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  • Writer's pictureDerek Ochej

Power forwards, a defining goal and a career resurrection

In researching this post I've come to realize how often players, even great players, were traded in the 80s and 90s. Perhaps it was a function of the practically non-existent free agent system, but it seems rare for a player to not be traded at least three or four times in his career. Players such as Rick Tocchet (5 trades), Stephane Matteau (4 trades) and an all-time legend like Dave Andreychuk (3 trades) were not immune to frequent deals. You'll also see a surprising fact about the players that were involved in five trade Rick Tocchet experienced in his career.

Finally, we have the curious case of Wes Walz. In an earlier post I talked about players having their careers extended by the expansion of the early 1990s. 1998-2000 was the last great expansion period in the NHL, with four teams (Nashville, Atlanta, Columbus and Minnesota) coming into the league, creating another 23 roster spots each. A journeyman from the 1990s, Walz came back to the NHL after several seasons in Switzerland, carving out a remarkable seven year stint with the Wild. I'm hard pressed to think of another player to have followed in Walz's footsteps.

Card 119 - John Tanner

Goaltender Tanner was drafted 54th overall by Quebec in 1989, having played junior in the OHL with Peterborough, London and Sudbury, winning the Dave Pinkey Trophy for lowest team goals against average in 1990-91. He appeared in six NHL games between 1989-91, and then 1991-92 played a career high 14 games going 1-7-4.

1991-92 would be his final season in the NHL, and he would end his NHL career with a 2-11-5 record, 3.60 goals against average and .883 save percentage. Tanner would be caught in a logjam of young goalies in Quebec, alongside Ron Tugnutt and Stephane Fiset. He would play in the AHL and IHL for Quebec farm teams until a trade to Anaheim in 1994. From there he would bounce around second tier leagues in the ECHL and Colonial League until retiring after the 1996-97 season.

YouTube clip: a fan tribute video that is probably the most in-depth study of John Tanner’s career to date.

Card 120 - Troy Gamble

Gamble, drafted 25th overall by Vancouver in the 1985 draft, would tend goal in the WHL with Medicine Hat and Spokane until the 1987-88 season. During this time he was a two-time first team all star and won the top goalie award in 1984-85.

Gamble would play six games with the Canucks between 1986-88, then spend a few years in the IHL before returning to lead the Canucks in games during the 1990-91 season (47), splitting time with Kirk McLean. He would post a 16-16-6 record that season, along with a 3.45 goals against average and .879 save percentage. McLean would usurp Gamble as starter the following season and Gamble would play only 19 games in 1991-92, his final season in the NHL.

He would split the 1992-93 season between the AHL & IHL before signing with Dallas during the 1993 off-season. Gamble would play three seasons in the IHL for Kalamazoo and Houston before retiring at the end of the 1995-96 season. For his NHL career Gamble would play 72 games, posting a 22-29-9 record, 3.61 goals against average and .875 save percentage in a career that was cut short by concussion problems.

Gamble’s career may have been short, but there were some memorable aspects, including a legendary trip to Russia in the summer of 1988 as part of his time with the Canucks. Vancouver had drafted Russian legends Igor Larionov and Vladimir Krutov and attempted to lure them to the NHL by sending Gamble and a front office member to train with the two Russians. The NHL did a deep dive on this story, and it’s worth a read.

Gamble’s current career in the oil and gas industry has taken him across the globe, including living in Libya during the rule of Mohmar Gadhafi.

YouTube clip: a goalie fight during his time in the IHL against former NHLer Clint Malarchuk.

Card 121 - Stephane Matteau

The left winger was drafted 25th overall by Calgary in 1987, and would win two QMJHL titles with Hull before making his NHL debut in 1990-91, playing in 78 games for the Flames, recording 34 points.

Matteau would be traded to Chicago during the 1991-92 season in exchange for Trent Yawney, and would play only 24 games that season due to a thigh injury. He would play parts of three seasons with the Blackhawks, recording a career high 19 goals and 38 points in 1993-94. He would be traded to the New York Rangers that season alongside Brian Noonan, with the Hawks landing Tony Amonte in return.

Matteau would be a key part of the Rangers Cup victory in 1994, scoring six goals in the playoffs. Among these goals would be two overtime winners against New Jersey in the Eastern Conference finals, including the legendary Game 7 winner.

Just after Christmas 1995 he would be traded to St. Louis in exchange for Ian Laperriere, spending two seasons with the Blues before a trade to San Jose in exchange for Darren Turcotte. Matteau would play six seasons with the Sharks (1997-2002) his longest tenure with a single franchise. He would play one final season with Florida in 2002-03 before retiring.

Matteau played 13 seasons, appearing in 848 games, scoring 144 goals and 316 points. He coached briefly in Quebec after retirement, and his kids are active in hockey: his son Stefan was drafted by New Jersey in 2012 and his daughter Alyson plays in the NWHL with Buffalo.

He currently works in New York helping young people, informed by his own personal trials in becoming sober and managing depression.

YouTube clip: of course it’s the MATTEAU MATTEAU MATTEAU goal from the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals.

Card 122 - Rick Tocchet

Drafted 121st overall by the Flyers in 1983, right winger Tocchet would debut in the NHL as a 20-year-old, scoring 14 goals and 39 points while racking up 179 penalty minutes in the 1984-85 season. The Flyers would lose in the Cup finals to Edmonton that season.

In eight seasons with Philadelphia Tocchet’s production would steadily increase, topping out at 45 goals in the 1988-89 season. With the Flyers he would score 20+ goals six times, and record 300+ penalty minutes three times. Tocchet would also play in three straight All-Star games (1989-1991) and lead the playoffs in even-strength goals (10) in the Flyers trip to the 1987 Finals, in yet another loss to the Oilers.

