MONTREAL – Sam Pollock pulled the wool over the eyes of countless rival general managers in his day. But don’t take our word for it; here’s a look at Pollock’s Top 5 moves.
|Sam Pollock has nine shiny souvenirs from his stellar 14-year tenure as GM of the Canadiens. Photo gallery
Flower Picker: Pollock’s dream may have come true when he selected highly-touted Guy Lafleur with the Canadiens’ top pick at the 1971 NHL Draft, but that move was over a full year in the making. Phase one came in May of 1970, when Pollock snagged the Oakland Seals’ first pick at the 1971 draft and Francois Lacombe in exchange for Ernie Hicke and the Habs’ top pick in 1970. Never one to leave things to chance, Pollock didn’t want to risk the Seals not ending up in the cellar of the league standings with Oakland sitting only five points back of the second-to-last place L.A. Kings. Pollock decided to bolster the Kings' lineup by practically handing them All-Star forward Ralph Backstrom, catapulting L.A. to a late-season surge that saw them end up 18 points clear of the lowly Seals. Pollock was then all too pleased to step up to the podium in June with that No. 1 pick in hand to select Lafleur. The rest you know.
Not a “Dry” eye in the house: After watching the Bruins draft goalie Ken Dryden out of Cornell University at the 1964 draft, Pollock began feverishly working the phones like only he could. As he so often did, Pollock got his wish by persuading Bruins GM Milt Schmidt to part with Dryden along with Alex Campbell in exchange for Guy Allen and Paul Reid. Dryden went on be the cornerstone of the Habs’ 1970s dynasty that steamrolled to six Stanley Cups over a nine-year span. As for Allen and Reid, neither player would ever suit up for a single NHL game.
Beam me up Scotty: What good would the slew of incredible talent Pollock had assembled do for the Canadiens without the right general leading the way? After getting to know William Scott Bowman during the young coach’s days behind the Habs affiliate’s bench, Pollock lured Bowman from his first NHL job in St. Louis. The pair proved to be a match made in heaven, with the one-two punch of Pollock and Bowman teaming up for four Stanley Cups in the 1970s. That proved to only be the beginning for Bowman, who went on to become the greatest coach in league history with nine Stanley Cup rings to prove it.
Bird Watcher: Having honed his eye for talent during his days working closely with the Canadiens’ farm team on his way to becoming the club’s Director of Player Development, Pollock also pulled a number of rabbits from his hat on draft day. One of his most memorable draft-day sleeper picks came in the summer of 1971. As if nabbing Guy Lafleur earlier in the day wasn’t enough, Pollock also picked a diamond-in-the-rough defenseman named Larry Robinson with the 20th overall pick. Despite being the fifth defenseman chosen that day, “Big Bird” went to enjoy a brilliant Hall of Fame career and proved to be the undisputed blue line toast of the draft class of 1971.
M&M’s melt in your mouth…: With young Pete Mahovlich already in his stable, Pollock decided to unite the Mahovlich brothers with the Canadiens. Much like the lopsided deal that saw Pollock swipe Pete from the Red Wings in exchange for Gary Monahan in the summer of 1969, the cagey Habs GM returned to the well and obtained Pete’s big brother Frank from those same Red Wings in January of 1971 for Guy Charron and Mickey Redmond. The result: A Stanley Cup that spring with three more to follow for the Mahovlich brothers over their next five seasons in Montreal. Not to be outdone, Pollock then dealt Pete to the Penguins in 1977, in exchange for Pierre Larouche, who would of course go on to score 50 goals as a Hab a few short years later.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com