Though Brad McCrimmon never came close to duplicating his junior numbers at the NHL level, make no mistake - Brad McCrimmon was one of the top defensemen in the 1980s. He also spent most of the 1990s as a dependable veteran and teacher. No wonder why became a coach after retiring..
Brad was an incredible junior player with the Brandon Wheat Kings from 1976-1979. Look at his junior numbers:
1976-77 72 GP - 18G - 66A - 84 Pts - 96 PIM
1977-78 65 GP - 19G - 78A - 97 Pts - 245 PIM
1978-79 66 GP - 24G - 74A - 98 Pts - 139 PIM
Plus he was incredible in the playoffs. He average well over a point a game in the post season. In 1979 he helped the Wheaties advance all the way to the Memorial Cup, though his team would ultimately fall short. The two time WHL All Star defenseman also twice represented Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships.
After one of the finest junior careers in hockey history, McCrimmon topped it all off with a NHL 1st round selection - 15th overall in by the Boston Bruins.
Already sporting one of the best young defensemen ever to play the game in Ray Bourque, the Bruins looked strong for years to come on the blueline. McCrimmon developed slowly though, and in his third season took a step backwards, scoring just 1 goal and 9 points in 78 games. .
After those three seasons in Boston, the Bruins took a chance and dealt the still highly thought off rearguard to Philadelphia in exchange for number one goalie Pete Peeters. The Bruins really felt they needed a goalie and with the 1st round draft selection of Gord Kluzak, McCrimmon became expendable. Harry Sinden, Boston's cheap General Manager, later admitted the trade was also fueled by a contract squabble.
Though possessing a strong stride, McCrimmon was not a great skater at the NHL level. He lacked any element of speed and in his early days was weak one on one because he was awkward in his turns in pivots. Over time he learned to overcome his deficiencies by playing the angles and rarely being caught out of position. Once he learned how to do this he really became a solid NHL defensive back liner.
McCrimmon really came into his own in Philadelphia, particularly when he assumed the spot along side highly skilled defenseman Mark Howe. The fierce competitor was never a star, but was a valuable member of the Flyers. He would take care of the defense and physically manhandling players in his own zone allowed Howe to take chances offensively and become one of the best (and most underrated) defenseman in history.
McCrimmon was never an offensive threat at the NHL level, he did put up some decent numbers from 1984 through 1987. Though it wasn't until his trade to the Calgary Flames in the summer of 1987 that saw him emerge from Howe's shadow. He was named as a second team All Star as he posted a league high + 48 as well posting 42 points without Howe (although playing with the likes of Al MacInnis and Gary Suter might have helped his stats some!).
The Flyers traded McCrimmon saying that they needed to get some fresh blood in the lineup as the Flyers were a veteran team. However the Flyers players did not like the trade.
"You can't replace a guy like him," said LW great Brian Propp of McCrimmon. "He was one of our main team leaders."
Propp was right, as the Flyers team that had twice gone to the Stanley Cup finals quickly fell apart (for a variety of reasons, not just because of the loss of McCrimmon).
The Flames traded a 1st round draft pick to Philadelphia in exchange for McCrimmon. The trade came shortly after the 1987 Stanley Cup finals in which McCrimmon was a key performer for the eventual runner up Flyers. The Flames were seeking some veteran leadership, defense and toughness to help guide them to the Stanley Cup finals, and in McCrimmon's second season in Cow Town, that is just what happened. Only this time McCrimmon was the bride and not the bridesmaid, as the Flames won their first Stanley Cup in 1989.
Fearing McCrimmon was nearing the end of his career (just like Philly did 3 years earlier) the Flames moved Brad to Detroit in 1990. By 1992 he was reunited with Mark Howe who joined the team his father made famous. However Brad was soon on the move again, this time to spend three years in Hartford. He'd also spent a year with the Phoenix Coyotes before stepping behind the bench to coach at various levels
Brad retired with 81 goals, 322 assists and 403 points in an amazing 1222 games career. He added 11 goals and 29 points in 116 playoff games.
Brad McCrimmon went on to become a highly respected assistant coach with in New York, Calgary, Atlanta and Detroit. But he really wanted to be a NHL head coach. In order to get more experience running his own bench, he headed to Russia's KHL to coach Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.
McCrimmon would never get the chance to officially coach the team. On September 7th, 2011, in an unthinkable disaster en route to the team's opening game of the regular season, the private jet carrying the team crashed shortly after taking off. 43 of 45 people on board, including coach McCrimmon, perished.