los Angeles Kings in the standings, bringing about the second part of the trade.
January 26th, 1971
Montreal Canadiens trade Ralph Backstrom to the Los Angeles Kings for Gord Labossiere and Ray Fortin
For the past year Backstrom had been voicing his desire to play in a warmer climate. Pollock granted his wish and got one of his own. A rejuvenated Backstrom helped lead the Kings out of the basement. The Seals finished in last place and the Canadiens armed with the first overall pick selected Guy Lafleur.
January 13th, 1971
Montreal Canadiens trade Mickey Redmond, Bill Collins, and Guy Charron to the Detroit Red Wings for Frank Mahovlich
Pollock had long coveted Frank Mahovlich. He knew that the Maple Leafs would never trade the Big M to the Canadiens, so he bided his time when Mahovlich joined the Red Wings. With the Red Wings struggling in 1970-71 season, and looking to unload high priced salaries, Pollock made his move.
And while Mickey Redmond had some good seasons for the Red Wings it was Mahovlich who paid the biggest dividends. Rejuvenated by the trade and excited to play once again with his brother Pete, Mahovlich led all playoff scorers in goals and points as the Habs won the Stanley Cup in 1970-71. He followed it up with his best ever season in 1971-72 (96 points) and in 1972-73 was named to the first all star team.
May 15th, 1973
Montreal Canadiens trade 1973 first round draft pick, another 1973 first round pick, and 1973 second round pick to the Atlanta Flames for Atlanta’s 1973 first round pick, 1977 first round pick, and 1978 second round pick.
By this point in the 1970’s the Canadiens had a wealth of picks to wheel and deal with. Pollack tried everything in his power to pry the first overall pick from the Islanders but they were determined to keep the pick, and they did selecting Denis Potvin. So Pollock went with his next choice.
However, the Flames were eager to take Tom Lysiak and were afraid he wouldn’t get to them with the fifth pick, so they traded up. Pollack’s player of choice was not Lysiak so he gambled that his player would still be there with the fifth pick.
Coincidentally, Montreal’s first round pick in 1977 turned out to be Mark Napier.
May 15th, 1973
Montreal Canadiens trade 1973 first round pick, 1973 fourth round pick, and 1975 first round pick to the St. Louis Blues for St. Louis’ 1973 first round pick and 1973 third round pick
From the same draft day, St. Louis inquired about Montreal’s fifth pick (acquired earlier from Atlanta). The Blues were afraid that goaltender John Davidson would not make it to their eighth pick of the first round.
Once again Pollock traded down, this time to the eighth spot, gambling that the player he desired would still be there, he was, the Canadiens with the eighth overall pick selected Bob Gainey.
August 18th, 1977
Montreal Canadiens trade Jimmy Roberts to the St. Louis Blues for St. Louis’ 1979 third round pick.
Jim Roberts had been a valuable member of the Canadiens, winner of six Stanley Cups; he was nearing the end of his career. He was traded to St. Louis so he could become a player/coach. With the draft pick the Canadiens selected Guy Carbonneau.