Ted Lindsay. Gordie Howe. Sergei Fedorov. Pavel Datsyuk
Those are a few stars whose departures from Detroit didn’t sit well with fans. However, we often forget one of the most catastrophic departures in Detroit history. Next week will mark the 46th anniversary of Marcel Dionne jumping from the Red Wings to Los Angeles where he developed into one of the greatest scorers in NHL history.
“The biggest mistake the Red Wings made in the 1970s was letting Dionne go,” former Red Wings goalie Jim Rutherford told me during a book interview a few years ago.
Back then, Dionne was portrayed as selfish. Today, we would understand that Dionne simply wanted to be paid fairly. He was among the first to use free agency to achieve financial security. His move to the Kings came just ninth months after Jim “Catfish” Hunter became baseball’s first official free agent. As a result, the New York Yankees made him baseball’s highest-paid player.
In 1974-75, Dionne had 47 goals and 121 points. He was involved in 46.7% of Detroit’s scoring.
“You paid to see Dionne,” Rutherford said. “He was so highly skilled he brought people out of their seats.”
Dionne earned $300,000 per season in Los Angeles
Five teams bid on Dionne, and the Kings had the highest offer of $1.5 million over five seasons. In those days, teams signing a free agent had to provide compensation. The Kings offered tough winger Dan Maloney and veteran defenseman Terry Harper. The Red Wings balked at the offer. But Dionne threatened to jump to the World Hockey Association. The Red Wings would have received nothing had he done that.
Rutherford said the Red Wings’ losing Dionne over a contract squabble as “almost unforgivable.”
After Dionne left, the Red Wings finished with a below .500 record for the next 12 seasons. They didn’t truly start to recover until they drafted Steve Yzerman in 1983.
Rumor of the Day
Trade rumor: Calgary Flames interested in Buffalo defenseman Risto Ristolainen
No details on what the return would be. But there’s logic to the idea from the Flames’ perspective. Mark Giordano is 37 and only has one season remaining on his contract. Ristolainen is 26.
What’s happening around the NHL
Michigan’s Owen Power is saying he might stay with the Wolverines another season. That could be good for his development, more time to improve his strength.
Sheng Peng of SanJoseHockeyNow.com gives us an analysis of the Sharks search for a new No. 3 center.
Bostonhockeynow.com’s Jimmy Murphy reports on Jake DeBrusk trade rumors and the chances of him being dealt.
Buffalo general manager Kevyn Adams gives his thoughts on Jack Eichel situation.