Wednesday

Wilf Paiement

Wilf Paiement was a big, aggressive, at times cocky right winger. He had a good level of skill to go with that grit, although more often than not was playing on weak teams.

Born in Earlton, Ontario, Wilf was the youngest of 16 children! He followed his brother Rosaire's footsteps and pursued hockey. Most will agree that Wilf was better than Rosie in NHL comparisons.

Wilf had a standout final year of junior with the St. Catherines Blackhawks of the OHA in 1973-74 when he scored 50 goals and 73 assists for 123 points in 70 games. The big right winger with good skating ability also racked up 134 PIM. His combination of scoring prowess and physical play had NHL scouts drooling.

The Kansas City Scouts selected Paiement 2nd overall in the 1974 Entry Draft. It was the first draft for two new teams in the NHL that year, as the Washington Capitals selected Regina defenseman Greg Joly first overall. As Paiement was the original draft choice of the scouts, he is often considered to be the original Kansas City Scout.

The Scouts were of course dreadful in their first two years in the NHL, but Paiement stepped in and was one of the few bright spots. In his rookie season he scored 26 goals and 39 points along with 101 PIM in 78 games. In year two Paiement took his game up a notch despite an injury shortened season. In just 57 games Paiement scored 21 goals and 43 points.

The Scouts franchised relocated to Denver in 1976-77 and became known as the Colorado Rockies. The franchise didn't experience much more success in the Mile High City. But Paiement must have liked the thinner air in Denver as in his first year there notched a career high 41 goals, including 9 on the powerplay. He added 40 assists to lead the Rockies in scoring.

Although the Rockies didn't make the playoffs that first year, Paiement did have a post season to remember. He elected to play with Team Canada in the World Championships for the first time of three years in a row. He had great personal success in all three tournaments but was especially strong in 1977 when he scored 5 goals and 10 points in 10 games and was named the co-winner of the Best Forward award with a budding Soviet superstar named Sergei Makarov.

Paiement dipped to 31 goals in 1977-78 but increased his overall scoring to 87 points with 56 assists. More importantly, for the first time in franchise history, the team made the playoffs. Unfortunately they were quickly disposed of in just 2 games in round 1.

1978-79 proved to be an extremely controversial season for Paiement. In 65 contests he mustered 24 goals and 36 points. But the interesting part of his season was the reason why he missed 15 games. Hewas suspended for 15 games after a sickening attack on Detroit Red Wing Dennis Polonich. In a game on October 25, 1978, Paiement lost his temper and swung his stick across Polonich's face, breaking his nose and causing a bloody cut which took too many painful stitches to count. While the incident and suspension were brutal enough, the story took a different twist when Polonich sued Paiement in civil court. The judge ruled in favor of Polonich and ordered Paiement to pay $850,000 in damages! Fortunately for Wilf and his family, the award was covered by standard insurance in his NHL contract.

His production continued to slip into the 1979-80 season as he had just 10 goals and 26 points at the halfway point of the season. He was traded at the midway point with versatile Pat Hickey to Toronto in exchange for popular Lanny McDonald and a young Joel Quenneville. Wearing number 99 (Rick Dudley also switched to 99 upon Wayne Gretzky's arrival and subsequent popularizing of that number), Paiement finished the year strongly. He had 20 goals and 48 points in the final 41 games of the season to give him 30 goals and 74 points between the two teams. However it was 1980-81 that Paiement enjoyed his finest NHL season. He played in 77 games and scored 40 goals and career high 57 assists and 97 points.

Paiement had a disappointing follow up season in 1981-82. In 68 games with the Leafs he had 40 assists but just 18 goals and was playing weak defensively. He was traded to the Quebec Nordiques at the trading deadline in exchange for Mirko Frycer. Paiement had a strong finish playing with Peter Stastny, most likely the best center he ever had. Wilf finished the final 8 games in a Nords uniform with 7 goals and 6 assists for 13 points. He carried that fine play into the playoffs for his first taste of playoff success - scoring 6 goals and 12 points in 14 games.

Wilf enjoyed almost a full 4 years in Quebec, his longest stay in any one city. He however was never really able to live up to his promise shown in his late season stint in 1982, or his previous form from the year earlier. He had respectable totals of 26 goals and 64 points in 1982-83 followed by a good 1983-84 season - 39 goals and 76 points. He followed that up with declining numbers the next two years - 23 goals and 51 points in 1984-85 and just 7 goals and 19 points in 44 games in 1985-86 before the Nords traded him to the New York Rangers.

In usual form, Paiement enjoyed a good spurt of success in his early days in the new city. With the Rangers he finished the 1985-86 season with 1 goal and 7 points in 8 games before adding 5 goals and 10 points in 16 post season games.

The Rangers exposed Wilf on the waiver wire prior to the 1986-87 season and he was snatched up by the Buffalo Sabres. He had a decent season in Buffalo that year, scoring 20 goals and 37 points in just 56 games.

However he was not offered a contract at the end of the year and signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Wilf had a bad stint in Pittsburgh, scoring just twice in 23 games. He finished his career playing in the minors with the Pens farm team and then retired in 1988.

Paiement, who scored the 100,000th goal in NHL history in the early 1980s, enjoyed a very good career. He fell just shy of 1000 games and posted 356 career goals along with 458 assists for 814 points. He was no softy either, earning 1757 penalty minutes.

Special thanks to Patrick Houda


1 comments:

AH April 24, 2010 at 10:47 PM  

Wilf Paiement was selected the best forward at the 1979 WC - not 1977 WC - along with Makarov AND Boris Mikhailov.

In the 1977 WC, the only award (though unofficially!) he 'got' was the 'Biggest goon award'.

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