Carol Vadnais: Underappreciated Blueshirt?
When the news broke over the weekend that former Rangers’ defenseman Carol Vadnais had succumbed to cancer at the age of 68, a couple of thoughts immediately came to mind regarding the six-time all-star, who I grew up watching play for the Blueshirts in the late 1970s and early 80s.
First, I was instantly taken back to the 1979 Stanley Cup finals, where Vadnais, Phil Esposito, John Davidson, Ron Greshner, Don Murdoch, and the rest of the upstart Rangers won the first game of the best-of-7 series in Montreal before losing the next four and coming up short against the powerhouse Canadiens. Vadnais had 11 points in 18 playoff games during the run to the finals.
Second, I recalled that no matter how well Vadnais played for the Rangers during his seven seasons on Broadway, he was never able to escape being part of “the trade” that also brought Esposito to the Blueshirts in 1975 from the Boston Bruins in exchange for Jean Ratelle, beloved blueliner Brad Park, and Joe Zanussi. Vadnais was twice an all-star while with the Rangers (six times overall in his career), but carried the burden of being Park’s replacement, a heralded figure he simply had no shot of succeeding in the eyes of Ranger fans.
For those who were able to look past “the trade” and truly appreciate what Vadnais brought to the Garden ice, they saw a consummate professional who came to battle every night, providing offense in his younger days (he scored 20 goals and added 30 assists in his first season on Broadway), and eventually adapting in his final years to become one of the top stay at home defensemen in the league. (I can still him lifting the puck high over the boards in his own zone whenever his team was scrambling in order to get a stoppage of play).
Vadnais won two Stanley Cups during his playing career, the first with his home-town Montreal Canadiens in 1968 and the second with the Bruins in 1972 (they beat the Rangers in the finals). The six-time all-star was also the first captain of the expansion California Golden Seals for whom he played four seasons from 1968 to 1972. His 17-year NHL career included 1,087 regular-season games, 169 goals, 418 assists, and 1,813 penalty minutes (including a career high 212 with the Golden Seals during the 1968-70 season).
Unfortunately for Vadnais, he will always be tied to “the trade” and the departure of two beloved Rangers in Park and Ratelle. Perhaps now that he is gone, Rangers fans will be able to reflect on an outstanding career (boarder line Hall of Fame) and will be able to judge both the player and his accomplishments on their own merit.