Flyer-thetical: What if the Flyers Never Traded Bernie Parent?

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It’s January of 1971. The Philadelphia Flyers are sitting at seventh in the NHL, trailing the Toronto Maple Leafs by two points. Those two teams, along with the Boston Bruins, strike a deal. Philadelphia trades goaltender Bernie Parent and a second round pick to Toronto. Toronto ships Bruce Gamble, Rick MacLeish, and a first round pick to Philadelphia, and Mike Walton to Boston. Boston trades Danny Schock to the Flyers. The deal is done, and the Flyers got their much-needed help up front on offense.

Bernie Parent joins his boyhood hero, Jacques Plante, in Toronto to form one of the most formidable goaltending tandems in the history of the NHL. The aging Plante was having a stellar year at the age of 42. Parent would go on to re-shape his game and become a more complete, well-rounded net-minder. He found himself getting more games in the regular season and playoffs the very next season than Plante. Bruce Gamble would back-up Doug Favell in Philadelphia, and they would miss the playoffs.

The 1972/73 season for Parent would begin with the World Hockey Association. Parent found himself without a contract from Toronto, so he signed with the Miami Screaming Eagles of the WHA. Miami never materialized, so he signed with the Philadelphia Blazers. Come playoff time, Parent and the Blazers had a contract dispute, and he left the team. After stating he did not want to return to Toronto in the NHL, the Maple Leafs traded Parent back to the Flyers for Doug Favell and a first round pick.

Parent had come full-circle, re-joining the Flyers after his tenure with the Maple Leafs and Blazers. He would carve out his Hall-of-Fame career in Philadelphia, winning multiple individual awards, paired with two Stanley Cups. Could he have achieved those accolades had he not been traded in the first place?

The Jacques Plante Effect

Entering the 1970/71 season, Plante had already played in 15 NHL seasons. 11 seasons in Montreal, two with the New York Rangers, and two with the St. Louis Blues. Plante had a plethora of knowledge about the game having played for three teams prior to the Maple Leafs. At age 42, he seemed to be getting even better, posting some of the best numbers of his career during the 1970/71 campaign.

Bernie Parent’s boyhood hero would prove to be more of a mentor than anything to the 25 year old goalie. In an article written by Dave Stubbs on NHL.com, Bernie was quoted, saying:

We had a great bunch of guys in Toronto, from Plante up to the defense and forwards like Dave Keon, a great player and a classy individual… Coming here gave me a chance to play with Plante for a season and a half and it changed my whole career.”

Not only did Parent get the opportunity to play with his idol, he surpassed him on the depth chart in his only full season with the Maple Leafs. Bernie played 47 games in 1971/72, while Plante only appeared in 34. Their save percentages were near-identical, while Parent posted a 2.57 goals against average and three shutouts to Plante’s 2.63 goals against average and two shutouts.

When Parent returned to the Flyers, he was a new goalie. Bolstered by his Vezina awards, Conn Symthe trophies, and All-Star appearances, Parent was everything the Flyers envisioned he would be before the trade.

Acquiring Offense

While trading away Bernie Parent initially could have been a disaster of a move had the Flyers not gotten him back, they did acquire a key piece to their two Stanley Cup runs in 1974 & 1975.

Even though his first two years in the NHL were abysmal, Rick MacLeish turned into a stellar forward for the Flyers organization. MacLeish registered 328 goals and 369 assists in 741 games over 12 years with the Flyers. His playoff stats are even more impressive. He had 53 goals and 52 assists in 108 career playoff games. During the Flyers two consecutive Stanley Cup seasons, he registered 24 goals and 18 assists in 34 games.

MacLeish proved to be a key piece to the Broad Street Bullies squad of the 70’s. In Flyers history, MacLeish is sixth in goals (328), seventh in assists (369), second in playoff goals (53), fourth in playoff assists (52), and fourth in overall playoff scoring (105).

The Verdict

We may never know what Bernie could have accomplished as a Flyer in those two seasons where he played for the Maple Leafs & Blazers. However, it’s hard to argue that the time spent with Jacques Plante didn’t benefit Parent greatly. Not only did he come back to the Flyers and win multiple Vezina and Conn Smythe trophies, along with two consecutive Stanley Cups, the trade netted a playoff stud in Rick MacLeish.

In retrospect, the trade worked out big time for the Flyers. Factoring in the contract dispute and lack of interest in Parent re-joining the Maple Leafs after playing a season in the WHA, the Flyers got to have their cake and eat it too.

Mandatory Credit – JPG Photography (BernieParent.com)

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