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11-28-2009, 12:53 PM
  #14
Sturminator
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On Tremblay's playing style:

J.C.'s reputation for softness precedes him. He was simply not a physical player, and had the bad luck to play in Montreal in an era when Habs fans were as bloodthirsty as it gets in modern times. They were simply merciless with any Canadiens players who didn't try to drive opposing skaters through the sideboards on every shift. The two main targets for their affection were Tremblay and Bobby Rousseau - two terrifically talented hockey players who simply did not initiate contact. In truth, Rousseau got it worse - being practically driven out of Montreal by the boos of the fans - but Tremblay got a disproportionate share of criticism as well. A few quotes, the first from Joe Pelletier's blog:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Pelletier
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.
from Habsworld:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Habsworld
Tremblay was not a physical player, he never had more than 24 penalty minutes in a season, and he tended to shy away from body contact. Unfortunately, this is what some fans and members of the media focused on.

In 1961-62 Tremblay joined the Habs full time. This coincided with the departure of Doug Harvey from the Canadiens. Harvey had one six of the last seven Norris trophies and was the dominant defenseman of his time and one of the greatest of all time. He had also been a key contributor to six Stanley Cup winners. Needless to say these were huge holes for Tremblay to fill, and in many ways he was never able to escape Harvey’s shadow.

In the next three years Tremblay’s points were 18, 21, and 20. These point totals were not up to the expectations of the Canadiens fans. Combined with the Habs not winning the Stanley Cup, there was a growing impatience. This led to Tremblay becoming the target of the boo birds in the Forum crowd. In many ways this led to psychological scars that never healed for Tremblay, despite his later success.

On November 30th, 1966 in a game against Toronto, Tremblay and teammate Bobby Rousseau became the first players to permanently wear a helmet. Unfortunately, this helped contribute at the time to Tremblay’s soft image.
As opposed to 60's/early 70's Montreal, J.C.'s game wouldn't seem so strange to today's hockey fan. He had some fight in him, and would scrap for the puck when necessary, but the puck (and not the man) was always his focus, and he had a remarkable number of ways of going about establishing control of it. In the defensive zone, the easiest style comparison would be Nicklas Lidstrom. This is not perfectly apt - Lidstrom is better at defending the front of the net, for example - but in terms of stick play and general approach, they aren't so different. One thing that set Tremblay apart was his ability to improvise; he was very good at catching the puck in mid-air and at playing the puck with his feet, to the point that he looked a bit like a soccer player at times. It was extremely hard to pass the puck anywhere near Tremblay because of this factor combined with his hockey sense and anticipation. There was a somewhat "Gretzkian" quality to many of the things Tremblay did on the ice; his control of body and the puck was supreme, and it was very hard to predict what his next move would be.

Defensively, he was one of the best defensemen in the league in spite of his lack of physicality. I've already described how he played, so I'll let a few others describe how effective he was...the first part is from legendary Habs sportswriter Red Fischer:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Red Fisher
During his time, there was nobody better, in terms of taking care of business in his own end of the ice.

He didn't have the size, but few had a better understanding of what was needed to win. Tremblay's colleagues during his years with the team were people such as Jacques Laperrière, Ted Harris and Jean-Guy Talbot, but when a lead had to be protected or an important goal was needed, Tremblay was your man
Pretty high praise from a guy who isn't known for throwing aroung praise lightly. Here's more from Pelletier:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Pelletier
The year is 1966. Ace defenseman Jean-Claude Tremblay is the key player as the Montreal Canadiens defend their Stanley Cup championship.

Tremblay leads all Canadiens players in point scored during these playoffs, tallying 11 points including 1 goal and 6 points in the finals against Detroit. His defensive effort was also supreme. He seemed to always be on the ice for the many crucial situations faced in a playoff game.
...and more

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Pelletier
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.
It seems strange to me that Tremblay has had a reputation on this board for playing poor defensive hockey - even to the point that Devil questioned not whether or not he was an effective #1 defenseman, but whether or not he belonged on a first pairing, at all. For those of us who saw Tremblay play (I am old enough to remember him in his last couple of years in Montreal), such statements are mindboggling, but they seem to have been accepted as fact around here for some time. At any rate, it is hard to imagine that the Habs could have won 5 Cups with Tremblay as their #1 defenseman if he hadn't been very good in his own zone.

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