Francois Lacombe

Francois Lacombe played in 78 NHL contests, including one full season in 1968-69, but he is best remembered for his days in the World Hockey Association.

A defensive blueliner if there ever was one, Lacombe started out as a prospect in the Montreal Canadiens system but quickly found himself traded to the Oakland Seals as a result of NHL expansion. It was a good move for Lacombe, who played the entire 1968-69 season in the NHL. As a 20 year old he stepped straight out of junior and played well, earning 2 goals and 18 points and adding one more goal in the playoffs.

Despite an okay rookie season, it was obvious that the young defenseman needed more fine tuning in the minor leagues. Perhaps the Seals rushed him along a bit too fast and he found himself in the minors the following year, with the exception of two games.

On June 10th, Lacombe was traded back to the Habs organization. He, some cash and Oakland's first round draft pick went to Montreal in exchange for Ernie Hickie and Montreal's first round pick.The key to the deal was Oakland's first round pick, as Montreal used the pick to select one of the greatest Habs ever in Guy Lafleur.

Lacombe didn't last long in his second stint in the Habs family either. On the same day as the trade, the Buffalo Sabres selected the defenseman in the Expansion draft.

Sabres' boss Punch Imlach was excited to get the young Lacombe.

"He's just a baby. He's got a long time yet. And we found out a year ago that he had ability. If he played in this league once, he can do it again," Imlach said at the time.

However Lacombe would only play four more games in the National Hockey League. He was sent back to the minor leagues for more apprenticing for the 1970-71 season and had an impressive 11 goal, 50 point season. The expansion Sabres gave Lacombe a look-see in one game. Lacombe even picked up an assist in that contest.

Despite his great season in the minors, Francois' luck changed for the worse the following year. He found himself bouncing around three different minor league teams and never got settled enough to recapture his form of the previous season.

In 1972-73, Lacombe made a homecoming of sorts. The French-speaking Montrealer signed with the World Hockey Association's Quebec Nordiques. Lacombe played 6 seasons with the WHA Nords, plus one with the WHA's Calgary Cowboys. He was never a star in the WHA, but he did play in 440 games, scoring 38 goals and 177 points. His first WHA goal was also the first goal in Quebec Nordiques history.

When the Nordiques joined the NHL in 1979-80, he returned to the NHL by appearing in 3 games. Otherwise he played what proved to be his final season with the Nords new farm team in Syracuse of the American Hockey League.


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