Trade Tree Tuesday: Vintage – Leafs & Wings March 3, 1968

Trade Tree Tuesday: Vintage – Leafs & Wings March 3, 1968

NHL Trade Tree

Welcome back to another edition of Trade Tree Tuesday, where every two weeks I publish an NHL trade that took place in the past, and break down the effect it had over time. Today I will be doing a “vintage” trade that took place almost 50 years ago. This particular trade was a little tough to follow. It stretches over 20 years and involved over 50 players in that span. It was a trade that also featured All-Stars, Stanley Cup Champions and Hall of Famers.

Toronto Maple Leafs & Detroit Red Wings

The 1967-68 season was the year the NHL expanded to 12 teams from its “Original Six”. The Leafs were the defending Stanley Cup champions, and the Wings were looking to bounce back from a poor season. Neither team was where they wanted to be by the time March rolled around, so the two teams decided to make a blockbuster trade March 3, 1968. Now, since I like taking jabs at Leafs fans, I feel obligated to point out that after this trade, Toronto has never won another Cup.

The Leafs traded Garry Unger, Pete Stemkowski, the rights to Carl Brewer, and superstar Frank Mahovlich. In return, the Wings sent Floyd Smith, Norm Ullman and Paul Henderson. Before I go any further, there is one more name to mention. Doug Barrie is often included in this trade. However, it’s my understanding that he was actually traded from Detroit to Toronto a few days after, for cash. Barrie never played for the Leafs and was later traded back to Detroit for cash in June. So I have decided to omit him from the trade.

Trade Tree

Who the Leafs Gave Up

Garry “Iron Man” Unger was inserted in the Leafs lineup as a 20-year-old rookie. That started a run of 914 consecutive regular season games played for Unger, which set a new NHL record. The record has since been surpassed (by Doug Jarvis with 964 consecutive games), and Unger only played 15 games with the Leafs before being traded to Detroit. With the Wings, Unger appeared in 216 games, collecting 84 goals and 152 points. He was then traded to the St. Louis Blues in 1971 where he became a star player, scoring 30 or more goals in eight consecutive seasons.

Pete Stemkowski split his first four seasons with the Leafs jumping back and forth from the big club and their AHL team. His first full season with the Leafs came in the 1966-67 season as he helped the Leafs win the Cup. Stemkowski was traded to Detroit the following season where he scored 114 points (51 goals, 63 assists) and collected 207 PIM in 170 games played.

Defenseman Carl Brewer played seven seasons with the Leafs, helping them win three consecutive Stanley Cups. Though he was tough and agile on the ice, Brewer struggled with the pressure from the hockey mad Toronto fans. Brewer also had conflicts with the coach and management. After a dispute over $100 he felt he was owed, Brewer decided to retire after the 1960 season. The Leafs, however, were able to convince him to come back later that season.

In training camp of 1965, Brewer had another dispute. This time with teammate Johnny Bower. After the dispute, Toronto coach Punch Imlach, sent Brewer home for a few days where he decided to retire once again. After three years out of the NHL his rights were traded to Detroit. It took another year, and some convincing from former teammate Frank Mahovlich, for Brewer to sign a contract with the Wings.

In 70 games that season (1969-70), Brewer collected 2 goals, 37 assists with a +44 rating and was also named to the league’s Second All-Star Team. That summer, Brewer announced his retirement again. The Wings decided to trade him to the St. Louis Blues on May 12, 1971 for future considerations. Brewer came out of retirement to finish the season with the Blues, costing them Mike Lowe, Ab McDonald and Bob Wall. After one more season in St. Louis he retired yet again. Eight years later Brewer came back to play 20 games with the Leafs before quitting for good.

Star Power

Another star player who struggled with the pressure caused by the crazed home fans of Toronto, was Frank Mahovlich. Even though Mahovlich continued to be the goal scoring leader most years for Toronto, it was not enough for the fans. Often times the crowd would boo their star player, and with the added criticism from coach Punch Imlach, Mahovlich was eventually hospitalized for depression, twice.

