Good and Bad Historical BC Lions Trades

Compared to other sports leagues such as the NHL, NBA, and MLB, it seems like trades do not happen too often in the CFL and when they do occur, they don’t seem to generate too much publicity. When trades occur in the other sports leagues, there is usually so much media attention and the biggest trades are easily remembered for years to come. Many newspapers and sports magazine editorials are about fans ranting off their reaction to a trade. And at least once a year around the trade deadline, sportswriters reminisce and evaluate past trades a certain team has made by evaluating how well the trade was in retrospect. In the case of the Canucks, everyone knows and will agree that Markus Naslund for Alek Stojanov could be the best trade the team has made in their franchise history, while Barry Pederson for Cam Neely and Glen Wesley is the worst trade the team has ever made. It’s easy to find newspaper articles, web pages, and message boards that discuss past Canucks trades, but I have never seen any articles or much discussion about past BC Lions trades, so let’s do that now.

Of course, what can be considered a good trade or a bad trade is rather subjective in some cases. I think we can all agree that a trade that produces a superstar who serves his team well for many years is definitely a good trade. Such trades can be defined as good long-term investments. On the other hand, a traded player who doesn’t perform up to par and is soon released from the team is definitely a bad trade. But what can be subjective and debatable is a player who serves a team very well for only a short amount of time, but then leaves through retirement, free agency, or another trade. There are times when a team trades for such a short-term investment player when they think it will be a missing link to a championship. But I think overall, fans tend to remember traded long-term players much better than short-term players. And analysts often look at which team benefited more from the players they received in the transaction to see which side got the better deal and thus, “won? the trade.

I believe the reasons are twofold as to why trades don’t generate too much media attention in the CFL:

Most players change teams through free agency in the CFL and not through trades. So compared to other leagues, trades are not as frequent in the CFL.

Most trades in the CFL occur during the off-season. This is unlike other leagues where there is usually a flurry of trades by the trade deadline towards the end of the regular season as teams try to patch up their weak spots in preparation for the playoffs. This flurry of trades gives sportswriters an opportunity to produce lots of stories analyzing and predicting the effects of those trades. In the CFL, there may be a bunch of free agent signings in the second half of the regular season as teams sign players that were cut by the NFL, but not so many trades.

Having said that, trades still do occur in the CFL and let’s discuss that now. From your recollection, what are some good and bad trades the Lions have made in their franchise history? Were there any trades that, when they were announced, really shocked or excited you as you thought the trade was so lopsided, either good or bad? And in hindsight, were you justified in your reaction if the trade turned out to be a big steal or a big disappointment?

I will tell you about 14 historical BC Lions trades that I remember. After analyzing them, I consider that half of them were good trades and the other seven were bad trades and I will group them as such. I will provide a detailed description of the trade and explain why I felt it was a good or bad trade.


#1: Kapp for four players
In September 1961, BC sent four players to Calgary in exchange for QB Joe Kapp. Joe Kapp quarterbacked the Lions to their first Grey Cup appearance in 1963 and their first Grey Cup win in 1964 on his way to a Hall of Fame career. Enough said.

#2: Young for Symons and Fouts
In 1967, the Lions traded Dick Fouts and Bill Symons to the Toronto Argonauts in exchange for the rights to Jim Young. This was a mutually good trade for both teams as both Symons and Young eventually became all-stars with their new teams and were both inducted into the CFL Hall of Fame. And the Lions got Fouts back a year later. Jim Young was a great long-term investment for the Lions as he played for them throughout his entire long 13-year CFL career, 197 games from 1967 to 1979.

#3: Parker for (Unknown)
Before the start of the 1984 season, the Lions dealt with the Eskimos for James "Quick" Parker. Parker instantly became an all-star and fan favourite in BC while winning the Most Outstanding Defensive Player Award in both 1984 and 1986 and being instrumental in their 1985 Grey Cup win.

#4: Austin for Barrett
Before the start of the 1994 season, the BC engaged in a three way trade with Saskatchewan and Ottawa that saw the Lions send Danny Barrett to the eastern Rough Riders, Ottawa send Tom Burgess back to the western Roughriders, and Saskatchewan send Kent Austin to BC. Kent Austin served the Lions much better than Danny Barrett did, leading them to a decent 1994 season and with help from Danny McManus, captured the Grey Cup.

#5: Chronopoulos, Stewart, and Snipes for (Unknown)
Also in 1994, the Lions dealt with the Ottawa Roughriders for offensive guard Denny Chronopoulos, defensive lineman Andrew Stewart, and linebacker Angelo Snipes - all key components to the 1994 Grey Cup win.

