So I was thinking about Dean Prentice, the outstanding left winger who skated on a line with Andy Bathgate on the right and Larry Popein in the middle on some pretty good Rangers teams in the latter part of the 1950s, and who passed away at age 87 on Nov. 2.
I wasn’t thinking that he belongs in the Hockey Hall of Fame, though in a bit I will establish a comparative standard that would certainly seem to indicate that No. 17 has been done wrong by a succession of HHOF selection committees.
Rather, I was thinking about the trade that sent the winger to the Bruins for Don McKenney, a fine center, on Feb. 4, 1963, in the midst of a typical early-’60s Original Six season in which the NHL’s only two U.S.-based Northeast teams both missed the playoffs in six of the decade’s first seven years.
And I was thinking not only how that trade wasn’t exactly a winner for the Blueshirts, but how the Bruins have seemingly gotten the best of the Rangers in just about every deal between the clubs that I could recall.
Guess what? Until Jeff Gorton had baubles to offer the B’s leading up to the 2018 deadline purge, Boston pretty much had run the table.
As follows, ranked from best to worst, the good one or two, the bad, very bad and worst of the eight significant trades between the franchises:
1. February 2018: Rick Nash to the Bruins for Ryan Lindgren, a 2018 first-rounder, a 2019 seventh-rounder, Ryan Spooner and Matt Beleskey.
Pending free agent Nash sustained what became the final concussion of his career in Boston before retiring for medical reasons following the season. The Rangers, meanwhile, not only netted Lindgren, who is fast impressing folks in New York, but K’Andre Miller by virtue of an ensuing draft-day deal that included the previously owned Boston first-rounder.
Enlarge ImageDean Prentice; Rick Nash
Dean Prentice; Rick NashAP (2)
2. February 2018: Nick Holden to the Bruins for Rob O’Gara and a 2018 third-rounder.
The draft choice became Joey Keane, a potential part of the future on the blue line gained for a transitory part of the past on his way to free agency.
3. November 1975: Brad Park, Jean Ratelle and Joe Zanussi to the Bruins for Phil Esposito and Carol Vadnais.
On the ice, it honestly wasn’t all that terrible, the Rangers getting to one post-trade losing Cup final in 1979, the B’s reaching two in 1977 and 1978. But according to the heart, it was the day the music died and never, ever should have happened.
4. February 1963: Prentice to the Bruins for McKenney and Dick Meissner.
From 1955-56 through 1961-62, Prentice was 10th in the NHL with 358 points (163 goals). McKenney was seventh with 387 points (159 goals), per Hockey-Reference. But while Prentice continued to be productive after the deal, McKenney recorded just 50 points (17 goals) in 76 games before he was sent to the Maple Leafs a year later in the Bathgate trade.
5. January 1966: John McKenzie to the Bruins for Reg Fleming.
True enough, Fleming was a fan favorite and a reasonably important part of Emile Francis’ first three playoff teams, but Pie became an integral part of the Animalistic team wearing the spoked-B that won two Cups in the early ’70s while scoring 28 goals or more in four straight years on the line with Fred Stanfield at center and John Bucyk on the left.
6. December 1933: Babe Siebert to the Bruins for Vic Ripley and Roy Burmister.
When the Rangers shipped out Siebert, he was a fading winger. The Bruins moved him full-time to defense, where he became a first-team All-Star before going to Montreal, where he won the Hart Trophy. Neither Ripley nor Burmister made an appreciable impact during their respective short stays in New York.
7. March 2000: Mike Knuble to the Bruins for Rob DiMaio.
Knuble, acquired from the Red Wings entering the 1998-99 season, simply could not establish himself on Broadway (24-25-49 in 141 games) despite getting opportunities to play with Wayne Gretzky and Adam Graves his first year and Niklas Sundstrom and Petr Nedved his second season. But after leaving New York, Knuble emerged as one of the league’s most productive power wingers (243-236-479 in 851 games) while DiMaio rang up one goal and two assists in 12 career games wearing the Blueshirt.
Why the Rangers’ inconsistency might be around for a while
8. May 1976: Rick Middleton to the Bruins for Ken Hodge.
Seriously, need one say more about this one other than it stands as New York hockey’s version of Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps? Even Frank Costanza believes John Ferguson’s deal (under the prodding of Phil Esposito) was worse.
OK, now the Prentice HHOF case. The winger, who played through 1973-74, retired with 860 points (391-469) in 1,378 games, for .624 points per game. His name is never mentioned when the annual balloting rolls around.
Yet winger Dick Duff, a contemporary, was inducted into the Hall in 2006 after a career in which he recorded 572 points (283-289) in 1,030 games, for .555 ppg.pren
It makes little sense, except that Duff won six Stanley Cups with Toronto and Montreal while Prentice won none while skating for the Rangers, Bruins, Red Wings, Penguins and North Stars.
But how many do you think each would have won if they’d exchanged sweaters throughout their respective careers?
Duff, of course, played in New York for a brief time, obtained as part of the package from Toronto for Bathgate in February 1964. He recorded 20 points (7-13) in 42 games as a Ranger before he was sent to Montreal for Bill Hicke 10 months later.
So maybe we can infer.