January 17, 1998
He was a former first-overall pick who once was quoted as saying, "I am glad I got drafted first, because no one remembers number two." He had not lived up to the hype in his first 301 NHL games north of the border, averaging just over a half point per game. This 22-year-old French Canadian heartthrob, who was once compared to everyone from Joe Sakic, Pat LaFontaine and even Mario Lemieux – was now heading to Philly.
The Flyers traded Vaclav Prospal, Pat Falloon and a 1998 second-round pick to the Ottawa Senators for Alexandre Daigle. The Flyers’ brass hoped that a change of scenery would change the fortunes of this first-overall pick of 1993, along with their own. After all, Daigle was a heralded offensive scorer in Quebec Juniors who would now be playing on a team with 50 goal scorer John LeClair, budding superstars Eric Lindros, Chris Gratton and veteran Rod Brind’Amour.
For the rest of the 1997-98 season, Daigle did perform at a higher level than his previous 38 games in Ottawa. Including an assist in his first game as a Flyer, he recorded nine goals and 17 assists for 26 points in 37 games. Going into 1998-99, the Flyers we’re looking for Daigle to come into his own at age 23 and to see more of the star from his junior days.
That didn’t happen.
The start of his 1998-99 season with the Flyers was good as he scored on the power play on opening night. After that, it wasn’t a downhill slide but more like a face plant to the ice.
As he struggled to score, his desire to play the game lacked, his demeanor to the game was even less and he spent a lot of time in the press box as a healthy scratch for then coach Roger Neilson. Once the trade rumors started to fly, Daigle, his agent Craig Levin and GM Bob Clarke became at odds. After refusing a trade to Edmonton and a contract extension, the Flyers took his nameplate off his locker in the dressing room. Clarke was even quoted as to say Daigle was acting like "a spoiled little girl."
Yes, it was that bad.
Finally, on January 29, Daigle was moved in a three-way deal, which saw him land in Tampa Bay and Andrei Kovalenko arrive in Philadelphia from Edmonton. Daigle’s contribution to the Flyers in the first 31 games of that season was a whopping five points.
Daigle moved on after 32 games in Tampa and signed a one-year deal with the Rangers for 1999-2000. After just 26 points in 58 games that year, he left the game of hockey; undoubtedly living off some parts of the $12.5 million rookie contract he signed back in 1993. He had decided that his heart wasn’t into it any longer and was quoted as saying, "I never really wanted to play hockey but I kept doing so because of my natural talent."
Fast forward some two years later; after failing to be a "Hollywood celebrity," briefly dating Pamela Anderson and playing in a “beer league” in L.A. owned by producer Jerry Bruckheimer, he apparently got the "itch" back and gave professional hockey another try.
He made his way onto the Penguins AHL team in Wiles-Barre in 2002-03 where in 40 games he put up 9 goals and 29 assists – almost a point a game. That earned him a call up to the Penguins where in a more defensive role; he produced seven points in 33 games.
The collective work of his first season back earned him a contract in 2003-04 with the Minnesota Wild. He had his best year in a decade with them, scoring 20 goals, adding 31 assists in 78 games. However in 2004-05, he struggled to find the scoring touch from the year before. After just 46 games and five goals, he found himself in the minors with the Manchester Monarchs.
That would be all for Alexandre Daigle in the NHL, as he took his game – or what was left of it – overseas in 2006, playing in over 160 games in the Swiss League. He played parts of four seasons there and retired in 2010.
Daigle’s name comes up a lot when you talk about some of the bigger flops or busts of those taken number one overall in any draft, not just the NHL Draft. A grand total of 129 goals and 327 points in 616 NHL regular season games will do that. Add that to his career plus-minus of -176 and that tells you all you need to know about his "team" play. He obviously had immense talent but he could not get by with that alone in a league of grown men who were a lot more dedicated to their profession.
Oh, and Mr. Daigle? Remember at the draft when you said no one remembers who number two is? We do remember who that player is. In fact, he’ll be in the NHL Hall of Fame in a few years, somewhere you won’t be going, unless you buy a ticket.
His name is Chris Pronger.
Mike Watson is a contributing writer for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on twitter @Mwats_99.