His vision for the Gordie Howe-less organization didn’t appear to jive with team executives.
As the face of the floundering franchise, Dionne used his platform to voice his discontent.
It was time to explore options, he demanded.
Alex Delvecchio, Dionne’s former teammate, and the newly elevated general manager, obviously agreed – or grew tired of the constant criticisms – and pulled the trigger on one of Detroit’s most dubious deals.
On June 23, 1975, Dionne, who scored 139 goals during his four seasons with the Red Wings, was traded, along with Bart Crashley, to the Los Angeles Kings for Terry Harper, Dan Maloney, and a 1976 second-round draft pick.
The trade set the franchise back a decade and ushered in the “Dead Wings” Era.
The second overall selection during the 1971 NHL Amateur Draft – behind Montreal’s Guy Lafleur – Dionne established himself immediately as a 20-year-old potential building block with 23-year-old Mickey Redmond and 25-year-old Nick Libett.
As a rookie, Dionne led the 1971-72 Red Wings in scoring with 77 points, including 28 goals. His presence grew with seasons of 90, 78, and 121 points,
But Dionne had yet to compete in the NHL Playoffs.
“People now forget that when I was in Detroit, there were problems,” Dionne told MLive.com years later. “When Gordie Howe left, management could not put it together.”
Meager Trade Returns For Red Wings
In return for a future Hall-of-Famer, the Red Wings essentially received Maloney and Harper. They proved to be quality role players but certainly were not Dionne-like difference-makers.
Dionne retired with 731 career goals among 1,771 points.
In 177 career games with the Red Wings before being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Maloney scored 56 goals. Harper accumulated 74 points in four seasons with the Red Wings.
With Dionne lighting it up in Tinsletown, Detroit went dark. Over the next nine seasons, the “Dead Wings” failed to qualify for the NHL Playoffs eight times.
If only Delvecchio had found a way to keep Dionne happy in Detroit.