Part way through the 1991-92 he would be traded to inter-state rival Pittsburgh as part a five-player, two-pick swap that would land Philadelphia Mark Recchi. Tocchet would finally win a Stanley Cup that season, in his third Finals appearance. 1992-93 would be a career best year for the power forward, recording 48 goals, 109 points and 252 penalty minutes. His signature style of play would begin to take its toll after 1992-93, and Tocchet would begin to miss a significant number of games each season.

In 1994 he would be traded to Los Angeles for Luc Robitaille, playing 80 games with the Kings before an early 1996 trade to Boston in exchange for fellow power forward Kevin Stevens. He would play just over one calendar year for the Bruins before he was trade dto Washington alongside Bill Ranford and Adam Oates for Jim Carey, Anson Carter and Jason Allison; he would last only 13 games with the Caps.

In 1997-98 Tocchet would sign with Phoenix, reviving his career in 1998-99 by scoring 26 goals and 56 points, his best totals since 1992-93. The final trade of his career in March 2000 would see him sent back to where it all started, Philadelphia, in exchange for former Legion of Doom member Mikael Renberg. During the 2000 playoffs he would lead the league in penalty minutes with 49. 2001-02 would be his final season, playing 14 games after missing significant time due to a knee injury.

Tocchet’s career totals read 1144 games over 18 seasons, 440 goals, 952 points and 2970 penalty minutes (10th all-time). Since retirement he has coached in a variety of locations, including as an assistant in Colorado and Pittsburgh (winning two more Cups in 2016 and 2017). He was the head coach of Tampa Bay from 2008-2010 and has been the head coach of Arizona since 2017.

In terms of fun facts, Tocchet was twice traded for a future Hall-of-Famer (Mark Recchi, Luc Robitaille), and traded with a future Hall-of-Famer once (Adam Oates).

YouTube clip: one of the scariest old man fights I’ve ever seen, versus Scott Stevens in a March 2001 game.

Card 123 - Wes Walz

The alliterative centre was drafted 57th overall by Boston in 1989, scoring 140 points with Lethbridge in the WHL the season after he was drafted.

Unsurprisingly, Walz was unable to produce at the same level in the NHL, playing 73 games with the Bruins between 1989-1992 before a trade in January 1992 to Philadelphia alongside Garry Galley for Gord Murphy and draft picks. He would spend his time with the Flyers in the minors before signing with his hometown Calgary Flames for the 1993-94 season, when he would record a career-high 38 points.

For 1995-96 he signed with the Detroit , playing only 2 games for Red Wings. From 1996-2000 he would play in Switzerland, scoring at a point-per-game place, and winning a league title and league MVP in 1997-98.

The NHL’s expansion in the early 2000s opened a new door for Walz, as he would sign with the Minnesota Wild. In a rare case of peaking late, Walz would play seven seasons in Minnesota, averaging 15 goals and 30 points per season while developing into a defensive stalwart, finishing as a Selke Trophy finalist in 2002-03. In 2000-01 he scored seven shorthanded goals, good for second in the league and in 2002-03 he scored 13 points on the Wild’s Cinderella run to the Western Conference finals.

In total Walz would play 18 years of professional hockey, 13 in the NHL. During his time in the NHL he would play 607 games, scoring 109 goals and 260 points, 182 of which came with the Wild.

After retirement, Walz would be an assistant coach with the Tampa Bay Lightning as well as coaching high school hockey in Minnesota.

YouTube clip: a fan made tribute video set to The Killers’ All These Things That I’ve Done

Card 124 - Dave Andreychuk

The big left winger was drafted 16th overall by Buffalo in the 1982 draft. Andreychuk would debut later in the 1982-83 season with the Sabres, playing in 43 games, scoring 37 points. He would play a dozen seasons in Buffalo, scoring 30+ goals seven times and 70+ points six times. Andreychuk would experience great individual success in his time in Buffalo, leading the league in power play goals in 1991-92 and 1992-93, and appearing in the 1990 All-Star Game; team success, however would not follow. The Sabres would never advance beyond the division finals during Andreychuk's time with the team.

In February 1993 he would be traded to Toronto with goalie Daren Puppa and a first round pick in exchange for Grant Fuhr and a fifth round pick. In the midst of a career season, he would continue his ascent with a strong Leafs team, scoring a career-high 54 goals and 99 points as the Leafs would lose the Campbell Conference final to Los Angeles (Andreycuk would score 19 points in 21 playoff games).

In 1993-94 he would score 53 goals and 99 points, and play in his second all-star game. At the trade deadline in 1996 Andreychuk would be sent to New Jersey for two draft picks. During his three-and-a-half seasons with the Devils his production would drop and he would sign with Boston for the 1999-2000 season. He would be traded at the deadline that season as part of the deal that sent Ray Bourque to Colorado and would play in his first Cup final that season, with the Avs losing to New Jersey.

For 2000-01, Andreychuk would head back to Buffalo for a single season and then sign with Tampa Bay the following year, acting as a leader to an emerging Lightning team. Tampa Bay would help revitalize Andreychuk’s career, as he would score 20+ goals three times in the final five years of his career. He would finally win his Cup in 2003-04, captaining the Lightning and scoring 14 points in 23 playoff games. Andreychuk would return for 42 games in 2005-06 after the lockout shortened season before retiring.

For his career Andreychuk played in 1639 games (8th all-time), scoring 640 goals (15th), and 1338 points (29th). He is also the all-time leader in power play goals with 274, although Alex Ovechkin trailed by only 14 at the start of the 2021 season. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2017 and currently works in the Lightning’s front office.

YouTube clip: lifting the Cup after 22 seasons in the NHL (I’ve skipped past Gary Bettman’s speech).

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