Flyer Trades: Acquiring Darryl Sittler

One of the biggest names in Toronto Maple Leafs history is center Darryl Sittler. He is arguably one of the all-time faces of the Original Six franchise along with others like Doug Gilmour, Wendel Clark, and Mats Sundin.

The Philadelphia Flyers eventually obtained Sittler’s services in the early 1980s, and he spent a few seasons representing the City of Brotherly Love on the ice. He wasn’t there long with Philly, but he put up some stellar numbers while with the club.

His Maple Leafs Career

Sittler spent the majority of his career (parts of 12 seasons to be exact) with the Leafs organization. He was selected eighth overall in the 1970 NHL Draft. He had a solid rookie season, tallying 10 goals and 8 assists for 18 points in 49 regular-season games. He also added two goals and an assist throughout six postseason contests.

Darryl Sittler Toronto Maple Leafs
Darryl Sittler was selected 8th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1970 NHL Draft. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

Sittler accomplished quite a bit while in Toronto, with some of his feats being rather incredible. He was named team captain on two occasions with the club. He also hit the 100-point plateau multiple times. He accumulated 100 points in 79 games for the 1975-76 campaign (41 goals and 59 assists), before beating his personal record with 117 total points in 1977-78. Sittler also had three seasons with 90-plus points (90 in 1976-77, 97 in 1979-80, and 96 in 1980-81).

One of the best games Sittler ever played took place in February 1976. He shredded the Boston Bruins by posting a 10-point night, with six goals and four assists, in a dominant victory for the Leafs. To this day, it is one of the best offensive performances of all-time.

Feud with Ownership and Move to Philadelphia

The Leafs’ sole owner throughout the 1970s and 1980s was a businessman named Harold Ballard. He is one of the more interesting figures in NHL history based on a lot of things that transpired under his ownership including the Leafs’ Cup banners being used to catch paint drippings, and the fact that he was convicted of tax evasion and fraud from using Maple Leaf Gardens money for personal reasons.

Ballard also feuded with a few different Leafs players over the course of his ownership. Hockey Hall of Famer Dave Keon had a severed relationship with the Leafs for a while due to how things were between him and Ballard. Keon left Toronto and the NHL for a stint in the World Hockey Association (WHA) with the Minnesota Fighting Saints, Indianapolis Racers, and New England Whalers as a result.

Harold Ballard
Harold Ballard was sole owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs for most of the 1970s and all of the 1980s. (THW Archives)

Sittler had his own feud with Ballard. Sittler’s then-agent Alan Eagleson also had a role with the NHLPA, and did not get along with Ballard or Leafs general manager George “Punch” Imlach. This affected the relationships between the Leaf players and management in both Imlach and Ballard.

One of the biggest parts of the feud involving Sittler included his good friend and teammate Lanny McDonald being traded to the Colorado Rockies. Sittler in protest used scissors and cut the “C” off of his jersey, and he resigned as captain of the club. He was eventually renamed captain the next season.

In 1981, Sittler let Leafs management know that he would waive his no-trade clause (NTC), but that he wanted to go to either Philadelphia or the Minnesota North Stars. He was traded to the Flyers in 1982 for Rick Costello, a 1982 second-round pick, and future considerations that became Ken Strong.

A Solid Fit

Sittler needed no time in getting adjusted in the Flyers lineup. The team already had a stacked group that included other talents in Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber, Ken Linseman, Brian Propp, and Ron Flockhart. All of them helped make Philly a dangerous offensive threat. Linseman and Propp both had 90-plus points (92 and 91 respectively), while Barber just fell short with 89 in the 1981-82 season. Sittler himself produced 14 goals and 18 assists for 32 points in 35 contests. He became another piece of the well-oiled machine there.

Bobby Clarke Philadelphia Flyers
Bobby Clarke was one of many weapons the Flyers had in their arsenal when Sittler arrived in 1982. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

Sittler spent parts of the next couple of seasons in the City of Brotherly Love. He put up the following while he was there:

  • 1981-82: 14 goals and 18 assists for 32 points in 35 games
  • 1982-83: 43 goals and 40 assists for 83 points in 80 games
  • 1983-84: 27 goals and 36 assists for 63 points in 76 games

In addition, the Flyers made the postseason all three times while Sittler was with the team. He posted the following playoff totals:

  • 1981-82: 3 goals and 1 assist for 4 points in 4 games
  • 1982-83: 1 goal in 3 games
  • 1983-84: 2 assists in 3 games

Philadelphia might not have gotten far in the postseason during those years, but Sittler proved he could play right there with the best of them on the rest of the squad. Despite this though, Sittler’s time ended in Philly after only a few seasons, and ended in weird fashion on top of that.

The Surprise Deal

There was a plan that the Flyers were going to give Sittler the captaincy role before the 1984-85 campaign. It was going to be announced before the season opener against the Washington Capitals. However, instead, Sittler was caught off-guard by being traded by general manager and former teammate Clarke to the Detroit Red Wings. The full deal was Sittler for forwards Joe Paterson and Murray Craven.

Sittler played his last NHL season with the Red Wings. He accrued 11 goals and 16 assists for 27 points in 61 games. It was a significant drop in point production from his previous seasons in both Toronto and Philadelphia. He retired following the campaign.

Darryl Sittler
Darryl Sittler is mainly remembered for his time in Toronto, but he was significant for the Flyers in the parts of three seasons he suited up for them. (The Hockey Writers)

He might not have played long with the Flyers, but Philly did a good job bringing Sittler in for a few seasons. He was a superb talent who was in an unfortunate situation with Maple Leafs owner Ballard and general manager Imlach, and he wanted out. The Flyers put together a solid group to attract Sittler’s attention, and they were able to get a few great years out of him. It was unfortunate the way Sittler’s time in Philly ended with the trade, but he will be remembered for what he brought to the rink while he donned the Orange and Black.