The expectations are enormous when a team surrenders valuable assets at the NHL Trade Deadline for the perceived missing piece.
No late season trade in the past 40 years paid off more handsomely than the Islanders’ acquisition of Butch Goring from the Los Angeles Kings for Billy Harris and Dave Lewis in March of 1980.
Goring immaculately fit into the Islanders’ lineup and immediately became the second-line center New York was missing. The Islanders went on to win 19 consecutive playoff series and four straight Stanley Cups following the shrewd acquisition. When Goring retired after the 1984-85 season, he was 27th in all-time NHL points. The 26 guys ahead of him are all in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
“I never felt pressure to have to do something I wasn’t capable of doing, I was a mature hockey player,” said Goring, who had seven goals and 12 assists that spring as the Islanders won their first of four consecutive titles. “I knew that the Islanders had done their homework and they knew exactly what they were getting. The transition wasn’t difficult, as far as playing was concerned. It was just a matter of getting to know the guys, that was the difficult part.”
The Islanders will honor Goring Saturday prior to their game against the Boston Bruins with a jersey retirement ceremony. Live coverage will begin at 11:30 a.m. ET on MSG and MSG+.
“To think my jersey is going to be up in the rafters with some of the great players of this organization is almost unfathomable,” said Goring, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1981.
A record 32 trades were completed at the 2020 deadline earlier this week as playoff contenders attempted to bolster their Stanley Cup hopes.
Prior to the deadline, the pressure is squarely on an organization’s front office to correctly identify the team’s needs and obtain the right players. However, the burden quickly shifts onto the coaches and players to help any addition settle in with a new franchise.
“I think what happens with a lot of players when they get traded to another team, they try to be more than they are,” Goring explained. “They think that they have to be a difference maker and show everybody it was a great trade. It doesn’t work that way.”
It’s borderline impossible to find a player that will have the success Goring and the Islanders did in the early 1980s. However, Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello identified a need on the ice and acquired a player that “checks all the boxes,” according to coach Barry Trotz.
The Islanders traded for Jean-Gabriel Pageau from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for multiple draft picks and quickly signed the center to a six-year, $30 million extension.
“Would you like a 50-goal scorer? Of course, but that wasn’t available,” Goring said. “The Islanders had a need for a third line center, someone who can take faceoffs, someone who can kill penalties, and certainly someone that has offense. You evaluate these moves based on the needs of each team and I really like the deal Lou made for the Islanders.”
Pageau has scored twice in as many games while donning a new sweater, but the Islanders came up short in outings against the New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues.
The playoff race in the Eastern Conference has quickly tightened up. The Rangers have won nine of their last 10, the Philadelphia Flyers have moved up the Metropolitan Division and the Carolina Hurricanes added several new pieces this week.
Only six points separate the second-place team and seventh-place team in the Metro. In order for the Islanders to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Pageau will need to seamlessly fit in with the Islanders and have a Goring-like impact.
Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.