After losing in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1989, the Montreal Canadiens were eliminated from contention in the second round for three straight season. This was only 22 year ago, but the Canadiens were not far removed from the dynasty days of the late 1970’s, and failing to make the Eastern Conference Final for three consecutive season was just not good enough.
The Canadiens also made another trade for a young scoring winger, and it turned out to be the best trade the team has made in the past 26 years.
Montreal general manager Serge Savard sent gritty winger Shayne Corson, Brent Gilchrist a young center coming off a breakout season, and prospect Vladimir Vujtek to the Edmonton Oilers for 24 year old scoring winger Vincent Damphousse.
Corson was coming off a season where he scored 17 goals and 53 points, and Gilchrist had just set career highs with 23 goals and 50 points at the age of 25. Vujtek played the 1991-92 season with the Tri-City Americans in the WHL and scored 102 points in 53 games.
So the deal had plenty of risk for the Montreal Canadiens, but the potential reward was quite high as well. And the potential turned into reward almost immediately.
Damphousse made the Montreal Canadiens and their fans forget about Shayne Corson. Brent Gilchrist and Vladimir Vujtek by leading the team in scoring in his first year in Montreal with 97 points. His 39 goals trailed only Brian Bellows on the team, and Damphousse carried his production through the playoff run as well.
The Canadiens of course won the Stanley Cup in 1993, and though Patrick Roy earned most of the accolades for the triumph, a goaltender needs a teammate to score goals if the team is going to be successful.
Damphousse was the Canadiens best scorer in the postseason, leading the team with 11 goals and 23 points in 20 games. He played on a top line with Bellows and Kirk Muller, and though the Habs received scoring from unlikely areas, they relied on their top trio to carry the load offensively the entire postseason.
Damphousse’s second season with the Habs, he upped his goal total to 40, and finished the season with 91 points. The forty goal plateau is a nice achievement for any NHL player to reach, and Damphousse’s great scoring season is proven to be even more impressive when you consider no Montreal Canadien has scored 40 goals since. Also, his 97 point season in 92-93 has not been matched by a Hab player either.
No Montreal Canadien player has been able to match Vincent Damphousse’s offensive production since he joined the team.
His goal scoring dipped in the lockout shortened 1995 season, but Vincent still scored 40 points in 48 games, before bouncing back with a 38 goal and 94 point season in 1995-96.
Damphousse nearly reached the point per game mark again in 1996-97, scoring 81 in 82 games, but began to decline following that season. He scored 59 points in 76 games before being dealt to the San Jose Sharks in 1999 after scoring 36 points in65 games.
In six and a half seasons with the Montreal Canadiens, Damphousse scored 498 points in 519 games. More importantly, he was the offensive catalyst on the 1993 Stanley Cup winning team, and with all due respect to Shayne Corson and Brent Gilchrist, the Habs do not win the Cup without Damphousse.
The points and Cup ring already make this a great trade for the Habs, but Corson and Gilchrist lost their offensive punch after leaving Montreal, making the timing of the deal even better for the Habs.
Corson reached the 50 point plateau in three of his last four seasons before leaving Montreal, and would once again in the first season after the deal, scoring 54 with the Oilers. After that, he would only score more than 40 points in a season on two more occasions, and his best season was during his second tour of duty in Montreal in 1997-98 when he scored 55 playing on a line with Damphousse.
Gilchrist scored 50 points in his final season with the Habs, but only exceeded 31 points one more time in his career. He had a lengthy career with the Oilers, North Stars, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators, but any success he had was dwarfed by Damphousse’s scoring with the Canadiens.
Vujtek hardly made a mark in the NHL, scoring 37 career points in 110 games with the Oilers and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Damphousse was a point per game player for the first six years of his six and a half season stint in Montreal, and helped propel the franchise to its 24th and most recent Stanley Cup. For that, he get my nomination as the best trade the Montreal Canadiens have made since Wayne Gretzky left the Edmonton Oilers and changed the game 26 years ago.
Tags: Montreal Canadiens