Wednesday

J. C. Tremblay

Jean-Claude (J.C.) Tremblay is one of the most intelligent, two-way defenders of all time. Yet very few give him recognition as such. Tremblay's departure in 1972 to the World Hockey Association on one hand helped to establish the WHA as a true alternative to the National Hockey League, but on the other hand appears to have hurt his shot at eternal fame.

J.C. starred for years with the Montreal Canadiens. He became a regular in 1961 and played for 794 games until 1972. Tremblay was an excellent all around performer during this time, and saved his best performances for the playoffs.


He never was a true offensive force during his first 11 regular seasons. His highest offensive output was 39 points. He was tremendously responsible defensively and a great two way defenseman, often headmanning the puck to the speedy Montreal forwards, but never put up great numbers until 1970-71.

Defensively Tremblay was efficient and heady, relying on his intelligent stick to break up plays rather than bones. He never really had an obvious physical game, something that his critics pointed out regularly. But he was so smart, it did not really matter.

Tremblay established his reputation as a great in the playoffs, where he was a tremendous performer, seemingly able to turn up his game like flicking a switch. He scored 14 goals, 51 assists and 65 points in 108 games, helping the Montreal Canadiens to 5 Stanley Cup championships.

Thanks partially to injuries to Serge Savard and Jacques Laperriere, Tremblay exploded to posted career highs with 11 goals, 52 assists, and 63 points in 1970-71. The following year he scored 6 goals and 51 assists for 57 points. Tremblay had arrived as one of the best players in the league. In the eyes of the unitiated, he went from a good player to a great player.

Then in 1972-73, Tremblay, at the top of his game, jumped to the World Hockey Association. He captained the Quebec Nordiques as he led the league in assists with 75. He also added 14 goals for 89 points. Tremblay went on to be perhaps the best defenseman in the WHA's existence, as he had a career 66 goals and 358 assists for 424 points in 455 games.

Tremblay's jump to the World Hockey Association on one hand helped to establish the WHA as a true alternative to the National Hockey League and Tremblay as one of the highest skilled defenders around, but on the other hand appears to have hurt his shot at the Hockey Hall of Fame.

For years J.C. played in the NHL and didn't put up great numbers until his 11th season. Then, when he reached his prime, he left the NHL to join a league which was mostly regarded to be of lower quality than the NHL. If he had stayed in the NHL he, as it turned out, would have won 4 more Stanley Cups and be part of what many believe is the greatest team of all time (the 1976-79 Canadiens). Who knows how good the Habs defense would have been if Tremblay was added to the big three of Serge Savard, Larry Robinson, and Guy Lapointe?

So while it can be said J.C. Tremblay's jump to the WHA has hurt his chances of joining the Hockey Hall of Fame, Tremblay truly is a legend of hockey.

8 comments:

Dennis Kane's New Excellent Montreal Canadiens Blog 7:06 PM  

Joe, your blog is right up my alley. You're doing a great job. I'm a Habs history buff myself and so I enjoy your's very much. If you have a chance, please also read my Habs blog. I'm at
dennis-kane.com
Thanks and keep it up

Dennis Kane,  7:08 PM  

Great site, Joe. Love Habs history and you're doing a fine job.

kelo,  7:25 PM  

Holy Cow can u say Defenceman. Did this guy ever make a mistake out there. Not when he was playing my Leafs anyway. A tremendously smart player, read the ice well and could he ever headman the puck. I don't know what his plus/minus was because it's a stupid stat anyway but it must of been +500 lol, great respect for him a truly underestimated player. His buddy Lapperiere....not chopped liver either.

mike,  11:57 PM  

One of my all time great experiences in life was attending the J.C. Tremblay hockey school in Laval Quebec.J.C. took the time to teach a 14 year old american kid to keep his head up.He belongs in the hall of fame & was right behind Park with Orr way a head when he went to the nordiques.An unselfish player who new how to head man the puck with a smoothness to his game.

Anonymous,  10:49 PM  

Hi Joe, I love your site. I agree that JC Tremblay's jumping to the WHA hurt his chances of making the Hall of Fame. I believe he should still make the Hall. He was a major part of five Stanley Cup winning teams, finishing runnerup to Roger Crozier one year for the
Conn Smythe. He also finished runnerup to Bobby Orr once for the Norris. He had an outstanding +/- for his NHL career. He is also my favourite Montreal Canadien of all time.

Louis,  7:46 AM  

Great article Joe.

As a kid, I used to go to the Colisee during school lunchtime to see the Nordiques practice. He would spend hours teaching Buddy Cloutier. In the evening, we would then go to the rink and try JC's tricks out. He was truly "The Magician": puck between the legs, banging the puck against the back of the net, lobbing the puck, ... He also had a drop shot with which he scored a few goals!

I got to know him later when he was a scout in Europe. He was a true professor of the game and I fully concur that he deserves a spot in the HHOF.

Anonymous,  10:03 PM  

I agree with the other commenters: JC Tremblay should be in the Hall of Fame!

SUTTER3 12:48 AM  

I enjoy reading your blog, Joe. I agree with other commenters that JC should be in the Hall of Fame.

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