Wednesday

Real Cloutier

On June 8, 1983, Buffalo Sabres fans were ecstatic to learn of a blockbuster trade that landed one of the most electrifying and successful goal scorers in a Sabres uniform.

Scotty Bowman engineered one of his biggest trades as manager of the Sabres when he sent Tony McKegney, Andre Savard, Jean Sauve and a third round draft pick to the Quebec Nordiques in exchange for Real "Buddy" Cloutier and a 1st round draft pick in 1983 which was used to select big Adam Creighton.

Cloutier was the key to the deal. Real was one of the greatest players in Quebec Nordiques history (dating back to the days of the World Hockey Association. He had scored 405 goals in nine years of major league hockey - all with the Nordiques. His goal scoring output averaged 45 goals a year by the time he joined Buffalo, and his resume included 56, 60, 66 and 75 goal seasons!

Much was expected of Buddy when he joined the Sabres who of course already boasted the great Gilbert Perreault.

A new "French Connection" was never successful in Buffalo however. Cloutier only played 1 full season in Buffalo. He scored a respectable 24 goals and 60 points in 77 games in 1983-84, but only played in 4 contests in 1984-85. The rest of the year he was riding the busses in the minor leagues. Age and nagging injury problems slowed down the native of St. Emile, Quebec, as did his habit of hard partying and drinking, which was a major reason for his departure from Quebec in the first place.

It was a quiet end to an otherwise incredible career which started with the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Real succeeded the legendary Guy Lafleur and, while challenging his scoring records, led the Remparts to two consecutive Memorial Cup appearances.

Cloutier and Lafleur would be compared throughout their brilliant careers. Lafleur of course went on to become the National Hockey League's most explosive player in the mid to late 1970s. Real also starred in Quebec, but in the rebel league, and put up equally mind-boggling goal scoring totals. Many argued that Cloutier was every bit as explosive and good as The Flower. Looking at Cloutier's statistics makes it hard to argue that. Lafleur - a three time NHL scoring king with 6 consecutive 50 goal seasons including a career high 60 in 1977-78 - never quite had as fine a statistical season as Cloutier, although many dismiss Cloutier's stats since they were in the loosey-goosey, less-defensive WHA.

Lafleur and Cloutier finally had a chance to go head to head when the WHA folded in 1979 and its remaining teams including the Quebec Nordiques merged with the NHL. Lafleur had a monstrous year scoring 50 goals and 125 points while Buddy put up a very respectable 42 goals and 89 points on a weak squad.

Real struggled through a broken ankle that shortened his 1980-81, playing in just 34 games. However he came back in 1981-82 and scored 37 goals and 97 points in just 67 games. He followed that up with an inconsistent 67 point season in 1982-83. However the Nords grew tired of his drinking problem and off-ice partying, and sent him packing to Buffalo.

1 comments:

kevin October 2, 2011 at 12:17 PM  

Cloutier was the REAL deal for the WHA Nordiques

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