Monday, December 10, 2007

Habs Goalies Of The 1950's Farm System

Three goaltenders who were developed by the Canadiens in the 1950's during the Jacques Plante reign would go onto very distinct paths. Eddie Johnston would gain fame as one of the goalies for the Stanley Cup champion Bruins in the early 1970's, while minor leaguer Claude Dufour would see his career dawn at the onset of expansion. Bob Perreault, the only one of the three to actually suit up for the Habs, bounced between the two realities of puck stopping, as both an NHL and AHl journeyman.

Bob Perreault 1955-56

Bob Perreault played but 6 games with the Montreal Canadiens, and appeared in 25 other NHL games with Boston and Detroit, while enjoying a 20 year goaltending career.

Born January 28, 1931 in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, Perreault was a graduate of the Quebec Junior Hockey League's Trois-Rivieres Reds, where he spent three seasons in the QJHL becoming a 1st team all star in 1950 and 1951.

Perreault signed as a free agent with the AHL's Providence Reds, spending a season there before being dealt to the Montreal Canadiens 6 games into the 1952-53 season for George McAvoy and cash on June 11. Montreal assigned Perreault to the Quebec Major Hockey League's Sherbrooke Saints.

In 1953-54, Perreault joined the QHL's Montreal Royals before joining the QHL Shawinigan Cataractes for two seasons. In his first year with the Cataractes, Perreault captured QHL First Team All-Star honours and won the Vezina Memorial Trophy as Top Goaltender in the before making his NHL in 1955-56.

Perreault spent the majority of that season with the Cataracts before being promoted to replace an injured Jacques Plante.

Perreault shut out the Chicago Blackhawks 5-0 in his first NHL game and played a total of six games with the Canadiens before he was sent back to Shawinigan. Perreault allowed a total of 12 goals against while with the Canadiens.

After being sent back to Shawinigan, Perreault racked up 2nd team all star honours.

In 1956-57, Perreault split his season with Shawinigan and the AHL's Rochester Americans before being claimed by Detroit (Hershey-AHL) in the 1957 Inter-League Draft. Though Detroit had claimed him, Perreault was destined to playing for the AHL's Hershey Bears where again he was an AHL Second Team All-Star.

The better part of Perreault's 1958-59 season was spent with the Hershey Bears where he captured the 1959 Calder Cup and a second consecutive 2nd all star team placing. Perreault also captured the Harry "Hap" Holmes Memorial Award for fewest goals against. He was promoted to Detroit to replace injured Terry Sawchuk, playing three games with the Red Wings before being sent back to Hershey.

In all three seasons with Hershey, Perreault was given the nod as a 2nd team all star.

Prior to the 1962-63 season, the Red Wings traded Perreault to the Boston Bruins where he played in a career high 22 games. The Bruins traded Perreault in the off season to the WHLs San Francisco Seals where he spent two seasons before being claimed by Toronto (Victoria-WHL) from Boston in the 1965 Reverse Draft.

From 1965 to 1969 Perreault played for the Rochester Americans and was awarded his fourth second all star team selection and for a second time the Holmes Memorial Award.

Perreault had his rights transferred to Vancouver of the WHL after the club purchased the Rochester franchise prior to the 1968-69 season.

Perreault then joined the IHL's Des Moines Oak Leafs for three seasons beginning in 1969-70 before being selected by the WHA's Los Angeles Sharks in the 1972 General Player Draft.

After one season in Los Angeles, Perreault joined the Southern Hockey League's Greensboro Generals in 1973-74 where he ended his playing career.

Perreault is the uncle of NHL Hall Of Famer Gilbert Perreault.

Eddie Johnston - In The System 1955-59

Goaltender Eddie Johnston entered the Canadiens system at the most unfortunate of times, on the brink of a dynasty backstopped by Jacques Plante. The Montreal native would nonetheless go onto win Stanley Cups with the Boston Bruins in 1970 and 1972.

Johnston worked his way through the Quebec junior ranks with the Junior Royals, Trois Rivieres Flambeaux and Junior Canadiens. He also suited up briefly for two senior outfits, the Chatham Maroons and the Amherst Ramblers. Johnston signed on with the Boston Bruins organization and began his pro career with the WHL's Winnipeg Warriors in 1956-57.

