Friday, June 18, 2010

The Coach Who Got Traded

In a most unique transaction on this day back in 1987, the New York Rangers traded their 1988 first round draft pick to the Quebec Nordiques in exchange for the Nordiques' coach Michel Bergeron.


Phil Esposito, the Rangers General Manager at the time, and you just knew during an odd story that somehow Esposito's name would come up at some point, asked the Nordiques about Bergeron almost as a joke during the draft that year and was surprised when the Nordiques GM Maurice Filion said "Let's talk."

Esposito liked Bergeron's combative style, feeling that "motivation and emotion" was what he wanted for the Rangers. Esposito had to take over behind the Rangers bench when Tom Webster was forced to relinquish the job due to an inner-ear problem and brought a fiery style to the bench and he was looking for someone with similar qualities - qualities he found in Bergeron.

Bergeron photo Bergeron.jpg

Since relations between Bergeron and Filion had become strained, the Nordiques had given Esposito permission to talk to Bergeron, who still had two years remaining on his contract. They spoke for the first time on that Monday and by Wednesday had agreed to a contract and in return, the Rangers sent Quebec it's 1988 first round draft pick and $75,000 cash.

Esposito Bergeron photo EspositoBergeronRangers.jpg

And how did it turn out for Bergeron in New York? He missed the playoffs in his first season with a 36-34-10 record and was fired by Esposito with just two games remaining in his second season with the team at 37-33-8 and replaced by... Esposito himself, who proceeded to lose the last two games of the regular season and then got swept out of the playoffs in four straight by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

 photo BergeronRangers.jpg

Oddly enough, Bergeron would return to coach the Nordiques once more the following season of 1989-90, his last in the NHL. He would finish with a dismal 12-61-7 record.

And what became of the draft pick obtained by the Nordiques for Bergeron? With their second pick in the first round, and the 5th overall, the Nordiques selected Daniel Dore from the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He totaled 17 NHL games played, 2 goals and 3 assists for 5 career points. To select Dore, the Nordiques passed on Martin Gelinas (1273 GP, 660 pts), Jeremy Roenick (1363 GP, 1216 pts) Rod Brind'Amour (1484 GP, 1184 pts) and Teemu Selanne (1387 GP, 1430 pts), who were picks 7, 8, 9 and 10 that year.

Slam! Sports picked Dore as #8 in their list of Top 10 draft-day busts.

Unfortunately we don't own Bergeron's snazzy plaid sport coat, so no jersey today...

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