We all make mistakes, but few of us will ever do so under as intense scrutiny as that faced by an NHL general manager. Their jobs are far from enviable, filled with immense pressure, expectations and second-guessing. Even those with proven success pulling a floundering team back into the playoffs or leading a good team all the way to Stanley Cup glory are not safe from a public indictment and calls for their job if they make an error in their player management. Sometimes mistakes are apparent immediately, as when a GM trades his star player for low value due to personal, financial or on-ice reasons. Others, however, are not apparent until years later, as a draft pick or young prospect is traded away for a safer or older player, and the young player emerges as a superstar on their new team.
In some cases, these moves are beneficial for both teams. In March 1988, the Flames sent Brett Hull to St. Louis for Rick Wamsley and Rob Ramage, neither of whom would ever approach Hull's Hall of Fame production. Wamsley and Ramage, however, were both members of the Flames' Stanley Cup winning team in 1989. While there is no guarantee that they were the difference, or that the team would have failed to win a Cup with Hull instead of them, the Flames still won the Stanley Cup, while the Blues did not with Hull. A team's success, therefore, must be considered when evaluating trades as well.
The following fifteen trades, however, were unmitigated disasters for one team and steals for another. One's perspective on them may depend on which team they prefer, but no one can deny that these trades made significant differences to the teams involved and that they were far from even transactions.
15 Patrick Roy to Colorado from Montreal
14 Zdeno Chara and 2nd Overall Pick (Jason Spezza) to Ottawa from the New York Islanders for Alexei Yashin
13 First Round Pick (Scott Niedermayer) to New Jersey from Toronto
12 Dominik Hasek to Buffalo from Chicago
11 Markus Naslund to Vancouver from Pittsburgh
10 First Round Pick (Guy Lafleur) to Montreal from California Golden Seals
9 Doug Gilmour to Toronto from Calgary
8 Rick Middleton to Bruins
7 Cam Neely and a First Round Pick (Glen Wesley) to Boston from Vancouver
6 Adam Oates to St. Louis from Detroit
5 Mark Messier to the New York Rangers from Edmonton
4 Tuukka Rask to Boston from Toronto
3 Marcel Dionne to Los Angeles from Detroit
2 Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield to Boston from Chicago
1 Wayne Gretzky to Los Angeles from Edmonton
"The Trade," which sent Gretzky, Marty McSorely and Mike Krushelynski to Los Angeles for Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, three first round picks and $15 million dollars, is even more painful because of the motivation behind it. Peter Pocklington, the Oilers owner, was desperate for money and demanded the $15 million as the key part of the trade. Gretzky's success in Los Angeles sparked a wave of Southern expansion in the US, and while Gretzky never won another cup and the Oilers went onto win another Stanley Cup two years later in 1990, the team was never quite the same without him as Gretzky continued to dominate hockey.
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