THE GREAT EXPANSION VOL 12

The Pittsburgh Penguins had a unique problem in 1967. The AHL’s Pittsburgh Hornets had just won the Calder Trophy (AHL championship) and were a “loaded” minor league team. The Hornets led the league in wins, goals, goals against average and won the championship with just one post-season loss. The Penguins were going to have to be competitive in order to bring in Pittsburgh hockey fans.

LES BINKLEY

The Penguins did not purchase an AHL team like the Flyers and Kings, but did get the earliest start in signing recruits. In the late summer of 1966, Pittsburgh’s NHL team purchased G Les Binkley from Cleveland (AHL). Binkley played the 66-67 season on loan to San Diego Gulls (WHL, the pro league) before coming to Pens camp in 1967 fall. They did the same thing with defenseman Bill Speer.

Pittsburgh–more than any of the other teams entering the NHL–had fewer options from outside the expansion draft. The Penguins were severely hampered by an NHL rule (instituted after the Binkley signing) saying the new clubs were not allowed to procure pro talent until after the completion of the 66-67 season.

GOALIES

 

JOE DALEY

Penguins GM Jack Riley made the first error of the expansion draft. In the first round, he attempted to select Bruce Gamble from Toronto, but the Leafs had already lost Terry Sawchuk in that round and the rules dictacted that goalies needed to be selected in a specific manner (basically each team getting and losing a goalie per round).

Their backup plan–Joe Daley–ended up having a pretty good career, although mostly in the WHA. Daley played in 106 NHL games during his career, and the Penguins 2nd pick (Roy Edwards) played in 236 games. That total (236) made Edwards the 5th best goalie chosen that day. He was 30.

SKATERS

 EARL INGARFIELD

  1. Earl Ingarfield (219)
  2. Al MacNeil (74)
  3. Larry Jeffrey (122)
  4. Ab McDonald (245)
  5. Leo Boivin (214)
  6. Noel Price (404)
  7. Keith McCreary (522)
  8. Ken Schinkel (371)
  9. Bob Dillabough (161)
  10. Art Stratton (70)
  11. Val Fonteyne (349)
  12. Jeannot Gilbert (0)
  13. Tom McCarthy (0)
  14. Bill Dea (251)
  15. Bob Rivard (27)
  16. Mel Pearson (2)
  17. Andy Bathgate (150)
  18. Les Hunt (0)

3,181 total NHL games, that’s a mile from Philadelphia, St. Louis and Los Angeles. The Penguins did a couple of smart things after the draft:

  1. traded Larry Jeffrey to the Rangers for Paul Andrea, Dunc McCallum, George Konik and Frank Francis.
  2. traded Jeannot Gilbert–who didn’t want to leave Hershey–for small winger Gene Ubriaco.

THE UNIVERSAL DRAFT

 

The Penguins traded most of their early 1st rounders but did keep a few (Greg Polis, Blaine Stoughton, Pierre Larouche) and when they did deal a pick they got good young players in return.

  1. May 21, 1968: Traded 1st rd pick in 1969 (Frank Spring) to Boston for R Jean Pronovost and D John Arbour.
  2. October 1, 1968 Traded 1st rd pick in 1972 (Dave Gardner) to Minnesota for Bob Woytowich (not a young player but an effective defenseman).
  3. June 6, 1969: Traded 1st rd pick in 1971 (Gene Carr) and Lou Angotti to St. Louis for C Ron Schock, R Craig Cameron and a 1972 2nd rd pick (Bernie Lukowich).

Penguins made out better on these trades than their expansion cousins for a couple of reasons. First, they could identify talent. Second, they didn’t deal with Sam Pollock.

 

SYL APPS

The strength of the team in the early 1970s was a glorious offensive line (Apps-Lowell MacDonald-Jean Pronovost) and aside from the 1st rd pick (for Pronovost) it came at a low price: MacDonald via the Intra-League draft and Apps for a journeyman checker named Glen Sather (plus the Pens received the wonderfully named Sheldon Kannegiesser in the deal). That line scored 107 goals in 1973-74.

Pittsburgh was well below Philadelphia as an expansion team, but they had some fine seasons too. Between 1967 and 1975 the Penguins would win only 11 playoff games–6 in 1970 and 5 in 1975–but they were entertaining from the beginning.

Up next: hockey’s SNAFU by the bay.

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6 Responses to "THE GREAT EXPANSION VOL 12"

  1. Schitzo says:

    It seems like a universal theme in these instalments is expansion teams burning draft picks for immediate help. Was there no appreciation for the idea of building through the draft, or was it a business decision that “mediocre today” sells more tickets than “good tomorrow”?

  2. hunter1909 says:

    Schitzo,

    Remember these were brand new franchises, who’d each shelled out something like 2,000,000.00 for the right to do business in hockey hotbeds like Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and Oakland. What would you do with an investment likely be worthless inside 5 years, unless you figure out a way to survive those perilous early times?

    Then your secretary(that you’re probably banging) informs you that Sam Pollock is calling long distance from Montreal, and he’s giving you one final chance to take Ralph Backstrom(who at that time was as good as Iginla last year…

    That is, unless you want him going to a rival.

    “Draft picks? Who needs them? Guy Lafleur? Never heard of him!” Susie, please put Mr. Pollock on. I’ll take the call”.

  3. hunter1909 says:

    PS:

    I forgot to mention that the girl wearing the Pittsburgh Jersey pretty well is the single most “likely to put out” I have ever seen in my entire life.

    Kids, take note.

  4. Chris Hext---formerly EasyOil--- says:

    Schitzo,

    From what I know, the first few entry drafts were seen as a bit of a waste of time, as the draftees were guys who were seen as those who weren’t good enough to have already been brought into a teams system. It basically wasn’t taken seriously, and then combine that with the desire/need to be good straight away in order to survive, as Hunter said above.

  5. Lowetide says:

    Chris has it right. The expansion teams didn’t treat the amateur draft with much seriousness in 1969–that was the first time all of the kids were available. Previously, the ‘sponsorship’ rules had been in play. For instance Bobby Orr was a Bruin despite being a 1948 born because he’d signed a form at 14 with a junior team sponsored by them.

    A couple of things on the subject

    http://oilersnation.com/2011/4/19/tracers-the-first-universal-draft

    http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=y-xkAAAAIBAJ&sjid=JoINAAAAIBAJ&pg=3085,2952760&dq=murray+anderson+flin+flon&hl=en

    Interesting that the Habs director of scouting was the Regina Pats GM.

  6. Darcy says:

    Val ” The Gentleman” Fonteyne is on that list and later came home to Alberta to play in Edmonton for two years. Very nice man and not just because we are related. Could use Val on our fourth line this year as the mentor for the kids. His lifetime stats are worth a look as an example of how to play the game with determination and class. I have his hockey card too!

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