Monday, 9 September 2013

Today in Habs History: September 9th Edition


Grundman Tries His Best Pollock, Did it Work?



“When a player tells you that he doesn't want to play for you, that's not the way you build a team,” said then Canadiens GM Irving Grundman.”The Montreal Canadiens weren't built by keeping players that didn't want to play for them."



Grundman was referring to Canadiens defenseman Rod Langway. The American defenseman was quickly making his way up the ranks on the Montreal blue line, emerging from the shadow of The Big Three. Unfortunately he was disenchanted with paying the absurd Quebec income tax rates and doing tax returns in two countries. Although the Canadiens were still a successful club, Langway wanted out. Grundman had to do something.


As luck would have it, Grundman found himself seated next to David Poile, the rookie GM of the Washington Capitals, during the September Board of Governor's meeting.  At the time the Washington franchise was in dire straits. With no playoff births in their first eight season and a recent “Save the Caps,” campaign to boost season ticket sales, Grundman perhaps hoped to channel the wisdom of his predecessor, Sam Pollock and make a blockbuster that would swing Montreal’s way.



On paper, in the eyes on many-both media and fans alike -  it looked like a straight up deal. So on September 10, 1982 Langway, defensive forward Doug Jarvis, rear guard Brian Engblom and prospect Craig Laughlin went to Washington. Captain Ryan Walter, a favourite of Caps owner Abe Pollin, and defenceman Rick Green, a former first-round pick by the Capitals, would go to Montreal.



The exception would have been getting nothing for Engblom, who had been a 2nd Team All-Star in the season prior. “Has the Canadiens organization regressed to the point where it must now deal with a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since entering the league in 1974?,” said long-time Habs beat reporter Red Fisher. “What was Grundman thinking?”



In the end it was a win for the Capitals, to an extent. The group of players Washington received would play a combined 1646 games, while Green and Walter,  who battled injuries, tallied 1200 in the playoffs and post-season.



Individually, Langway would win the Norris Trophy in the first two of his 11 seasons with Washington and Jarvis would go on to win the Frank Selke Trophy in 1984 and remains the NHL’s Iron Man with 964 consecutive games played. Engblom would be dealt tot he Los Angeles Kings at the start of the 1983-84 season for another future Hall of Fame defenseman, Larry Murphy.



The Capitals did reach the playoffs in the 1982-83 season, but during Langway’s time with the club they never made it past the second round of the post season. With Walter and Green, the Canadiens won a Stanley Cup in 1986, made it to the Finals once more in 1989 and reached the third round on two more occasions.



Also on This Day…



1960: Sylvio Mantha announced as one of three players inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Frank Selke enters the Hall in the Builders’ category.



Sources:, Ben Raby, Sept. 10, 2012, “Langway trade still resonates in DC thirty years later


Janish, D’Arcy: The Montreal Canadiens:100 Years of Glory


Lefebvre, Robert, Tales From the Montreal Canadiens Locker Room

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