Editor's Note: It's late but it's a good one so here's the second installment in clrkaitken's look at some of the trades that have left Leafs fans feeling like management might have an idea what they are doing.
After a far too long hiatus, the Great Trades series makes its triumphant return. In case you missed the first installment, this series will revisit some of those rare instances where the Maple Leafs actually managed to come out on top of a trade, as well as an examination of the circumstances surrounding the trade, and how much of a victory the trade was for the Blue and White.
Spoiler alert: this one's a doozy...
Too often in their history, the Maple Leafs had shown an innate ability to acquire stars just as they started down the other side of the hill in their careers. Through free agency or through trades, all too often Leaf fans have been subjected to a household name under-performing for a superstar type contract. It left people frustrate that the player wasn't playing up to his potential, when anyone else could see that the player the Leafs thought they were acquiring wasn't there anymore.
But what would happen if the Leafs acquired a top-level player, not after they've finished their prime, but right as they are about to enter into it? Well then you have the trade that qualifies for Volume 2 of Great Trades in Leaf History .
At Christmas time during the 1992-1993 season, the Toronto Maple Leafs were a fairly average hockey team. The team had been showing improvement over previous years, advanced along by an overhaul of the roster by GM Cliff Fletcher. But the results weren't coming, at least not yet. The team's record sat a middling 13-16-5 in a very competitive Norris Division.
Santa Claus, however, seemed to bring the winning streak that had so desperately been on Leafs' fans wishlists. Over the next 5 weeks, the team went on an incredible 11-4-3 tear, and vaulted themselves into contender status. The team featured a rock-solid defence, led by a rugged and nasty group including Gill, Macoun, Ellett and Lefebvre. They had one of the premier power forwards in the league in Wendel Clark, and their franchise center Doug Gilmour was in the midst of a career year. They also had a bright young star in 21 year-old goaltender Felix "The Cat" Potvin, who in his rookie season had wrestled the starting goaltender job away from future Hall of Famer Grant Fuhr.
So on February 2, 1993, Fletcher pulled the trigger on a trade to bring in another elite scorer to try and push the team to another level. The trade would work exactly as he had hoped.
LW - Dave Andreychuk
G - Daren Puppa
1993 1st round pick
G - Grant Fuhr
The trade gave the Leafs the third big-time goal threat they needed (Andreychuk had never scored less than 25 goals in his career, including 40 goal seasons in the last 3 years, and at the time of the trade, had potted 29 goals in 52 games for the Sabres). But they were taking a big-time risk putting their playoff chances in the hands of a rookie goalie.For Buffalo, Andreychuk was expendable because of Alexander Mogilny and Pat LaFontaine taking up the mantle of great scorer/playmaker duos, like Hull and Oates and Gretzky and Kurri before them.
Of course, everyone knows what happened to the Leafs that year. The team advanced to the Conference Finals in 1993 and again next year in 1994, and Andreychuk was a huge part of that success. He contributed 25 goals in 31 games in 1993 (giving him a career high 54 goals, as well as a career high 99 points), and added 12 goals and 7 assists in the playoffs. The next year he proved to be no fluke, scoring 53 goals and 99 points, along with another 10 points in the playoffs that year.
Those two seasons were the high=water mark of Dave's career; he would never score more than 27 goals in a season again. After two more decent seasons in a Leaf uniform (one being the lockout-shortened season), he was part of the dismantling of the team, traded to New Jersey at the 1996 trade deadline. Andreychuk would settle into a leadership role in several different cities, one of which was Colorado as part of the infamous Ray Bourque trade. After several close calls, he would finally lift the Cup as captain of Tampa Bay in 2004.
Grant Fuhr had a significant impact on the Sabres future, but not in the way they might have intended. He led the Sabres to a shocking first-round upset in 1993 over a heavily-favoured Bruinsteam, but he missed considerable time in 1994 due to injuries. They traded him to Los Angeles the following year. Fuhr's impact on the Sabres was felt through his mentorship of a young prospect by the name of Dominik Hasek. Hasek would fill the void left by Fuhr's injuries, and he would spend the remainder of the decade establishing himself as a world-class goaltender for the Sabres.
Daren Puppa barely had a cup of coffee with the Maple Leafs. He served as Potvin's backup for the remainder of the season, and was then claimed by Tampa Bay in the following summer's expansion draft.
Finally, the 1st round pick the Leafs acquired was used to select defenceman Kenny Jonsson. Jonsson was a top prospect of the Leafs, before he was traded to the Islanders to bring Wendel Clark back home.
The Milbury Scale
In the last instalment, there was a bit of discussion over how the Milbury Scale is used to rate these deals. To remedy this, I have included a legend below, which gives a better understanding of what type of deal it takes to achieve a specific rating, including a sample trade for each rating. As an added bonus, each trade was actually performed by MIke Milbury himself.
1 - John Vanbiesbrouck for Chris Terreri & a draft pick.
(A trade where the quality of the players at the time, but one player performs slightly better than the other.)
3 - Chris Osgood& a draft pick for Justin Papineau & a draft pick
(The trade is clearly lopsided, and the team giving away the best player gets nowhere near a fair return for him.)
5 - Zdeno Chara, Bill Muckaly & a draft pick (Jason Spezza) for Alexei Yashin
(The Milbury. It is only possible to achieve a Level 5 trade if the GM committed a 4, then proved he learned absolutely nothing by making a trade just as heinous a YEAR LATER.
Little known fact - Hiring a GM who has previously committed a Milbury is included in the NHL Constitution as grounds for an immediate revocation of ownership rights.)
So where does the Andreychuck for Fuhr trade rank on the Milbury Scale?
Quite frankly, it's amazing that this trade has slipped through the cracks of time. From Buffalo's side, it's a truly terrible trade. If Toronto had been on the wrong end of this one, you can bet that we'd hear about it constantly.
Buffalo had two of the best offensive talents in the game at the time, plus another guy who was in the middle of his career year. So they traded him, their starting goalie, and a draft pick (who became an adequate NHL defenceman) for a Hall of Fame goalie on the downside of his career, who played barely a full season before being traded.
Throw in the fact that Andreychuk took the mid 90s Leafs teams to new level. Andreychuk was at his absolute apex in a Leafs uniform and to date remains the last Maple Leaf to score 50 goals or more in a season. Add all that up and you have one of the Greatest Trades in Leaf History.