Bob Rouse was one of the inbound players in the great roster turnover of 1990-91. He came to the Leafs in January in the trade that also saw Peter Zezel arrive and saw Al Iafrate depart. While this trade was among the best the Leafs made that season, it still shows the difference between the approach of Brian Burke and the approach of Floyd Smith.
There are extenuating circumstances, of course. Smith was under more pressure because of the stature of the player available with that Leaf pick. Taylor Hall may be great or he may not, but he's no Lindros - not even close. That helps.
Whether it's for that reason or whether it's just a case of personality, Burke does not appear to be working from a fear of finishing last. As such, though he's torn apart the Leafs to about the same extent Smith did, he's turned the Leafs into an extremely young team and acquired two guys in particular with significant potential upside. Smith dealt many of those kinds of guys away and got back a lot of experience, but very little promise. Both teams will likely finish second-last, but I have a much better feeling about this group than that one.
The Rouse deal was a little more complex than the others, though, and is much closer to being a tie. Iafrate's knee was already on borrowed time and he had a ton of personal stuff to deal with. He had a couple of very good seasons - including an all-star year in 1992-93 - left in him still, but the clock was ticking, even at the age of 24. Rouse and Zezel would both be contributors to the Leaf run in 1993. It's hard to say whether they contributed more than an Iafrate would have, but they did matter. They were both gone from the Leafs by the time Iafrate's knee went.
The thing with Rouse is that in the first couple of seasons, you wouldn't really say there was anything about his play that was remarkable. In sort of the same manner that Yushkevich blossomed under Quinn, Rouse really came into his own under Burns.
The perception of him as a player on a bad team was a lot different than it was on a good team. Part is his own development, part is the situation. It's partly why it's tough to put a real value on some of Burke's moves. We haven't seen it all play out yet and we have no idea how things might look with goaltending.
Rouse was always tough. If there was one thing Leaf fans knew him for, it was the battles that used to be waged in the 80s when he was a North Star. He was one of the few that really handed it to Wendel in a fight - that was remarkable in itself.
But was he good? It's tough to say. They liked him in Minnesota but his teams were lousy and he didn't generate much offense, so the numbers don't look like a lot. He went to Washington and didn't really stand out there.
In Toronto, he didn't make a real impact either. He wasn't really bad, nor really good. He was just another guy who was sort of there - a part that could have been replaced and you wouldn't necessarily notice it.
Under Burns, though, the system changed, a number of other pieces changed and suddenly Rouse was a rock, as important on that blue line as anyone we've had. He played the game we've been looking for out of Komisarek - a hard-nosed shutdown kind of guy who rarely made mistakes. To me, that Burns defense was the best I've ever seen in Toronto, and Rouse was a key part of it.
When his contract was up in 1994, he signed a big-dollar deal with Detroit and the Leafs really missed him. They picked up Butcher and Jennings and guys like that and it wasn't the same at all. Until Yushkevich found his game, they never really had that presence again.
This LotD meanders a bit, but it kind of captures my frame of mind. I like this situation better than the other one, but I can't say I'm particularly thrilled about much of anything. No choice but to wait and see who pans out. With better players around them and some development time, some of these guys might really be something.
Just like Bob Rouse.
|1983-84||Minnesota North Stars||NHL||1||0||0||0||0||0|
|1984-85||Minnesota North Stars||NHL||63||2||9||11||113||-14|
|1985-86||Minnesota North Stars||NHL||75||1||14||15||151||+15||3||0||0||0||0|
|1986-87||Minnesota North Stars||NHL||72||2||10||12||179||+6|
|1987-88||Minnesota North Stars||NHL||74||0||12||12||168||-30|
|1988-89||Minnesota North Stars||NHL||66||4||13||17||124||-5|
|1990-91||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||13||2||4||6||10||-11|
|1991-92||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||79||3||19||22||97||-20|
|1992-93||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||82||3||11||14||130||+7||21||3||8||11||29|
|1993-94||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||63||5||11||16||101||+8||18||0||3||3||29|
|1994-95||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||48||1||7||8||36||+14||18||0||3||3||8|
|1995-96||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||58||0||6||6||48||+5||7||0||1||1||4|
|1996-97||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||70||4||9||13||58||+8||20||0||0||0||55|
|1997-98||Detroit Red Wings||NHL||71||1||11||12||57||-9||22||0||3||3||16|
|1998-99||San Jose Sharks||NHL||70||0||11||11||44||0||6||0||0||0||6|
|1999-00||San Jose Sharks||NHL||26||0||1||1||19||-3|
WHL East First All-Star Team (1984)
- Traded to Washington by Minnesota with Dino Ciccarelli for Mike Gartner and Larry Murphy, March 7, 1989.
- Traded to Toronto by Washington with Peter Zezel for Al Iafrate, January 16, 1991.
- Signed as a free agent by Detroit, August 5, 1994.
- Signed as a free agent by San Jose, July 13, 1998.
- Officially released by San Jose, December 26, 1999.
The HHOF take on Bob:
During most of Bob Rouse's career in hockey, the word guarantee bore virtually no relationship to his aspirations of making it to the big time. He played his junior career without much fan fair with the Billings Bighorns, the Nanaimo Islanders, and the Lethbridge Broncos of the WHL from 1980 to 1984.
But the principal assets in Rouse's favour were his sturdiness, size and determination and a willingness to play within his limitations. He was the prototypical stay-at-home defender who scored few points while clearing creases like a snowplow. Rouse launched his NHL career with the Minnesota North Stars where he played parts of six seasons. And true to his journeyman's profile, he had to earn his way into the lineup every autumn.
Such was the case with the Washington Capitals as well, a club he joined in 1989. Rouse played parts of three seasons in Washington, where he continued his steady, tough style of play that would keep him in the NHL.
He joined the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1991 and spent fours seasons with the team. In 1994 Rouse became a free agent, and signed with the Detroit Red Wings who wanted to add a Rouse-like steadiness to their blueline.
With the Wings, Rouse simply continued to do what he'd always done, which was to play tough defense. During his third and fourth seasons, the Wings won two straight Stanley Cups. And after toppling his former club, the Washington Capitals, for the second championship, Rouse moved on to the San Jose Sharks for the 1998-99 season and retired after only 26 games of the 1999-2000 season.