The Boston Bruins changed the course of history when Bobby Orr agreed to a contract, but a trade just before the great expansion moved “great” to “one for the ages.”
- Milt Schmidt: I was still the assistant General Manager to Hap Emms (May 1967) but I said to (Bruins owner) Weston Adams “do you mind if I go out and try to make a few deals?” He said “Milt, we’ve spoken to everybody and they want one or two of our players we can’t afford to give.” I said “well you never can tell….”
- more Schmidt: I went to Tommy Ivan in Chicago and we couldn’t get along at all. So I said ‘fine.’ So the last day before the trading deadline (this was the roster freeze for the expansion draft) at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the phone rang in my office. It was Tommy Ivan and he says ‘lets make a deal.’ I said “Tommy I’ve talked to you umpteen thousand times and there’s no way.” He said “no, lets try.”
- more Schmidt: So I tossed a few names around and Tommy tossed a few names around and now all of a sudden he mentions Phil Esposito. And I said “Esposito? Why do you want to get rid of him? Is there something wrong with him?” Ivan says “there’s nothing wrong with him whatsoever” so I say “what are you trying to get rid of him for?” and Tommy says “he can’t get along with (coach) Billy Reay.” So I sad “lets put some names together and she how it goes.”
- more Schmidt: by the time we were finished Tommy was offering Esposito, Fred Stanfield and Kenny Hodge. I said “what players are you interested in?” and he said “Gilles Marotte, Pit Martin and I need goaltenders.” So I named Jack Norris and he said “it’s a deal.”
That trade changed the fortunes of the Boston Bruins, moving them from sad sack to SC contender and winners. Combined with the acquisition of Eddie Shack (in the same time frame) it gave the Bruins a terrific improvement in size and skill up front and added a great deal of quality. It is often mentioned as the most lopsided trade in history and probably deserves the title. In the 8 years leading up to and including 66-67, Boston had missed the playoffs in a 6-team league that welcomed each season’s top 4. They had not won Stanley in 26 seasons.
The Bruins were a terrible team but their procurement department was delivering quality in a big way. Names like Wren Blair and Baldy Cotton have faded, but their work is all over the expansion draft in 1967 and some Stanley’s in the 70s. Now on to Boston’s draft and the impossible decisions that had to be made in goal.
The Boston Bruins lost a Hall of Famer on draft day, and Montreal was able to keep Rogie Vachon. How? Sam Pollock’s rules. Both were 1945 born, with Parent 5 months older. However, the expansion rules made Vachon ineligible in round 1 and of course they pulled him back after losing Charlie Hodge.
Boston lost 2 outstanding young goalies on draft day, deciding to go with experience instead of potential.
Boston kept Gerry Cheevers, who would play 387 NHL and 191 WHA games after the 1967 expansion draft, and Eddie Johnston who would play 358 more NHL games. They lost Bernie Parent (551 NHL, 63 WHA) and Doug Favell (373 NHL) to Philadelphia in the expansion draft. The Bruins kept a HOFer and lost one in the goalie portion of the draft.
THE WATERSHED EXPANSION FRANCHISE
- Dallas Smith 773
- Skip Krake 230
- Ron Buchanan 2
- Wayne Cashman 1026
- Jean Pronovost 998
- Bob Heaney 0
- Ted Hodgson 0
- Ron Murphy 92
- John Arbour 104
- Glen Sather 653
- David Woodley 0
- Brian Bradley 0
- Ted Snell 104
- Wayne Maxner 0
- Bob Leiter 313
The Bruins pulled back a total of 4,295 NHL games (2.5 times Toronto’s total) and captured 2 men who would play as regulars on their Stanley teams (Smith and Cashman) and Pronovost who was a very good player for a long time.
It is a great list, but pales in comparison to what they gave up that day. Combined with the goaltenders, Boston gave up about 100 full seasons (!!!!) of NHL play, and that doesn’t count the solid WHA careers below.
- Joe Watson 762
- Bob Woytowich 350
- Poul Popiel 221
- Wayne Connelly 371
- Ron Schock 781
- Terry Crisp 533
- Ted Irvine 723
- Wayne Rivers 26
- Bill Goldsworthy 738
- Dick Cherry 139
- Bob Dillabough 223
- JP Parise 869
- Ron Harris 472
- Gary Dornhoefer 725
- Jeannot Gilbert 0
It is an incredible list. Stunning. 6,933 NHL games, and 7 players who passed 500 NHL games. Added to Parent and Favell, this represents the outer marker for expansion losses (Habs were 3,801 for skaters, Leafs were 4,439).
The Philadelphia Flyers grabbed all of Bernie Parent, Doug Favell, Joe Watson and Gary Dornhoefer that day. Incredible. Oakland drafted JP Parise and Ron Harris deep in the draft and they both had careers.
Boston retained a lot of talent, but man they lost more than anyone else too. More on that in a moment, but I think we can agree that the Bruins could have done better with their pullbacks on draft day–even with the Pollock rules and with the understanding they had a tremendous amount of talent to protect. They did spend time making sure the first year pro’s (like Cashman and Pronovost) were protected, but it cost them dearly and they made poor choices late in the draft.
Boston’s farm system was so productive during the 60s and the final stages of the sponsorship era they could bleed talent and still ice an incredible team. The 1970 Stanley cup Bruins boasted 10 players who came up through the system–Bobby Orr, Rick Smith, Don Awrey, Don Marcotte, Dallas Smith, Wayne Cashman, Eddie Westfall, Derek Sanderson, Jim Lorentz, Danny Schock.
Only Dallas Smith was ever really available to any of the expansion teams and Schmidt pulled him back after losing a similar player in Joe Watson.
I mentioned above that we would address the amount of talent lost on draft day 1967. While astounding, the fact remains Boston’s system always had an answer. Ted Irvine might have been a solution on LW when Ron Murphy was injured, but aside from Irvine there was Cashman and behind him Don Marcotte. On RW, Bill Goldsworthy was a terrific scorer but Hodge, McKenzie and Westfall were more veteran and effective.
The Bruins would romp through the early 1970s, and could have won more than 2 Stanleys, but the Habs of Pollock and some strange decisions in the 1972 expansion draft (leaving Daniel Bouchard unprotected, a move very similar to the Parent decision) hurt them badly. The WHA raids that cost Gerry Cheevers, Derek Sanderson and Johnny McKenzie left the team wobbly for a time and then Orr’s knees gave way and there was no one in any system who could make up for it.
The 1967 expansion draft was about many things and so some of them have been lost over the years. The Bruins received $2 million from the expansion clubs–just like the other original 6 teams–but Boston paid in full.