#6: Millington for Armstrong and Beaudoin
On March 14, 2000, Sean Millington returned to the Lions in exchange for linebacker Antonio Armstrong, offensive lineman Matthew Beaudoin and a fifth round 2000 draft pick. Millington always served the Lions well and upon his return, he won 2000 Most Outstanding Canadian and also helped the Lions win the 2000 Grey Cup with his Most Valuable Canadian performance.

#7: Reid for Belli
In July 2001, the Lions receive Angus Reid along with a 5th round pick from Montreal in exchange for Adriano Belli. Reid served for the Lions fairly well, being in the starting lineup in the 2006 Grey Cup. He served for the Lions longer than Belli for the Alouettes who left for the Tiger-Cats in 2004 before returning to them in 2006 but was recently signed as a free agent by Toronto.

Of these seven good trades, by far the best long-term investment was Jim Young. But unfortunately and ironically, that was also the only trade that didn’t produce a Grey Cup during the traded player’s time with the team. The other trades, while significantly shorter-term investments, did at least produce a missing link to a championship team.


#1: Martino for Clash
Before the start of the 1987 season, the Lions traded good defensive back and fan favourite Darnell Clash to the Toronto Argonauts in exchange for their first round draft pick in 1988, who turned out to be ineffective Tony Martino. Clash was very exciting as a kick returner. Martino was no replace for Passaglia, who went to try out for the Cleveland Browns amid a contract dispute. Martino struggled big time and the Lions had to bring in help in the form of two other kickers, Bernie Ruoff and Roy Kurtz. Eventually, all three kickers were released when Passaglia returned to the Lions midway through the 1988 season.

#2: Dunigan for Sandusky, Stumon, Francis, Braswell, Taylor, and Blugh
In June 1988, the Lions traded with the Edmonton Eskimos for Matt Dunigan. While Dunigan served the Lions well, leading them to a Grey Cup appearance in 1988, the Lions gave up too much for him and the trade was so poorly negotiated. What was supposed to be only a 3 for 1 trade turned out to be a 6 for 1 trade. After receiving Jim Sandusky in 1988, the Eskimos then received Gregg Stumon, Andre Francis, Jeff Braswell, Reggie Taylor, and BC's 1989 first-round draft choice, Leroy Blugh in 1989. Having lost the core of their good defensive players, the Lions had a horrific 7-11 season in 1989 while the Eskimos had a banner 16-2 season.

#3: (Unknown) for Crawford
Three games into the 1989 season, the Lions traded another longtime fan favourite, Larry Crawford, to the Toronto Argonauts for future considerations. I do not remember whom the Lions eventually received in return, but whoever it was clearly did not become a favourite like Crawford.

#4: Johnson, Pless, Baylis, Visco, Tolbert, and Wiseman for Dunigan
On March 20, 1990, the Toronto Argonauts sent quarterback Rick Johnson, linebacker Willie Pless, defensive tackle Jearld Baylis, linebacker Tony Visco, slotback Emmanuel Tolbert and safety Todd Wiseman to BC for Lions' quarterback Matt Dunigan. Matt Dunigan went on to two great seasons with the Argos, leading them to a very explosive offence in 1990 and a Grey Cup in 1991. But unlike the Eskimos with the six players that they received for Dunigan, the Lions could not capitalize at all with the six players they received for Dunigan. Rick Johnson retired shortly after the trade and the Lions didn't really need another quarterback as they already had at least four eligible QB's at training camp, While Todd Wiseman played for the Lions in 1987-88, he never played a single game for the Lions in 1990 as he was released. Emmanual Tolbert had minimal impact for the team as he played only 7 games before being released, as was Tony Visco after 12 games. Jearld Baylis didn't play in 1990 either and provided minimal contributions in 7 games that he played in 1991. As a result, the Lions had another horrific 6-11-1 season in 1990. The only player who had a positive effect was Willie Pless, who played in all 18 games in 1990 and was selected as an all-star. Unfortunately, the Lions immediately lost Pless after that season a free agent to the Eskimos, where he went on to have several all-star years and won many defensive player of the year awards.

