Vincent Damphousse

Vincent Damphousse was one of those players that the Toronto Maple Leafs should have never let get away.

Damphousse was an extremely valuable skater - being able to play both left wing and center with equal efficiency. He was an extremely clever player who somehow has always made those who played with him better. His puck control and passing were only matched by his superior hockey sense.

Damphousse broke in with the Leafs in 1986-87 after a spectacular junior career with the Laval Voisins. In his final year in Laval, Damphousse scored 45 goals and an amazing 110 assists for 155 points in 69 games. Add 36 points in just 14 playoff games, and Damphousse was one of the top prospects in the 1986 Entry Draft. He ended up joining the Leafs as the 6th overall selection. Hindsight is 20/20, but aside from Brian Leetch and perhaps Adam Graves, many would say Damphousse was ultimately the best player in that weak draft class.

Damphousse joined a weak Leafs team immediately, and showed promise. In his first year he scored 21 goals and 46 points in the 1986-87 season - a season which gave Leaf fans their first glimmer of hope in many years. The team seemed to be getting deeper in talent, and even made it to the second round of the playoffs.

The Leafs were never really able to take their game to the next level in Damphousse's tenure, however. Damphousse became a key member of an exciting foursome of scoring stars in Toronto - Ed Olczyk and Gary Leeman worked well together, often with rugged Mark Osborne on the left side. Damphousse was a key member of the second line along with Daniel Marois. Peter Ihnacak and Tom Fergus often served as that duos center.

Over Damphousse's 5 years in Toronto, the talented winger and the team suffered from similar problems. Damphousse was streaky in his younger years. For example, he started the 1988-89 season near the top of the league scoring race with 7 goals and 10 games, but followed that up with just 8 in his next 30. He ended with a respectable 26 goals and 68 points, but somehow Leaf fans always wanted a bit more out of Damphousse.

Vincent was able to put it altogether in the 1989-90 season when he scored 33 goals and had 94 points. He dazzled everyone at the NHL all star game when he was named as the game's Most Valuable Player thanks to a record tying performance. Damphousse notched 4 goals - equalling an all star game record shared previously by Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux (and later equalled by Mike Gartner). Even better, the Leafs returned to the playoffs, although they were dropped swiftly.

Damphousse and the Leafs were unable to duplicate their fine year the following season. Damphousse fell to 73 points, although to be fair that did lead his team in scoring and he was one of the better players. Gary Leeman fell from 51 goals to just 17. Daniel Marois fell from 39 goals to 21, and really struggled when he and Damphousse were broken up due largely to an injury decimated lineup. Wendel Clark played as close to a full season as he could for the first time in several years, although he wasn't the same Wendel as he was before all the injuries. Al Iafrate and Ed Olczyk were both traded away, as was half the team. The Leafs failed miserably, despite Damphousse's good play.

As shown the previous season, the Leafs management were in a hurry to clean house, and Damphousse himself was traded away. In 1991-92 he joined Edmonton in a package deal which saw the Leafs acquire the legendary Glenn Anderson and Grant Fuhr. Damphousse led the Oilers in scoring that season but was then moved on to his hometown where he played with the Montreal Canadiens in 1992-93.

Coming home was a great chapter of Damphousse's career. He was born in Montreal and grew up not far from the Montreal Forum and idolized the charismatic Guy Lafleur. It turned out to be a great move for Damphousse as he spent 7 wonderful seasons in Montreal highlighted by a Stanley Cup victory in 1993 and later being named captain of the fabled team. He was also asked to represent Canada at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey.

In 1999 Damphousse, on the verge of unrestricted free agency, was traded to the team he would ultimately sign with - the San Jose Sharks. He'd spend the next 5 years in California, playing a big role in making the team a Cup contender prior to his retirement in 2004.


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