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Thursday, September 3, 2020

Lost Rookies; 1983-84 OPC Jacques Cloutier

  The diminutive Jacques Cloutier, who is 5'7', played 12 NHL seasons but didn't get a rookie card until into his ninth season, when Junk Wax exploded.  He spent the majority of his career with the Buffalo Sabres, but never had a card while with them.
  Cloutier was star goalie in the QMJHL and the top underage goalie prospect in the draft.  In the two seasons leading up to the draft, Cloutier had 46 wins and 58(!!) wins for the Trios-Rivieres Draveurs.  He ranks 1st and 2nd in for most Wins in a QMJHL season by a goalie.  He is also the QMJHL career leader in wins with 142The Buffalo Sabres drafted Jacques in the 3rd round, 55th overall in the 1979 draft.  He was the fourth goalie drafted and the first underage.  (Fun Fact: Every goalie drafted in 1979 played at least a dozen games.) 
  Cloutier had a disappointing 1979-80 season in the QMJHL, only winning 27 games. After back-to-back 1st team All-Star selections, he was demoted to the 3rd team All-Star.  Cloutier turned pro in 1980-81 but did not make the NHL until the 1981-82 season.  He was called up after Bob Sauve was traded to Detroit.  Cloutier made the most of his opportunity while backing up Don Edwards.  He won his first start on December 20, 1981 against the Hartford Whalers.  Jacques went 5-1-0, .916, and 2.52 before a shot during practice broke his collarbone, causing him to miss the rest of the season.

1982-83 OPC Jacques Cloutier

  Cloutier started the 1982-83 season as the Sabres back-up but digressed from his hot start the previous season.  He finished the season in the minors after going 10-7-6, .858, and 3.50.  On the brightside, Cloutier backstopped the Rochester Americans to a Calder Cup championship in 1983.  On the downside, the Sabres drafted goalie Tom Barrasso fourth overall in the 1983 draft.  The 18 year old Barrasso made the team and became an instant star.  Cloutier played a single NHL over the next two seasons.  During the 1984-85 season, a season-ending injury forced Cloutier to the bench, were he acted as an Assistant Coach for the Rochester Americans.
  Cloutier began the 1985-86 season in the minors was was called up in December.  He earned his first career shutout on March 23, 1986, stopping 30 shots against the Philadelphia Flyers.  The following season he broke camp as the back-up but briefly overcame Barrasso as the starter.  Barrasso struggled early in the season, but eventually got his game together as Cloutier struggled later in the season.  Cloutier played 40 games that season.  His highest single season total as a Sabre. He went 11-19-5, .869 and 3.72.

1989-90 OPC Jacques Cloutier

  Cloutier lost his back-up gig on the Sabres during the 1987-88 season to Darren Puppa.  Although it was Puppa who bounced back and forth between the NHL and AHL, it was Puppa who took over when Barraso was injured in the play-offs. 

1988-89 OPC Jacques Cloutier

  Cloutier started the 1988-89 season in the minors.  He was called up in November after the Sabres traded Barrasso to the Penguins.  Cloutier was once again the Sabres back-up.  That was until starter Darren Puppa went down with a season-ending injury in January.  Cloutier became the starter and held off challenges from Darren Eliot, Darcy Wakaluk, before the Sabres acquired Clint Malarchuk from the Washington Capitals.  Cloutier was the goalie who had to come off the bench to play after Malachuk had his neck cut by a skate.  In his first career play-off start, Cloutier shutout the Boston Bruins.  The Sabres gave him a rest the following night, but he returned to play the final three games of the series.  The Bruins won 4 games to 1.

1989-90 OPC Jacques Cloutier

    With the return of Puppa, and now with Malarchuk also in the fold, Cloutier was the odd man out.  Near the end of the 1989 training camp, he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks to be reunited wth his AHL coach, Mike Keenan.  He set career bests across the board during the 1989-90 season with 43 games played, 18 wins, 3.09 GAA and two shutouts.  His season was cut short with a knee injury in March.  The Blackhawks made the Campbell Conference final but lost the Edmonton Oilers.  Cloutier did return to play a few games but was already pushed down the depth chart by rookie Eddie Belfour. 
  Cloutier was finally noticed by the card companies, as set sized ballooned with the start of the Junk Wax era.  He had four rookie cards in 1990-91. 
  Seldom used by the Blackhawks during the 90-91 season, Cloutier was traded to the Quebec Nordiques for Tony McKegney at the end of January, 1991.  The Nordiques finished last overall and won the Eric Lindros sweepstakes. Perhaps the trade was too late, but Cloutier did not appear in any of the update sets as Nordique.  I always like OPC Premier so I mocked up a card of Cloutier.

1990-91 OPC Premier Jacques Cloutier

  Cloutier played the next three seasons with the Nordiques but frequently battles injuries.  He retired after the 1993-94 season.  Upon retiring, Cloutier took a job as the Nordiques goalie coach.  He was a coach with the Quebec/Colorado franchise from 1994 to 2009.  He won Two Stanley Cups with the team, in 1996 and 2001.  He is now coaching in the KHL.
  I made Jacques a 1983-84 Lost Rookie.  You may have noticed above, there was a 1982-83 one done as well.  The reason I went with the 1983-84 design was that I was already mostly finished the back when I realized, I could have easily made him a 1982-83 instead.  I stuck with the 83-84 since it was basically done and out of the 1980s sets, this is the one I have made the least of.

1982-83 OPC #399 Jacques Cloutier (RC)

1982-83 OPC #399 Jacques Cloutier (RC)


  1. Great article. But, your fun fact about the 1979 draft is flawed; Greg Moffat, the last goalie taken
    Never played an NHL Game.
    Thanks again for the information on Cloutier.

    1. Hockeyreference.com has Moffett listed as a LW, but I can see other sites have him listed as a goalie and even a picture of him. He dressed for a NHL game, but never saw any ice time.
      Thanks for the correction.

  2. So I am huge Cloutier fan...watched him in Rochester when I was growing up. Any chance you produce these cards for sale?