#5: Barrett for Romano and Crysdale
In the spring of 1992, the Lions traded offensive guard Rocco Romano and fellow offensive lineman Jamie Crysdale to the Calgary Stampeders in exchange for quarterback Danny Barrett. Romano went on to have several all-star seasons with Calgary and was recently inducted into the CFL Hall of Fame while Crysdale had many solid seasons too. But Barrett was very ineffective as the Lions new starting QB as he was no replacement for Flutie and was often booed on the field so he lasted only two years. Of course, I know that the Lions were looking for a new starting QB after Flutie was lost as a free agent to Calgary and Barrett had then become expendable with the Stampeders. But in my opinion, I felt that the Lions should have made a bigger effort to re-sign Matt Dunigan, who had just become a free agent after leading the Argos to the 1991 Grey Cup. Instead, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers managed to sign Dunigan, where he led them to two straight Grey Cup appearances in 1992 and 1993.

#6: Perez for Jones
Of the seven that I’ve listed, this one will likely be the most debatable as to whether it could be considered a bad trade. I listed this as a bad trade because it was only a short-term investment for the Lions. On February 28, 2000 the Lions traded their backup QB Khari Jones to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in exhcnage for offensive tackle Chris Perez. While Perez served the Lions well with his all-star performance in 2000, providing good blocking and protection for Allen while playing all 18 games and was a vital part in their Grey Cup win, he was lost immediately after that season. Unlike Romano and Crysdale for Calgary, Perez didn’t serve as a long-term outstanding lineman for the Lions. Khari Jones went on to become Most Outstanding Player in 2001 while guiding the Blue Bombers to a Grey Cup appearance, and in 2002 he helped Milt Stegall win Most Outstanding Player and easily demolished the Lions in the WDSF. So long-term wise, it was a better deal for Winnipeg.

#7: McKay-Loescher and Pierre-Louis for Allen
Perhaps this will be the next most debatable as to whether it constitutes a bad trade. On June 7, 2003, the Lions sent pro football's all-time leading passer Damon Allen to the Toronto Argos in exchange for a 2nd round draft pick (DE Nautyn McKay-Loescher) in the 2004 CFL College Draft and a 3rd round pick (LB Patrick Pierre-Louis) in the 2005 CFL College Draft. Allen went on to help the Argos beat the Lions in the 2004 Grey Cup with his MVP performance, and also won 2005 Most Outstanding Player while McKay-Loescher and Pierre-Louis have been slow to develop for the Lions. And McKay-Loescher was just lost a few days ago as a free agent to Hamilton. So unless he returns to the team sometime, it is unlikely he will become a superstar for the Lions like the superstar that was traded away for him.

Of these seven bad trades, none of them turned out to be a good, long-term investment for the Lions. The only one that led to directly to a championship was the Perez for Khari trade so that is why I said it was the most debatable but like the others, it was only a short-term investment. In at least five of the cases, it seemed like the other team benefited much better and longer and thus, it is why I consider it a bad trade for the Lions as they didn’t benefit nearly as much from the transaction as the other team.

So what do you think about my assessments? Also, if there are any additional past Lions trades that you remember, by all means list them and tell us whether you think they were good or bad trades, and why.

For the most part I agree with your choices.
I also would have the Dunnigan trade here as too costly and the one that sent him to TO as disastrous.
I believe Quick Parker came to BC for Frank Balkovec and Laurent DesLauriers ----man the stuff that sticks in my head! I think I would have added Nick Hebeler to TO for Jan Carinci, not a blockbuster but Orange Shoes never had a good season again and Carinci was a versatile guy for several seasons.

Giving Larry Highbaugh and Dave Wilkenson to Edmonton wasn't the wisest.

I know it wasn't a trade but losing Doug Flutie was one of the worst personnel decisions in Vancouver history ---never mind just the Lions.

Wow,you did your homework.Your assessments are pretty accurate.That Crawford trade for future considerations still makes me cringe.

Agreed. Nick Hebeler was near the end of his prime and I believe he retired shortly after the trade. Jan Carinci served the Lions well for five good seasons as he was very reliable down the middle.

Giving Larry Highbaugh and Dave Wilkenson to Edmonton wasn't the wisest.
You mean [u]Tom[/u] Wilkenson. But were Highbaugh and Wilkenson [i]traded[/i] to the Eskimos or were they released by the Lions and then signed by the Eskimos?
losing Doug Flutie was one of the worst personnel decisions in Vancouver history ---never mind just the Lions.
Yeah, but let's just stick with trades only in this thread.

BC42, do you remember exactly who was eventually received from the Argos for Larry Crawford? That is something that I've been unable to figure out.[/i]

You mean Tom Wilkenson
Well maybe he was Dave to his friends. How do I remember Frank Balkovic and forget "Tom"!

Since you agree with most, but not all of my choices, then do you disagree with some of my assessment? If you do, then which ones do you disagree with?