clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Story Of How Bob Gainey Became A Canadien

At Eyes On The Prize, I have often written about the present, spoken about the future's promises, and delved into the past.

This next little tale, a flashback of sorts, is how events can all collide in terms of the big picture. It's something to think about next time you have a doubt about the team, and think you might know a little more than those being paid the big bucks to think stuff out.

The Canadiens won the Stanley Cup in 1973 with a team that was thought to be in transition, as they had done in 1971.

The team was abundant with properous youth combined with wise and wiley veterans that understood what it took to win.

The Habs had talent aplenty at every position. They were deep in offensive talent (Guy Lafleur and Steve Shutt had yet to bloom), solid on defense (Serge Savard and Guy Lapointe were in their early 20's, Larry Robinson was a rookie ) and solid in goal (Ken Dryden was about to take a sabbatical year off due to a contract dispute, but others were worthy of tending the Habs net).

The prize of that summer's draft was a defenseman named Denis Potvin, who would go on to win 4 Cups with the New York Islanders.

Potvin was a cornerstone prospect, described as a franchise player and the second coming of Bobby Orr. The estimations weren't far off.

Then Canadiens GM Sam Pollock knew of Potvin's potential worth and began a year prior to set up trades and manoeverings in order to be able to draft Potvin. He worked both expansion teams, the Islanders and the Atlanta Flames, in order to land Potvin.

Pollock managed to get Atlanta's first round pick from a previous deal, but it was the Islanders who finished dead last.

Trader Sam ended up with the Flames second pick, while the Islanders would pick first, and grab Potvin.

Then Islanders GM Bill Torrey has often mentioned that Pollock walked him around the block of the Forum where the draft was being held that summer over a dozen turns while they chatted trade talk.

Pollock wanted Potvin that badly!

Torrey was and is a gentleman who has never named names, but he has often told that Pollock the offered him as many as five or six roster players for the right to aquire Potvin.

Bill Torrey has also admitted that pulling that many players from a Stanley Cup winning roster was awful tempting, but the fact that Sam wanted him so bad, told him not to give in.

It was a tunnel vision moment for the Islanders GM, as Potvin would become that cornerstone player so needed, on a Habs like dynasty team for the Islanders just six seasons later.

Sam Pollock was left with a second overall pick that he understood other teams wanted more than he.

The next best prospect was a shifty centerman named Tom Lysiak - Pollock had plenty of those.

There was a sharpshooter named Lanny McDonald, and Pollock knew the Habs stable was filled with his type.

A standout junior goalie named John Davidson was available - he already had Ken Dryden, Michel Larocque, and others to cram the Habs crease. No need there.

There was a Quebec Remparts centerman named Andre Savard ( Habs GM prior to Gainey ) that was scouted to death but deemed passable as well.

Other junior standouts such as Blaine Stoughton, who was blessed with a wicked shot, Rick Middleton, who was sleek and loaded with a centerman's clear vision, and Ian Turnbull, a defenseman who owned a howling point shot, were not deemed as being anything the Habs lacked at that point in time by Pollock.

As the Habs GM held the second overall pick, he scanned the needs and wants of the teams picking just behind him, and figured out who each team would draft. Not needing any of the above mentioned players, Pollock proceeded to trade down.

First, he gave Atlanta back its second pick, for their fifth overall that they had previously aquired for the Flames first rounder at a later date. He took that fifth pick, and found a taker in St. Louis. They drafted goalie Davidson, and Pollock ended up with the Blues 8th pick that they had aquired previously, while adding another first rounder to a later draft.

In 1973, there was little media to cover all this shrewd manoevering, otherwise it would have been a spectacle to behold.

Imagine Bob McKenzie falling off his chair when Pollock modestly announced he had chosen a defensive specialist named Bob Gainey from the Peterborough Petes.

Gainey was well known by the scouts of the day as being an excellent two way player, one that was seen as a surefire NHL'er with great shutdown forward potential - in today's lingo!

But back then, and especially in Montreal, you went for flash.

The headlines in the papers read: "Bob Who?"

Pollock had gone all out for the best element the Canadiens were thinnest in - upcoming dominant defensive forwards.

The entire city had thought Pollock had gone mad.

In trader Sam's estimation, Gainey ranked just behind Potvin in order of the Canadiens team needs. While he struck out on Potvin, Pollock recognized and understood where the other six teams picking next needs were. He used that knowledge to his advantage, stockpilling a pair of first rounders while still getting his man.

Madman Pollock had four first round picks the following year. He used the Atlanta and St. Louis picks to grab a couple of irritating, get under your skin types named Doug Risebrough and Mario Tremblay.

Lysiak, McDonald, Davidson, Savard, Stoughton, Middleton and Turnbull won a total of one Stanley Cup in their combined careers,

Gainey, Risebrough, and Tremblay won 14.

All three are currently employed by NHL teams.

The previous Risebrough card looks an awful lot like Gainey to me, and if this ain't Serge Savard on this one, then I'm Boom Boom Geoffrion's twin sister!