Sirois an Early Bright Spot for CapsPosted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
There weren’t very many bright moments in the early years of Washington Capitals history, but right wing Bob Sirois and the swap that brought him to Washington were certainly among them.
It was 37 years ago Sunday that the Caps obtained Sirois from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for future considerations. Those future considerations turned out to be forward and future NHL head coach John Paddock.
At the time of the Dec. 15, 1975 deal, Sirois was skating for the Richmond Robins of the American Hockey League. That Richmond AHL affiliate was shared by the Capitals and the Flyers that season.
After a prolific junior career in his native Quebec, Sirois was the Flyers’ third-round choice (53rd overall) in the 1974 NHL Entry Draft. He totaled 72 goals and 153 points in 67 games as a 19-year-old for the QMJHL’s Montreal Juniors in his draft season of 1973-74.
Sirois got into three NHL games with the Flyers in his first pro season, scoring his first NHL goal. But the Flyers were in the midst of winning consecutive Stanley Cups, and the Philly roster was a tough one for a rookie to crack. Midway through his second pro season, Sirois’ fortunes changes when the Caps obtained him from Philly for Paddock.
Both players were 21 at the time of the deal, both were Richmond teammates and both were chosen third by their respective clubs in the ’74 draft. Paddock was the first player chosen in the third round; he was the 37th player taken overall. Sirois was the penultimate pick in the third round. Paddock remained in the Washington organization through the 1975-76 season; he wasn’t announced as the “future considerations” in the deal until Sept. 1, 1976.
Paddock had played in eight games with Washington before the deal, collecting a goal and an assist.
The late Larry Wilson – former NHLer and father of ex-Caps coach Ron Wilson – was the Robins’ head coach in 1975-76. He was very complimentary in his assessment of Sirois at the time of the deal that sent him to the District.
“He’s dynamite in front of the net,” Wilson told Robert Fachet in the Dec. 16, 1975 edition of The Washington Post. “He’s electrifying with the puck. He can score goals, he can skate, he’s a strong kid. He must improve his defense, but he’s been working on it and doing well.
“If he’s put on a line with a center like Bill Clement, I guarantee he’ll score 20 goals before the end of the season. He’s a natural goal scorer. He should score 25, 30, 35 a year in the NHL. With the type of team Philadelphia has, after you win a couple of Stanley Cups, it’s hard to break in. But he’ll help Washington.”
Sirois might have scored 20 goals before the end of that season, and he might have scored 25, 30, 35 a year in the NHL. He did score 25 once, but alas, a slew of nagging injuries ultimately derailed what was once a promising career.
Sirois was limited to 44 games with the Caps in ’75-76, scoring 10 goals and totaling 29 points. In 1976-77, he played in just 45 games, picking up 13 goals and 35 points. Finally able to crack the 70-game plateau for the first time in 1977-78, Sirois netted 24 goals, led the team with 37 assists and registered a career-high 61 points to place second on the club in scoring.
In 1978-79, Sirois scored 29 goals and had 54 points in a career-high 73 games, but a torn thigh muscle suffered late in the season shelved him for the rest of the way, killing his chance at a 30-goal campaign.
In 1979-80, Sirois suffered an early season back injury. By the time he returned to action, the Caps had made a coaching change, jettisoning Danny Belisle in favor of Gary Green. Green had never seen Sirois play, and Sirois found himself on the bench when he returned to health in January.
After he and the coach had a talk that led to his reinsertion into the lineup, Sirois got hot. He put up seven goals, seven assists and a plus-7 in 16 games before a bruised rib sent him to the sidelines again late in the season. He still managed a very respectable 15 goals and 32 points in 49 games in what proved to be his NHL swan song.
In addition to the back injury that plagued him throughout his career, the torn thigh muscle that derailed him in ’78-79, and the bruised rib in ’79-80, Sirois also suffered a broken thumb and strained shoulder ligaments while with the Capitals.
During his days in the District, Sirois shared an apartment in Upper Marlboro with defenseman Robert Picard, a junior teammate of his from Montreal. Sirois also briefly skated on the Caps’ version of a French Connection line with Bob Girard and Guy Charron. Girard and Sirois – once partners in a Montreal restaurant – were two of the Caps’ flashiest dressers of that era.
Sirois represented Washington at the 1978 NHL All-Star Game in Buffalo.
As a kid in Montreal, Sirois grew up on the same street where the Richard brothers – Maurice “Rocket” Richard and Henri “Pocket Rocket” Richard – lived.
“As a boy I used to see the Rocket often,” Sirois told J. Russell White in the Jan. 18, 1978 edition of The Washington Star. “It is funny how I’d always talk to him but I never asked for an autograph. I never had any autographs. But all my life I wanted only one thing – to play in the NHL like Rocket Richard.
“Today, I am an all-star like the Rocket used to be. All I want to do is thank God and my parents for helping me to make it where I am and where I want to be.”
Sirois holds the distinction of scoring the 1000th goal in Washington’s franchise history.
Sirois played one season in Switzerland in 1980-81. His career ground to a halt after a 13-game stint with Hershey in 1981-82; the Capitals released him from his contract on Nov. 21, 1981 and he was finished as a player at the age of 27.
The deal that brought him here nearly four decades ago was one of the best trades made in the franchises first few seasons, and one of the last made by original Caps’ GM Milt Schmidt.
A day after the deal for Sirois, Schmidt made another move. He sent forward Stan Gilbertson – the Caps’ leading scorer at the time – to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for bruising winger Harvey Bennett.
Two weeks later, Schmidt was relieved of his duties as the team’s head coach and GM. The Caps were in the midst of a franchise record 25-game winless streak (0-22-3) at the time.
After nearly four decades of Caps history, Sirois still ranks 13th all-time among all Washington players in goals per game (250 or more games played). With .32 tallies per tilt with the Caps, Sirois falls just behind Dmitri Khristich (.33 goals per game) and just ahead of Bengt Gustafsson (.31) and Nicklas Backstrom (.28) on that list.
That’s fairly decent company.
Paddock’s NHL career consisted of 87 regular season games. He finished up with eight goals and 22 points, playing for the Caps, the Flyers and the Quebec Nordiques. Paddock went on to enjoy a successful coaching career in the AHL and NHL. He coached three different clubs to Calder Cup championships and served as a bench boss for both Winnipeg and Ottawa.
In 2009, Sirois authored a book about prejudice against French-Canadian players in the NHL entitled “”Le Quebec mis en echec: la discrimination envers les Quebecois dans le LNH (Quebec Bodychecked).”
The Boston College Eagles earned a 5-2 win over Alabama-Huntsville at the Mariucci Classic in Minneapolis on Saturday night. The victory moved the top-ranked Eagles’ record to 12-2-1 on the season, but it also did something historically significant. The win was the 925th in the illustrious coaching career of Eagles coach Jerry York. That’s one more win than the great Ron Mason earned during the span of his own brilliant career behind NCAA benches. The 67-year-old York has coached three teams – Clarkson, Bowling Green and Boston College – over a period of 41 years. York, a Boston College alum himself, York has won 458 games in 19 seasons with the Eagles.