We’ve already discussed the fact that the Boston Bruins own a substantial all-time edge over the Vancouver Canucks on the ice. That historical domination extends beyond win-loss records, though, as the Bruins front office scored an enormous victory over Canucks management in the Cam Neely trade.
Even after 25 years, the Bruins franchise continues to benefit from the aftershocks of that earth-shaking trade. It is also safe to assume that many Canucks fans look at the day the move was made (June 6, 1986) as one of the darkest days in the franchise’s history and surely one of the NHL’s most lopsided deals.
Let’s take a look at the initial terms of the trade first.
Vancouver received: Barry Pederson
Pederson began his career on fire. He produced 92 points in his first full season (1981-82), 107 in 82-83 and 116 in 83-84. His final two seasons with Boston raised some red flags, though; he only played in 22 games in 84-85 but bounced back a bit in 85-86 with 76 points in 79 games. He played some solid hockey for Vancouver in his first two seasons (76 points in 86-87, 71 in 87-88) but injuries wrecked the rest of his career. He ended up scoring 197 points in 233 games for the Canucks, getting traded to Pittsburgh on January 8, 1990.
Boston received: Cam Neely and the Canucks’ first round pick in 1995 (Glen Wesley)
To be fair to Vancouver, there’s at least a slight chance Neely might not have flourished as a Canucks forward. He never scored more than 39 points or 21 goals in his first three seasons in Vancouver. Of course, he turned 21 on the day of that trade, so the Canucks management might have been a teeny bit hasty with that move. You’d think that Vancouver would have been more patient with the ninth overall pick of the ’83 draft, but let’s not pile on too much. (OK, the rest of this post probably qualifies as piling on, but still …)
Neely emerged almost immediately upon arriving in Boston, scoring 36 goals and 72 points in his first season with the Bruins. As you probably know, he went on to become a Hall of Famer despite having his career cut short by injuries.
Neely’s career was prolific enough to make Canucks fans wistful, but Glen Wesley’s years with Boston – and the assets the Bruins received from trading him – make the deal even more lopsided. Wesley spent seven seasons in Boston, making one All-Star team in the 88-89 season.
Now, it’s not really fair to beat up on Vancouver for trades they weren’t actually involved in, but the branching paths of trades that were made possible by acquiring Wesley are still making an impact today. Using a fantastic timeline by “The Hipster Jew” as inspiration, let’s take a look at the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon-like path of the trade.
- Boston trades Wesley to the Hartford Whalers in 1994 for three first round picks: 1995 (Kyle McLaren), 1996 (Johnathan Aitken) and 1997 (Sergei Samsonov).
- They then traded McLaren with their 2004 fourth rounder (Torrey Mitchell) to the San Jose Sharks in 2003 for Jeff Hackett and Jeff Jillson.
- Samsonov qualified as Joe Thornton’s first great running mate/beneficiary, but they eventually traded him to the Edmonton Oilers for Marty Reasoner, Yan Stastny and the Oilers’ second round pick in ’06, which ended up being … Milan Lucic. (Yup, that’s right, the Bruins found their closest heir to Neely thanks to the Neely trade. Yikes.)
- The Bruins turned Jeff Jillson into Brad Boyes (from San Jose in ’04) and then Boyes to Dennis Wideman (from the St. Louis Blues in ’07) .
- Wideman was eventually traded with Boston’s 2010 first round pick (Derek Fortbort) to the Florida Panthers for Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell before the ’10 draft.
So, in the most direct way, the Bruins won that trade thanks to Neely’s great career and seven quality seasons of Wesley. That being said, the additional assets the B’s acquired add insult to injury, even if other NHL teams were involved. The Bruins acquired 2/3 of their top scoring line (Horton and Lucic) indirectly thanks to the Neely trade, so you cannot blame Canucks fans if they think to that pivotal moment in ’86 whenever Boston’s best trio comes through.