1984-85 Team - Bill Root


Last week, I had no time for anything and this meant that the karma of Dan Daoust had to carry the Leafs through an entire week of games.  Dan, unexpectedly to me, at least, inspired the Leafs to a perfect 3-0 record.  While I toyed with the idea of leaving Danny Do as the reigning LotD until the Leafs lost under his watch, presumably sometime in 2015-16, I will let him retire undefeated and hand the reigns over to Bill Root.  Besides, this week is even busier than last week and if I don't post today, there's no telling when I will again.

Bill Root's arrival with the Leafs is shrouded in mystery, at least insofar as the Hall of Fame is concerned.  They have him coming to the Leafs along with a second-rounder for the immortal Dom Campedelli.  The only problem is that the Leafs didn't deal Campedelli until the following September.  He actually cost the Leafs their 1986 fourth-rounder, which they got back a year later with the second for Dom Campedelli.  They needed this pick back so that they could draft Kent Hulst - you can look him up.

So now you know.

A fourth-rounder two years out is kind of a surprisingly low cost for a guy who was the Habs' plus-minus leader in 1983-84.  (It was by a huge margin, too - after Bill's +26, Gainey was the next closest at +10.)  It goes to show, I guess, either how unreliable a stat that is (and makes one wonder about stats derived from it) or how undervalued it was  Either way, the Habs had a number of good young defensemen arriving and this made Root expendable for a fairly limited return.

The '84-85 Leafs had new coaches, and John Brophy - one of the assistants - knew Root from his days in the Habs farm system.  That probably played a role in the deal.

Root's first year in Toronto wasn't really one to write home about.  The team was brutal, nobody could defend and the goalies weren't stopping anything, particularly early on.  In his 35 games with the big club, he had one goal and one assist and was on the ice for a whopping 65 goals against.  (That wasn't the worst per game total on the Leafs, far from it in fact, but Root wasn't making a ton of offense to compensate.)

Numbers aside, though, Root never struck me as someone particularly brutal.  I have no Hammond-esque reactions to his name (Ken Hammond will never be Leaf of the Day, no matter how ill my temper).  He was just a guy who would play a bit on the fringes of those mid-80s teams, one of the cast of thousands to take a shift on the Leaf blue line.

The one thing I do remember is his one and only playoff goal - and it was a dandy.

It was 1987, the Leafs were playing the Blues in the series where Gilmour went after Danny Do, and this was the deciding game.  The Leafs were up a goal and were pressing, trying to get the goal that would put the series away.  The puck came to Bill Root near the boards about halfway between the right circle and the red line and he let one go.  Went in clean.  Bob Cole nearly had a fit.

"ROOT....(choke, gag, splutter) .... SCOOOOOOOORES!"

Bill Root would be traded away that fall for Dave Semenko and reacquired a year later for Mike (I'd rather play in the minors in Philly than in the NHL for Toronto) Stothers (good riddance).  He'd play in Newmarket for three more years, but there weren't any more callups.

Still, that goal alone was worth a fourth-rounder.  Particularly Kent Hulst.


(Leafs and Flyers renew hostilities and -lo and behold - it's the sole youtube evidence of Bill Root.  Note also a young Mike Keenan with hair, Mirko Frycer and Mark Howe in an unlikely pairing, Clark and Courtnall already in the box and a soliloquy on fighting by Bob Cole.  A dandy, this is:)


Bill's stats:

