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Thursday, June 13, 2019

Lost Cards: 1988-89 Pierre Larouche

  Pierre Larouche is one of eight players, and the first, to score 50 goals with two different teams.  Pierre is also one of seven players* to score 40+ goals with three different franchises.  A highly skilled scorer, "Lucky" Larouche was often considered aloof, self-centered and a defensive liability.
  Pierre set records for points, 251, (since broken) and assists, 157 (still a record), while playing for the Sorel Esperviers in the QMJHL in 1974.  The Montreal Canadiens had four picks within the top 12 in the 1974 Amateur draft and it seemed like a good fit for the top rated Quebecois in the draft.  The Habs passed on Larouche twice, at the 5th and 7th, spots before the Pittsburgh Penguins drafted Larouche 8th overall.
  Larouche finished second in Calder voting in 1974-75 and then recorded career highs in goals, 53, assists, 58 and points,111, while finishing 5th in league scoring during his sophomore season.  Pierre followed it up with a lackluster 63 points in 65 games.  A one way player, Larouche claimed that  "if they want me to play defense, they can me another $150,000."  The following season, the Penguins traded Pierre in a four "Peter" trade for another player who former 100pt scorer who had fallen from grace, Pete Mahovlich of the Montreal Canadiens.
  Pierre Larouche was now a Montreal Canadien, but so was coach Scotty Bowman.  Bowman and Larouche clashed over Larouche's easy-going style and lack of defence.  Larouche won two cups in Montreal but was not a factor in those Cup runs, only playing in 11 of 32 play-off games, and netting 7 points.
  The stars aligned for Larouche in 1979-80.  Bowman had vacated the head coaching job in Montreal, Pierre was moved to the top line with Guy Lafleur and Steve Shutt, and he had relatively good health, playing in 73 games.  Larouche scored 50 goals, becoming the first player to score 50 goals with two different franchises. The next season, injuries and perceived indifference returned to Larouche's play, as he netted 53 points in 61 games.  During the 1981-82 season, Larouche was back in the doghouse.  Rumour is the Habs management became incensed when a grinning Larouche, a happy-go-lucky guy, wore a fur coat and Cuban cigar on a road trip with the team.  Larouche had been scratched the previous three games and would be scratched for another two, when the Habs traded Larouche to the Hartford Whalers in a deal for draft picks.

Even in this video, Larouche does not speak like the typical cliché player.

  Although Larouche was a point-per-game player in Hartford, 90pts in 83gp, Pierre was limited due to injuries and the Whalers missed the play-offs in back-to-back seasons.  The New York Rangers signed Larouche as a free agent in 1983 offseason.  Larouche scored 48 goals in his first season as a Ranger.  Larouche is the only player in history to score 45+ goals with three different franchises.  Injuries and perceived indifference caught up to Larouche again.  After netting 63 points in 65 games in 84-85, Larouche, and Mike Rogers, the top two scoring forwards on the Rangers, were sent to the minors to begin the season. Believed to be a message to the rest of the team, new coach Ted Sator sent the veterans to the AHL to begin the season.  Larouche was particularly distressed since the team promptly gave away his number 10 to rookie Kelly Miller and also separated him from the other verteans, by sending him to play for the Philadelphia Flyers AHL team, Hershey Bears, as compensation for the Rangers hiring Ted Sator.  The Rangers finally recalled Larouche in January, and he scored 9 goals in his first 10 games, and 20 in 28 games for the season.  He led the Rangers in play-off scoring as the team defeated the conference's top two teams, the Philadelphia Flyers, 110pts, and the Washington Capitals, 107pts,  but lost to the eventual Stanley Cup winners, the Montreal Canadiens in the Wales final.

The return Broadway and Larouche addressing his critics

  Larouche scored 63pts in 73 games the following season.  10 games into the 1987-88 season, Pierre suffered a career ending back injury.  He officially retired during the 1989 training camp.
  Larouche's final card was part of the 1985-86 OPC set.  I used the 1988-89 OPC set as his final career card.  Larouche had reclaimed his #10 jersey after Kelly Miller was traded to Washington.

1988-89 OPC #267 Pierre Larouche

1988-89 OPC #267 Pierre Larouche

  I mocked up a 86-87 OPC design to commemorate his triumphant return and to capture his time in jersey #24.  Also partially fills the void OPC left in its sets, a la Pierre.

1986-87 OPC Pierre Larouche

  And while we are at it,  OPC skipped Pierre in the 1983-84 set, as he only played 38 games due to injuries.  So here is another missing Larouche card filled.

1983-84 OPC Pierre Larouche

*And the other players to score 40 with three different teams: Frank Mahovlich, Joey Mullen, Dino Ciccarelli, Pat Verbeek, Brendan Shanahan, Alexander Mogilny and Marian Hossa.  Now name the franchises...

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