Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Year Baby, Dan Daoust

Feb. 29 is the birthday of Hall of Famer Henri Richard. Also born on this day was current NHLers Cam Ward and Simon Gagne and ex-Toronto Maple Leaf Dan Daoust.

Montreal born Daoust was a 100 point scorer with Cornwall Royals in the Quebec League before signing as a free agent with the Canadiens. As a 20 year-old he scored 98 points for Nova Scotia of the AHL then  65 points in 61 games the following year. He finally made the big club out of training camp in 1982/83 and got into four games with Montreal recording one assist.

On December 17, 1982 Dan Daoust was acquired by the Maple Leafs in exchange for a third round draft pick. The Leafs were an NHL worst 5-18-6, and Daoust stepped right onto the top line centring Rick Vaive and John Anderson. By the new year newspaper headlines proclaimed; " 'Daa-ooo' the war cry as Leafs inch up on Wings." The Canadian Press article said;

Dan Daoust may be a little in the short side to be thought of as a savior but, nonetheless, he has become a favorite to both fans and teammates at Maple Leaf Gardens. Leaf captain Rick Vaive, despite scoring four goals Sunday in leading the Leafs to a 6-3 victory over Detroit, was strictly the second banana in the fans hearts.
The usual tomb-like Gardens rocked to the chant of "Daa-ooo, Daa-ooo" in the third period each time the high-spirited centre's name was announced in scoring summaries. "Daoust has been the spark plug for our line,"said Vaive,"before Danny got here, John (Anderson) was in a bit of a slump and I wasn't going good. Then Danny came in and we all started working hard." "Daoust is so quick, you get used to passes at any time," said Anderson, "He's being a little spark plug since he's been out there."

Daoust would go on to collect 51 points in 48 games with Toronto and claim the centre spot on the All-Rookie Team. The Leafs ended up finishing the year 3rd place in the Norris Division with a 28-40-12 record before losing in the first round to Minnesota. Even with his solid rookie season, Daoust still flew under the wire outside of Toronto. In a preview for a game in Pittsburgh in Nov. 1983, the Pittsburgh Press states,"Getting the puck to Vaive is the responsibility of center Dan Daoust, whose talent far exceeds his name-recognition. "I don't know much about him," Pens coach Lou Agnotti said. "I saw Daoust in Nova Scotia and he can motor. He had a pretty good year last year."

Daoust had 74 points in 1983/84 then 54 the year after, even still, by training camp in 1985 Daoust was being used in more of a defensive role and penalty-killer. He started 1985/86 on the third line with Greg Terrion and Gary Leeman. The Toronto Star on Oct. 1985 had a story, "Dan Daoust doesn't mind playing the role of a checking centre - as long as he gets his share of ice time. And judging by Maple Leafs coach Dan Maloney, he'll probably get it. "I didn't think I got much ice time last season," Daoust said. "I talked to Dan about it this year and he said he wanted me to play a defensive role."

A defensive role was indeed Daoust's new career path as he played all 80 games in 85/86 and scored a mere 20 points. By the following season, Daoust was fully entrenched as a checking forward, and he and Mike Allison formed the first forward unit on the league best penalty-kill unit. By November the Leafs were flying along with a PK rate in the high 80% range with A 5-2-3 record. On November 1, Toronto blanked Detroit 2-0 and Daoust broke his ankle while fighting Gerard Gallant. He would be out for three months. Playing in a total of 33 games that season, Daoust had only 4 goals and 7 points. The Leafs Penalty-Kill finished 14th overall at 78%.

Daoust played three more seasons in Toronto, never topping 18 points. He finished 5th in the NHL with 4 shorthanded goals in 1989/90. He would move to Switzerland the following year and play mainly in the Swiss 2nd Division with HC Thurgau until 1996/97. He even played 6 games with the Toronto Planets in the Roller Hockey League scoring 9 goals and 19 points.

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