 1975-76  Don Mills Flyers  MTHL  46   6   39   45   102 
 1976-77  Niagara Falls Flyers  OMJHL  66   3   19   22   114 
 1977-78  Niagara Falls Flyers  OMJHL  67   6   11   17   61 
 1978-79  Niagara Falls Flyers  OMJHL  67   4   31   35   119   20   4   7   11   42 
 1979-80  Nova Scotia Voyageurs  AHL  55   4   15   19   57   6   1   1   2   2 
 1980-81  Nova Scotia Voyageurs  AHL  63   3   12   15   76   6   0   1   1   2 
 1981-82  Nova Scotia Voyageurs  AHL  77   6   25   31   105   9   1   0   1   4 
 1982-83  Montreal Canadiens  NHL  46   2   3   5   24   +5 
 1982-83  Nova Scotia Voyageurs  AHL  24   0   7   7   29 
 1983-84  Montreal Canadiens  NHL  72   4   13   17   45   +26 
 1984-85  Philadelphia Flyers  NHL  35   1   1   2   23   -25 
 1984-85  St. Catharines Saints  AHL  28   5   9   14   10 
 1985-86  Toronto Maple Leafs  NHL  27   0   1   1   29   -8   7   0   2   2   13 
 1985-86  St. Catharines Saints  AHL  14   7   4   11   11 
 1986-87  Toronto Maple Leafs  NHL  34   3   3   6   37   -9   13   1   0   1   12 
 1986-87  Newmarket Saints  AHL  32   4   11   15   23 
 1987-88  St. Louis Blues  NHL  9   0   0   0   6   -7 
 1987-88  Philadelphia Flyers  NHL  24   1   2   3   16   +3   2   0   0   0   0 
 1988-89  Newmarket Saints  AHL  66   10   22   32   39   5   0   0   0   18 
 1989-90  Newmarket Saints  AHL  47   8   7   15   20 
 1990-91  Newmarket Saints  AHL  36   2   4   6   39 
 Leaf Totals  96   4   5   9   89   -42   20   1   2   3   25 
 NHL Totals  247   11   23   34   180   -15   22   1   2   3   25 

- Signed as a free agent by Montreal, October 4, 1979.
- Traded to Toronto by Montreal with Montreal's 2nd round choice (Darryl Shannon) in 1986 Entry Draft for Dom Campedelli, August 21, 1984.
(Note - it appears this trade was really for Toronto's 1986 fourth-round pick.  Toronto reacquired this pick plus the second in the deal for Dom Campedelli on Sept 18, 1985 and selected Kent Hulst.)
- Traded to Hartford by Toronto for Dave Semenko, September 8, 1987.

- Claimed by St. Louis from Hartford in Waiver Draft, October 5, 1987.
- Claimed on waivers by Philadelphia from St. Louis, November 26, 1987.
- Traded to Toronto by Philadelphia for Mike Stothers, June 21, 1988.

The HHOF take on Bill:

Throughout Bill Root's career in hockey, he always seemed to play under a cloud of doubt tinged with some vague, amorphous sense that he might not make it wherever he was.

He was coach Hap Emms' 21st choice to join the Niagara Falls Flyers of the OHA in 1976, suggesting that he wasn't completely sure about Root's staying power. During training camp, the young recruit cracked the blade on one of his skates. He told Emms about his problem and the coach directed him to a service station across the street where he could have it welded. Root of course knew that such a repair was impossible, so he skated like a demon through training camp on his broken blade. When he finally made the team, Emms bought him a new set of wheels.

Root skated for three successful seasons in Niagara Falls but was never selected in the NHL draft. The Montreal Canadiens, however, although unsure, signed him as a free agent in 1979. Root was immediately assigned to the Canadiens' AHL affiliate, the Nova Scotia Voyageurs. There he toiled for three seasons with hardly a hope of cracking the Canadiens' all-powerful defensive corps led by Larry Robinson and Rod Langway.

But Root had a number attributes that seemed to be often overlooked during his ins and outs with the NHL. He played like a guy who would do the job for nothing. He was also a very steady, stay-at-home type who always played the man and could move the puck up ice to good effect.

Such attributes, however, weren't enough to earn Root a permanent home with the Habs. He did manage to eke out one full season in 1983-84, but then the arrival of Chris Chelios, Tom Kurvers, and Petr Svoboda made him expendable. As a result, he was dispatched to the Toronto Maple Leafs for the start of the 1984-85 campaign.

In the Blue and White, Root had some initial success while paired with Chris Kotsopoulos. But untimely injuries and occasional trials with the team's management seemed to always undermine any momentum Root could manage to sustain. As a rearguard who always played a sound, physical game, he was baffled to have been sent to the minors by Leafs' coach John Brophy because he wasn't sufficiently aggressive.

In the end, Root languished in the Leafs' organization until 1987 when his rights were bandied around the league, making stops in Hartford, St. Louis, and, finally, Philadelphia where he concluded his NHL career at the end of the 1987-88 season. He was then reacquired by the Leafs, who kept him with the Newmarket Saints of the AHL until his retirement from hockey in 1990-91.


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