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10-17-2010, 08:03 AM
  #273
DaveG
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Johnstown selects, goaltender Gilles Meloche



NHL All Star Game 1980, 1982

Quote:
Originally Posted by legendsofhockey
Gilles Meloche was a talented netminder who appeared in nearly 800 games during the 1970s and '80s. He was a true workhorse who saw action in at least 40 games 13 times in his career. His best years came with the strong Minnesota North Stars clubs in the early '80s.

The Montreal native was selected 70th overall by the Chicago Black Hawks at the 1970 Amateur Draft after a solid junior career with the Verdun Junior Maple Leafs. After starring in 45 games for the Leafs in 1969-70, he was named to the QJHL's first all-star squad. Meloche spent most of the 1970-71 season with the IHL's Flint Generals but had little hope of playing for the parent club who had Tony Esposito and Gary Smith between the pipes.

The young backstopper welcomed the trade that brought him to the defensively weak California Golden Seals. During the 1971-72 season, he created a stir by registering four shutouts and a 3.33 goals against average. He continued to provide goaltending heroics for the next few years including the franchise's two-year relocation to Cleveland.

Following the Barons' merge with the Minnesota North Stars, Meloche started to experience winning. In 1979-80, he backstopped the club to 27 wins and led them to a quarterfinals victory over the Montreal Canadiens which ended their four-Cup dynasty. The next year, he combined with youngster Don Beaupre to form one of the best goalkeeping tandems in the league. Meloche took part in the NHL All-Star Game and won eight playoff games during Minnesota's run to the finals.

Meloche continued to work his share of games for the North Stars through the 1984-85 season. In 1982, he won a bronze medal when he represented Canada at the World Championships and helped Minnesota reach the semi-finals in 1984. He played his last three years with the Pittsburgh Penguins before retiring in 1988.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pelletier
Judging a hockey player based on his stats often leads to inaccuracies, particularly when it comes to goaltenders. Gilles Meloche is the perfect example of this.

He surrendered 2756 goals against, more than anyone else in history. His 270-351-131 career record is pretty weak, and his 351 losses is only one shy of the NHL record - set by Hall of Famer Gump Worsley, who played nearly 900 games.

One would decipher from those stats that Gilles wasn't a very good puck stopper. But in actuality nothing could be further from the truth. Quick, agile and a tremendous attitude were his trademarks. Meloche was a very good goalie on some VERY bad teams. If Meloche had played in Montreal during the 70s and Ken Dryden played in Oakland and Cleveland, then we very well might be saying Meloche is one of the all time greats and Dryden would be the one with the poor numbers.

Gilles actually got his start in the NHL with Chicago. He was a happy 70th overall draft pick of the Hawks in 1970 as Gilles grew up idolizing Hawk legend Glenn Hall. Meloche played his first pro year with the IHL's Flint Generals but did appear in two NHL games when Hawks backup ******* broke his arm. It was a good debut for Gilles - he won his first two starts - 6-4 in Vancouver and 5-2 against the California Golden Seals.

Those were the only two games Meloche ever played for Chicago. In the summer the Hawks sent ******* to Oakland for *******. However ******* broken arm had not healed properly and the NHL nullified the trade. The two teams agreed to new terms and this time Meloche and defenseman Paul Shmyr were sent out west.

An interesting story happened immediately after the trade. Shmyr and Meloche disappeared for the next three days. There was much speculation that two would not report to California as they never showed up for their flight. However Shmyr had wanted his car with him out west, so he convinced the young Meloche to join him as they drove 3 days across the country!

You probably wouldn't have blamed anyone for not wanting to go the Seals franchise though. Soon the WHA would raid their roster and they became the NHL's doormats. But Meloche very much enjoyed his time there and looks back on it fondly.

"Oakland didn't have a very good team for most of my time there, but those were good years for me because I was in my early twenties and playing 50 to 60 games a year. I just wanted to play the game. When you're losing three games out of four, four games out of five, its easy to lose your confidence. But I was getting great press and the fans were always with me. I just enjoyed playing the game and I was having fun so I really didn't mind my days in Oakland. I was in the NHL and that was all that mattered," remembered Meloche in Dick Irvin's great book In The Crease.

With such an awful record the Seals were having trouble making a go of it in Oakland, and the team finally moved in 1976 to Cleveland and became the Barons. Meloche accompanied the team to Cleveland, but as Gilles recalls, not much changed.

snip

In 1978 the Barons merged with the Minnesota North Stars. Meloche described his time in Minnesota as "the best time in my career."

"The North Stars had finished in last place overall the year before and they ended up picking Bobby Smith, Steve Payne and Craig Hartsburg in one draft. My first year there we missed the playoffs by three or four points but we made them the next six years and they were great years."

Great was right, especially in 1980 and 1981.

In 1980 the North Stars faced off with the 4 time defending Stanley Cup champion Montreal Canadiens. The heavily favored Habs were looking for their unthinkable 5th Cup in a row! But Meloche and the Stars had a different idea. Meloche was brilliant - so brilliant that long time hockey broadcaster Dick Irvin said "Meloche's goaltending in that series rates among the best I have ever seen in the playoffs!"

Meloche, who had been criticized for not being a "big game" goaltender, shook that label with a 3-0 shutout victory in the Montreal Forum in game one. The very next night the Stars again shocked the Habs with a 4-1 win! The Habs stormed back in the next three games and took a 3-2 series lead, but the Stars continued to fight on. The Stars forced a game 7 with a 5-2 win in Minnesota in game 6. Then the exciting game 7 showdown in Montreal was played. Minnesota's Al MacAdam scored the winner on ******* with around 2 minutes left to play as Meloche backstopped the Stars to one of hockey's biggest playoff upsets.

"That was the greatest thrill of my career" later admitted Meloche.

The Stars bowed out to Philadelphia in the next round of the playoffs, but the next year they made it all the way to the finals where they met the New York Islanders, who won the Cup in 1980. It was an exciting ride for the Stars and their fans, but Meloche knew they were heavy underdogs.

"You know, you get into a series where you don't think you have too much of a chance to win and that's bad because the mental edge has something to do with it. We weren't really in the series but it was still a thrill. I remember losing on the Island and seeing the Stanley Cup on the ice. You know then why its something everybody dreams about."

Meloche continued to play with the Stars until the conclusion of the 1984-85 season.

snip

Gilles finally landed in Pittsburgh where he finished his career with 3 more seasons. Following his playing days he became a goalie consultant and scout for the Pens.

So there you have it - one of hockey's better goalies with some of hockey's worst records


Last edited by DaveG: 10-17-2010 at 08:18 AM.
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