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Jets dealt soft hands for stone hands

Good morning, folks.

Turns out I was mistaken on what many hockey fans in this neck of the woods consider to be the worst trade in Winnipeg Jets history.

I had presumed the dealing of fan favourite Teemu Selanne to Anaheim was at the top of the list, but from the emails I received in regards to my Saturday mailing on the subject, it appears the swapping of defencemen Dave Babych for forward Ray Neufeld in November of 1985 is the consenus choice.

For those of you who may need a memory refresher:

The Jets selected Babych second overall — behind Doug Wickenheiser — in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft. A 6-2, 215-pound blueliner from the WHL's Portland Winterhawks, the smooth-skating Babych had a pair of soft hands that helped him record 44, 68, 74, 57, and 62 points in his first five seasons in the league.

But in his sixth season, he fell out of favour with GM John Ferguson, who felt Babych was too passive in his game and needed to play with more meanness and intensity. He was unceremoniously traded to the Hartford Whalers in exchange for forward Ray Neufeld, a bruising forward who played more along the lines of how Fergie once played the game.

Winnipeg Jets' defenceman Dave Babych gets ahold of Edmonton Oilers superstar Wayne Gretzky (circa 1985).

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Winnipeg Jets' defenceman Dave Babych gets ahold of Edmonton Oilers superstar Wayne Gretzky (circa 1985).

I never got the feeling Jets fans warmed to Babych's game much, either — I recall hearing plenty of boos directed his way at the old barn — but reading accounts of the trade on Tuesday, it seems he was perhaps more popular than I realized at the time.

The venerable Reyn Davis, who coverered the Jets for this paper back in the day, described the trade like this: "The loss of Babych hit the Jets like a death in the family. More than anyone else, they knew of his enormous talent, massive strength, and pleasant disposition."

I'll say this: Babych did, and still does, have a great smile. Guess Fergie was more interested in seeing his snarl than his "pleasant disposition."

Babych went on to be a mainstay on the Whalers blueline and later spent a fair bit of time with the Vancouver Canucks. In total, he played 1,195 games over 19 seasons, scoring 142 goals and 581 assists for 723 points. 

Ray Neufeld (circa 1988). (Ken Gigliotti / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Ray Neufeld (circa 1988). (Ken Gigliotti / Winnipeg Free Press files)

The Winnipeg-born and Winkler-raised Neufeld wasn't a total bust, but never lived up to expecations and was commonly referred to as "Stone Hands" for what many perceived to be his lack of finish around the net. He played parts of four seasons for the Jets and recorded 61 goals and 66 assists for 127 points in 249 games.

In 1989, the Jets traded Neufeld to the Bruins for Moe Lemay. Um, who?

While Babych had a decent career, Selanne is in the Hall of Fame, so I'm not sure I agree with the Babych deal being the worst in Jets history. But hey, that's the great thing about sports — it creates debate.

As you may know, the current Jets GM, Kevin Cheveldayoff, made a couple of signiifant trades this week, acquiring defencemen Brenden Dillon from the Washington Capitals and Nate Schmidt from the Vancouver Canucks. I doubt the deals will go down as the worst ever, but I suppose they could end up being the best ever if the Jets go deep into the playoffs next spring.

What do you think of the deals?

And, I'd be curious to know what you think Chevy's best and worst trades have been since taking the reins back in 2010.

You know where to reach me — by replying to this mailing or by sending me an email here.


Our Coverage

Shakers and movers: NHL free agency opens today and Mike McIntyre has a column on what he thinks the Jets still need to fill out their roster. He also suggests the Jets are likely to be more frugal than frenzied after a busy Monday night;

Old and new: Along with his column, Mike also has a pair of stories for you — busy guy; one on what Dillon had to say on Tuesday about joining the Jets and one on what Paul Stastny has to say about re-joining the Jets;

Brenden Dillon checks Brandon Tanev of the Penguins during a game in February. (Keith Srakocic / The Associated Press files)

Brenden Dillon checks Brandon Tanev of the Penguins during a game in February. (Keith Srakocic / The Associated Press files)

Something to prove: After a brief stay in the NFL, including 15 games with the New York Jets over the 2017 and 2018 seasons, Bombers receiver ArDarius Stewart hasn't played a football game in years. Jeff Hamilton has a story on how Stewart hopes he can reignite his career in Winnipeg;

ArDarius Stewart (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)


ArDarius Stewart (84) during Bombers practice at IG Field in Winnipeg on Tuesday, July 27, 2021. For Jeff story.

Winnipeg Free Press 2021.

ArDarius Stewart (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press) ArDarius Stewart (84) during Bombers practice at IG Field in Winnipeg on Tuesday, July 27, 2021. For Jeff story. Winnipeg Free Press 2021.

Raise the roof: Jeff also has details on the Bombers unveiling their Grey Cup banner in their season-opening game against Hamilton next Thursday and other tidbits from the training camp, which moved to IG Field for the first time on Tuesday;

Fish fly north: The Winnipeg Goldeyes have officially left their temporary home in Jackson, Tenn. and the team is on one last road trip before finally returning to its real home, downtown Winnipeg’s Shaw Park, to play in front of their fans on Aug. 3. Taylor Allen has a story today with reaction from players and coaching staff on what it means to finally play in Winnipeg.

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