When the Leafs decided to part ways with Mahovlich, it rejuvenated his career. Playing in front of a less hostile market like Detroit relieved Mahovlich from the pressure of being under the spotlight. Placed on a line with hockey great Gordie Howe, Mahovlich scored a personal best 49 goals in his first full season with the Wings. In 198 games for Detroit, Mahovlich scored 108 goals and added 88 assists, totaling 196 points.

In January of 1971, the struggling Wings opted for a rebuild and shipped Mahovlich to the Montreal Canadiens, who were looking for a Cup run. The league leading 14 goals and 27 points in 20 playoff games for Mahovlich, greatly helped Montreal capture the Cup that season. Mahovlich continued to produce the following year having his best overall season with 96 points (43 goals, 53 assists) in 76 games.

Mahovlich played two more seasons with the Canadiens helping them win another Stanley Cup in 1972-73. It would prove to be the 6th and final Stanley Cup for Mahovlich. After one more season with the Canadiens he decided to finish his career in the WHA. Over his career, Mahovlich scored 533 goals and 1103 points in 1181 regular season games. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1981.

The Aftermath

Normally I would reflect on each player involved after the initial trade. However, that list is over 50 players and no one wants to read through that. It is impressive though, how Detroit was able to turn their newly acquired players into a revolving door of assets throughout a 20 year span.

One noteworthy trade I’d like to point out from the tree is the 1975 trade between Detroit and the Los Angeles Kings involving Bart Crashley. It’s a branch that extends to 1991, but Crashley was ultimately a throw-in to complete the deal. The main trade was centered around Marcel Dionne who secured the most value. These type of deals tend to skew the end results and is why it’s worth mentioning before presenting the stats.

list detroit assets

list of toronto assets

Who the Wings Gave Up

Floyd Smith played five seasons with Detroit, scoring a career high 49 points (21 goals, 28 assists) in the 1965-66 season. In Toronto, Smith saw his production fall, and after just two seasons with the Leafs he was traded to Buffalo for cash. Smith played a total of 131 games for the Leafs, collecting 25 goals, 34 assists and 35 PIM. In the 1971-72 season, Smith hung the skates up and eventually went on to coach the Sabres for three seasons.

One of the best forecheckers in hockey history was Norm Ullman. His strength and anticipation made him very effective along the boards and in the corners, more often than not emerging with the puck. Ullman’s consistent play and durability earned him a spot centering a line with Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay. In 13 seasons with the Wings, Ullman scored 20 or more goals in eleven straight and was the playoff leading scorer twice.

The consistency continued for Ullman in Toronto as he went on to record a total of sixteen 20 or more goal seasons.  In the 1970-71 season, Ullman recorded a personal best 85 points (34 goals, 51 assists) in 73 games. As time went on, the aging centreman would suffer his worst production since his rookie season, scoring just 35 points in 80 games during the 1974-75 campaign. In June of 1975, Ullman cleared waivers and would play two seasons in the WHA before retiring from hockey in 1977.

In 535 games with Toronto, Ullman scored 166 goals and 305 assists, collecting 471 points. Throughout his 20 year career, Ullman played in 11 NHL All-Star games and collected 490 goals, 739 assists and 1,229 points in 1,410 NHL games. Norm Ullman currently sits 40th on the NHL All-Time points leaders list and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982.

Oh Canada

Paul Henderson established himself as an offensive winger in the 1965-66 NHL season with Detroit. He finished the year with 22 goals, 24 assists and 46 points in 69 games. The following year Henderson battled injuries and contract disputes, but was still able to produce 40 points (21 goals, 19 assists) in 46 games. During the 1967-68 season, the last placed Red Wings traded Henderson to Toronto.

