By Mike Watson, Sports Talk Philly staff writer
February 9, 1995
When you trade away a popular player in his prime, who had scored 230 regular season points in the last two full seasons as a Flyer, you are taking a serious gamble on your future.
When it pays off, it can change the path of your organization for years to come.
On Feb. 9, 1995, the Flyers traded winger Mark Recchi and a 1995 third-round pick to the Montreal Canadiens for defenseman Eric Desjardins, along with forwards John LeClair and Gilbert Dionne.
LeClair, a 25-year-old just finding his game, had scored 19 goals each of the last two seasons in Montreal. Desjardins, 24, was also growing as a player, scoring 12 goals for the Canadiens. Dionne, also 24 years old, averaged 20 goals each season and had just completed his third full season in Montreal.
The impact of LeClair and Desjardins for the Flyers was almost immediate. Desjardins helped bolster a backline of defense and added a big shot to the power play from the point. LeClair was put onto the top line alongside Mikael Renberg and Eric Lindros. Together, this trio was about to assault any and all defensemen that dare skate back into the corner to get the puck. Thanks to Flyers forward Jim Montgomery, his nickname of the three was "The Legion of Doom" — and boy, was he right.
The addition of LeClair and Desjardins would help lead the Flyers back to prominence in the Eastern Conference. This trade, along with a few other shrewd moves by returning GM Bob Clarke helped the Flyers build a Cup contender. They found their way to the conference finals twice and a Stanley Cup Finals once, in 1997.
In 10 seasons with Philadelphia, LeClair played in 649 regular season games, scoring 333 goals, adding 310 assists for 643 points — a shade under a point per game. He scored 50 goals in three consecutive seasons and followed those up with two 40 goal seasons. LeClair ranks fifth on the Flyers All-Time list for goals as a Flyer, right behind Hall of Famer Bobby Clarke (358).
As for Desjardins, he played in 738 regular season games, spanning 11 seasons as a Flyer. He scored 93 goals, added 303 assists for 396 points and had a plus/minus of 143. In the 1999-2000 season, he finished fourth in the Norris Trophy Voting (NHL Best Defenseman) and named to the NHL's Second Team. His 738 games played as a Flyer ranks him eighth all time, and third among defenseman.
Both Desjardins and LeClair, are in the Flyers Hall of Fame.
As for Gilbert Dionne? He played a total of 22 games as Flyer, without scoring a goal and adding just seven assists. He played in five games for the Florida Panthers in 1995-96 before a five-year stint in the minors with various AHL and IHL teams. In 2001, he took his game overseas, playing two seasons in Germany. Along with being a part of one of the biggest Flyer trades in history, he is also the younger brother (19 years difference) of NHL Hall of Famer Marcel Dionne.
Twenty plus years later, we can be thankful for the successful careers of John LeClair and Eric Desjardins as Flyers. Many a highlight of the late 90s included these two players in one way or another. It was without a doubt, a fantastic run and a great time to be a Flyers fan.