In 1957-58, he played for the Shawinigan Cataracts playing 63 games while leading the QHL in wins, shutouts and minutes played.

The Canadiens held his rights again while Johnston was a member of the Edmonton Flyers for the 1958-59 season. They traded Johston away to Chicago Black Hawks in a cash deal on September 10, 1959.

After leading the EPHL in wins and shutouts in 1960-61 and topping the WHL in victories the next year, the Bruins gave him a shot at the big leagues. Johnston received plenty of work in the early stages of his NHL career since Boston continually battled the New York Rangers to stay out of the league's basement. Still, in the days when there were only six full time NHL
goalkeepers, it was a major accomplishment for Johnston to suit up for the Bruins regardless of how bad they were.

In only his second season, the young backstopper played in all 70 of the Bruins' games, becoming the last goalie of his time to do so. Johnston was also one of the last goalies to adopt a face mask after he was hit by a Bobby Orr shot in pre-game warm up in 1965.

Johnston was on hand as the Bruins built around the likes of Orr, Phil Esposito and Johnny Bucyk to become a league power in the late 1960s. By this time he was playing nearly 40 games a season but was definitely the number 2 goalie behind Gerry Cheevers.

The Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 1970 with Johnson as the second stringer. Two years later he led all post-season netminders with six wins and a 1.86 goals against average as the Bruins won their second title in three seasons. A few months later, Johnston was honoured by being named the spare goaltender for Team Canada in the Summit Series versus the Soviet Union.

Johnston played the 1972-73 season with Boston but the club faltered in the Stanley Cup quarter-finals with Jacques Plante in net. It turned out that he was the "player to be named -later" in the late-season trade that brought Plante from Toronto to Beantown. Johnston split the Toronto goaltending chores with Doug Favell and Dunc Wilson in 1973-74 then was traded to St. Louis for Gary Sabourin. He played over three years for a Blues team that was fairly weak in their own zone. He was sold to Chicago in January 1978 and played four regular season games before retiring at the age of 42.

After retiring as a player, Johnston became interested in coaching. Since he often contributed to instruction at practice in his latter years on the ice, this was a natural transition for him. In 1979-80, he guided the Chicago Black Hawks to a 14-point improvement but the club was swept easily by the Buffalo Sabres in the quarter-finals.

When Chicago opted to go with ex-Hawk Keith Magnuson, as bench boss, Johnston surfaced in Pittsburgh as the Penguins' head coach. He spent three years behind the Pittsburgh bench before moving up to the general manager's position. In June 1984 Johnston's announced a change in the Penguins' fortunes when he called out Mario Lemieux's name as the top pick at the NHL Entry Draft. Johnston remained with the Pens' until 1987-88.

Johnston served as the general manager of the Hartford Whalers from 1989 to 1992 but was released after he couldn't get the team past the first round of the playoffs. Between 1993 and 1997 he returned to the Pittsburgh bench and guided the team to a 153-98-25 record and a birth in the semi-finals in 1996.

The career of netminder Eddie Johnston straddled the NHL's Original Six and Expansion eras. He also witnessed first hand the transformation of the Boston Bruins from league doormats to Stanley Cup champions. Overall, he played in nearly 600 regular season games and was considered a steady if unspectacular player.

Claude Dufour - In The System 1955-64

Claude Dufour was a career minor league goaltender who toiled in the Montreal Canadiens system for ten years, playing with almost as many teams in those years.

Born in Trois Rivieres, Quebec on August 13, 1936, Dufour joined the Ottawa Junior Canadiens of the QHL for 10 games as a 20 year old in 1955-56. Later in the season, he managed one start with the Hull Ottawa Canadiens of OHA Senior League.

Dufour later appeared with Chicoutimi Sagueneens (1957-58), Quebec Aces (1957-58), and Trois Rivieres Lions (1958-59) of the QHL before moving through the AHL with Cleveland, Springfield, and Quebec once more.

After a pair of of one season runs in the EPHL with North Bay Trappers and Hull Ottawa Canadiens, Dufour headed west to the WHL for successive seasons with the Spokane Comets (1962-63) and Seattle Totems (1963-64).

Dufour ended his career with three seasons of play with the Hershey Bears of the AHL, seeing action in 126 games over 3 seasons before calling it quits in 1967.

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