Henderson had his best offensive years in Toronto, recording career highs in points (60 in 1970-71) and goals (38 in 1971-72). Henderson totaled 162 goals and 318 points over 408 career games for the Leafs before defecting to the WHA in 1974. Although his time in Toronto was admirable, he is best known for his role in the 1972 Summit Series. After being down 1-3-1 in the series, Canada battled back and won the final three games with Henderson scoring the game winner in all three.

“Cournoyer has it on that wing. Here’s a shot. Henderson made a wild stab for it and fell. Here’s another shot. Right in front. They score! Henderson has scored for Canada!”

-Foster Hewitt, calling the play-by-play

The most iconic goal for Henderson came late in a very dramatic game eight, played in Moscow. Down 5-3 after the second period, Canada battled back to tie the game in the third with just over seven minutes remaining. It came down to the last minute of the game and if it ended in a tie, the Soviets would have won the series based on goal differential. Henderson came off the bench and skated straight to the Soviets net. After falling trying to redirect a pass to the net, Henderson got up and recovered a rebound from a Phil Esposito shot. On his second attempt, Henderson was able to slide the puck past the fallen goaltender to give Canada a 6-5 lead, and ultimately the win, with only 34 seconds remaining.

Toronto player statstotal player stats - detroit

Total Player Stats - Detroit (Including Playoffs)

PlayerGamesGoalsAssistsPointsPIM
Totals62771377195633335996
Garry “Iron Man” Unger2208469153171
Pete Stemkowski1745264116213
Carl Brewer742373953
Frank Mahovlich20210888196131
Tim Ecclestone191408012080
Red Berenson2837312820164
Larry Brown331458
Pierre Jarry9123365921
Don Martineau100110
Phil Roberto8314344898
Fred ‘Buster’ Harvey8919203943
Arnie Brown10442933114
Tom Miller291789
Mike Robitaille23481222
Ab McDonald192350
Bob Wall452469
Guy Charron265617813957
Mickey Redmond317177132309107
Bill Collins2395477131129
Chris Evans230222
Jean Hamel458196281584
Bryan Watson18413637698
Greg Joly219114152172
Bart Crashley482151714
Larry Giroux583242793
Ted Snell200446
Terry Harper *259145771234
Dan Maloney *1775681137418
Dennis Hextall *2004083123467
Mike Blaisdell *192446110580
Brent Peterson *918202832
Errol Thompson *2077859137104
Gary McAdam *405141927
Eric Vail *5210142435
Mark Lofthouse *401181931
Danny Gare *3128895183641
Jim Schoenfeld *966192587
Derek R. Smith *9113183122
Ron Duguay *23493130223120
Eddie Johnstone *5713112456
Doug Shedden *44815238
Brent Ashton *140525710988
Gilbert Delorme *15852025203
Mark Kumpel *260338
Jim Nill *144172138243
Paul MacLean *81373673126
Bernie Federko *7317405724
Tony McKegney *142138
Greg C. Adams *28371016
Robert Picard *2003320
*-Acquired after Crashley trade

Goaltender stats detroit

The Totals

Toronto did pretty well recovering some good talent in exchange for a couple of unhappy players. 869 points over 1,123 games is impressive even though it may not reflect as well against the Detroit totals. The trade never resulted in a Stanley Cup win, but that could be due to several other reasons. Toronto was a force in the original six era, but as the league expanded it got tougher to win and that could be the main reason. Or maybe it was just karma for booing a star player out-of-town (sorry, I had to say it).

Detroit didn’t win a Cup as a direct result of this trade either. In fact, the Wings were pretty horrible for a number of years and only started to become a threat again in the late 1980’s. Stanley Cup or not, Detroit was able to recycle assets resulting in 6,277 games played and 3,333 points. Even if I were to remove the Bart Crashley deal and the players that followed, Detroit was still able to produce 1,840 points in 3,501 games.

combined stats

combines stats without crashley deal

Who Wins?

It’s now time for you to decide. Take the poll below and let me know your thoughts in the comment section.

Cheers!

Jeremy Steckly
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