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  • Writer's pictureDerek Ochej

The Original Flower and 90s expansion draft mayhem

For this post we focus solely on the original 'Flower', Guy Lafleur. Out of all the trivia and interesting facts surrounding Lafleur's career, the one I find the most interesting comes from the end of it; the fact that Lafleur was selected in an expansion draft! You'll learn more in the post below, but Lafleur was indeed selected by the Minnesota North Stars in the bizarre 1991 Expansion Draft. Continuing this theme, let's look at each expansion draft that took place in the 1990s and a unique fact stemming from it:

1992 - Tampa Bay and Ottawa: this draft is more known for the players Ottawa tried to pick and couldn't. It starts with Todd Ewen from Montreal and then Todd Hawkins from Toronto. Both players were ineligible since the Habs and Leafs had already lost two players in the draft. Then Ottawa tried to select CJ Young, who was also ineligible as only a second-year pro. This ineptitude was just a sign of things to come for the Senators.

1993 - Anaheim and Florida: when Anaheim drafted Los Angeles Kings forward Jim Thomson, he became the first (and only) player to be selected in three consecutive expansion drafts. First in 1991 with Minnesota and then in1992 with Ottawa, Thomson would twice be traded back to the Kings by the team that drafted him.

1998 - Nashville: the Predators selected five goalies in their expansion draft, including New York Rangers' star Mike Richter. The Preds knew Richter would never play for them, as he was set to become an unrestricted free agent five days after the draft (ditto with fellow expansion pick Uwe Krupp). The Predators did receive compensatory picks for losing both unrestricted free agents, however.

1999 - Atlanta: the Thrashers completed six trades, five of them on draft day, acquiring players in exchange for a promise not select certain players in the draft. Atlanta acquired Damian Rhodes (Ottawa), Dean Sylvester (Buffalo), Andreas Karlsson (Calgary), Ulf Samuelsson (Detroit), Sergei Vyshedkevich (New Jersey) and Scott Langkow (Phoenix) for 'future considerations'. Rhodes, Sylvester and Karlsson would play more than a handful o games with the team, with Samuelsson never suiting up for the Thrashers.

Card 218 - Lafleur’s Farewell

The heir apparent to Jean Beliveau as Montreal’s next home grown superstar, Lafleur was drafted first overall by the Habs in the 1971 draft, chosen ahead of fellow French-Canadian star Marcel Dionne.

As a 19 year old with the Quebec Remparts, Lafleur set league records for goals (130) and points (209) in a single season. His goal record was eventually eclipsed by Mario Lemieux, who scored three more goals in 1983-84.

The Flower made his NHL debut in 1971-72. Although he produced at a reasonable pace in his first three NHL seasons, Lafleur was viewed as a disappointment based on the immense pressure placed on him to replace Les Gros Bill. He averaged 0.81 points per season, and maxed out at 29 goals, although he did win his first Stanley Cup in 1973.

From 1974 to 1980 Le Blond Demon would live up to all the hype as yet another Canadiens dynasty was about to form. Over these six seasons, Lafleur would:

  • Score 50+ goals each season, including a career-high 60 in 1977-78;

  • Score 60+ assists each season, including a career-high 80 in 1977-78;

  • Record 119+ points each season, with a career-high 136 in 1976-77;

  • Be named a first team all-star six times;

  • Finish top five in Hart Trophy voting each season, winning twice (1977 & 78);

  • Win the Lester B. Pearson and Art Ross trophy three years in a row (1976-78);

  • Win four consecutive Stanley Cups (1976-79), leading the playoffs in scoring three times;

  • Win the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1977;

  • Play in four all-star games (1975-1978)

In the early 80s Lafleur would begin to miss games due to injury, playing in less than 68 games each of the first three seasons of the decade, still scoring 27+ goals and 70+ points in each season. In 1983-84, the Flower would score 30 goals for the final time in his career.

Clashes with former teammate and current coach Jacques Lemaire would lead to Lafleur asking for a trade early in the 1984-85 season. Given the optics of trading away a homegrown superstar, the request was rejected, leading Lafleur to retire 19 games into the season.

Lafleur would be inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988, but shortly thereafter he would become the second player after Gordie Howe to return to the NHL after being named to the Hall of Fame. In 1988-89 Lafleur suited up for the New York Rangers, scoring 18 goals and 45 points. The following season he would return to his home province, this time playing for the Canadiens’ interprovincial rival, the Quebec Nordiques. The Rangers would be compensated with a draft pick they would use to select Sergei Zubov, a future Hall of Fame defenceman.

In two seasons with the Nords, Lafleur would score 12 goals each campaign, retiring after the 1990-91 season. In what can best be described as a technical glitch, Lafleur had not officially retired when the NHL expansion draft took place in 1991 for the San Jose Sharks and Minnesota North Stars. As a result, Lafleur was left unprotected and then selected by Minnesota. He would end up being traded back to Quebec for Alan Haworth in order for his handshake deal to join the Nords front office to come to fruition.

In a 17 season NHL career, Lafleur played in 1126 games, scoring 560 goals (27th all-time) and 1353 points (27th all-time). He also ranks 11th all time in plus/minus (446) and 10th in game winning goals (98). He is the all-time leading point scorer for the Canadiens, and was the fastest player to reach 1,000 points in his career, but has since been eclipsed by several players. Lafleur is arguably the last true offensive superstar that the Canadiens have had on their roster.

Lafleur currently operates several businesses, including restaurants and a charter helicopter company.

YouTube clip: video from being named one of the Top 100 NHL players of all-time

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