From the opening bars of the 1967 expansion, Sam Pollock and Wren Blair (Minnesota’s GM) made beautiful music together. How lovely it sounded in the Twin Cities is open to question.
Unlike Philadelphia and Los Angeles, the North Stars didn’t purchase an AHL team. However, Wren Blair was extremely active right after the expansion draft in acquiring players. A trade made before the beginning of the draft between Montreal and Minnesota began a chain of transactions that remains dizzying to this very day.
- Montreal traded C Andre Boudrias, L Bob Charlebois and amateur Bernard Cote to Minnesota for their 1971 1st rd pick (Chuck Arnason).
- Montreal sold D Mike McMahon to Minnesota.
- After Minnesota drafted Bryan Watson from Detroit in the expansion draft, the North Stars dealt him to Montreal for Billy Plager, Leo Thiffault and Barrie Meissner.
Along with a straight purchase of Canadian National Team members from the Leafs, those deals populated the North Stars roster and that of their minor league club for the beginning of the franchise. The three deals above began as a conversation. The conversation? Minnesota taking Dave Balon instead of young winger Claude LaRose, thought to be the best player available in the draft.
Those trades made right at the beginning of the Minnesota franchise laid the groundwork for the relationship with Montreal and Pollock. A year after taking great pains to protect LaRose, Pollock soured on him and dealt him along with Danny Grant (who would emerge as an outstanding scorer) for the North Stars 1972 1st rd pick and some other odds and ends. Two years later, when he wanted LaRose back, Pollock sent veteran Bobby Rousseau over to get him.
On June 9, 1970, Minnesota claimed veteran defenseman Ted Harris from Montreal in the Intra League draft. A year later, Montreal traded Murdoch to Minnesota for Marshall Johnston, and then claimed Murdoch back from Minnesota a week later. Reason? They didn’t want to lose Murdoch in the Intra-League draft. It was a very incestuous relationship and benefited the Habs in many ways. As mentioned above, they were able to “farm out” LaRose and Murdoch as needed and then have them return when it was clear they had rebounded and were ready to play for Montreal.
It almost cost them in 1971, as the North Stars had so many ex-Habs they damn near pulled off a semi-final win but it was not to be; suffice to say that as much as Sam Pollock did to skew the standings in the 1967 expansion draft and beyond, he couldn’t have done it without Wren Blair.
CESARE MANIAGO (G), BOB WOYTOWICH
Minnesota selected big Cesare Maniago in round one from the Rangers, and he would play 513 NHL games (third in the draft, behind Bernie Parent and Gary Smith) after the expansion draft. Maniago was a fine goaltender and in many ways the face of the franchise in Minnesota during their early years.
The 2nd rd pick was Montreal’s Gary Bauman, who would play just 33 NHL games.
- Dave Balon (434)
- Ray Cullen (278)
- Bob Woytowich (350)
- Jean Guy Talbot (265)
- Wayne Connelly (371)
- Ted Taylor (156)
- Pete Goegan (46)
- Len Lunde (27)
- Bill Goldsworthy (738)
- Andre Pronovost (8)
- Moose Vasko (145)
- Murray Hall (126)
- Bryan Watson (716)
- Bill Collins (768)
- Sandy Fitzpatrick (18)
- Parker MacDonald (104)
- Billy Taylor (0)
- Dave Richardson (1)
4,551 NHL games from the skaters, a very good total (right in step with Oakland Seals). Bill Goldsworthy was perhaps the best scorer available in the expansion draft and Connelly, Balon and Woytowich were solid veterans. They even found an NHLer of note late in the draft (Bill Collins). Well done at the draft.
It sounds kind of ridiculous to say this about a defunct club (well, no longer a Minnesota club), but the North Stars were considered a strong club during the first years of expansion. Lacking the early success of St. Louis, and the later glory of the Flyers, Minnesota was a contender most seasons and as mentioned above gave a helluva scare to Montreal in 1971.
PLAYOFF WINS (GAMES) BY 1967 EXPANSION TEAMS 68-75
- Philadelphia 32
- St. Louis 31
- Minnesota 20
- Pittsburgh 11
- Los Angeles 9
- Oakland 3
I had planned on posting those numbers in the wrap (next post) report but wanted to highlight the gap between these teams. I also want to point it out now, so when we talk about the expansion coaches (in a future post) we can begin to put into perspective just how great an impact men like Fred Shero, Scotty Bowman, Wren Blair, Red Kelly and Fred Glover had on their respective clubs.
Finally, I wanted to say a few words about the Bill Masterton death. The story is covered here and the players were Larry Cahan and Ron Harris (Oakland Seals); it was–based on reports from the game–a hockey play gone bad.