Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Guy Lafleur drove his career into the guardrail

I read today that Michael Ryder and Mike Ribeiro shouldn't have been cast off from the Canadiens despite their partying ways, that is doesn't matter as long as they produce, since partying never hurt Guy Lafleur for example. To which I'm flabbergasted and retort: "Partying never hurt Guy Lafleur?" What do you say about his last four or five seasons with the team? Were these worthy of a player of his talent?

Here are his stats, with his first season in 1972 listed, all the way to his last one with the Canadiens in 1984-85.

73 29 35 64 48
70 28 27 55 51
73 21 35 56 29
70 53 66 119 37
80 56 69 125 36
80 56 80 136 20
78 60 72 132 26
80 52 77 129 28
74 50 75 125 12
51 27 43 70 29
66 27 57 84 24
68 27 49 76 12
80 30 40 70 19
19 2 3 5 10

I read another post today that trots out the old trope that the Cabal of Ronald Corey, Serge Savard and Jacques Lemaire intentionally humiliated Guy by putting him on the fourth line and ‘force’ him to retire. This one really sticks in my craw.  Sure, three guys whose job it is to ice the best team possible and win the Cup 'made' their 'best' player play on the fourth line.

If Guy Lafleur had abstained or at least moderated his drinking and smoking and other recreational substances, if he wasn’t out partying all night regularly, he would have eased off into the golden years of his career like Joe Sakic or Steve Yzerman did. They adapted and evolved their play to match their eroding skills and the team needs. The reason he ended up on the fourth line and eventually out of the league is of his own doing. He is the author of his own misery.

Is Guy Lafleur a tragic hero to some degree? Without a doubt. Was he a huge influence on me growing up, and the major reason we won four Stanley Cups in the late seventies? Again, indubitably. But was he forced out of the league by sinister forces against which he was powerless? Yes, but only if you are referring to the scourge of addiction.

If Guy had still been potting 30-40 goals a season and was still one of the best skaters in the league, Jacques Lemaire would have been only too happy to play him relentlessly, and Serge Savard would have kept tacking on years to his contracts.


  1. You're wrong pal. A guy just doesn't lose it over one summer. Look at your own stats you provide. Guy was drinkin, smokin and probably screwin' his whole career and always managed to put up decent points including the team leader the year before he retired. Name another player who went from 70 points one season to a 20 point pace the next. No coincidence this happened in Lemaire's first full season behind the bench. A little proof in your B.S."article" would also be nice.

    1. The stats are there for you to look at too. He went from consistently scoring 50 goals a season to being a thirty goal scorer, which in the eighties wasn't anything to brag about. It's okay to love Guy Lafleur, I did when I was growing up too, but he lost his physical gifts and wasn't able or willing to make up for it through discipline and hard work. He wasn't ready to change what he always did, and that included his legendary partying. To blame Jacques Lemaire for forcing him out is ridiculous. They were teammates, linemates for years. If Guy had been able to produce anything, Mr. Lemaire would have been only too happy to give him all the ice he wanted. Guy needs to look in the mirror and accept responsibility for this sad ending to his career. The publicity stunt comeback only added to this sadness, because it showed that had he wanted to, his already great career could have been much longer.

  2. Yeah this is really badly presented. Guy clearly had injury problems in his 51-game season as he was still on a 42G/110P pace. Then his 66/68 game seasons are 32/32-goal paces, and he scored 30 goals his last full year. By your own argument ("potting 30-40 goals a season") he was still quite capable.

    1. Well, yes and no. Please remember that 27 goals doesn't equal 30-40 goals. And yeah, if we factor in a full season, his totals would have been higher, but you could say that about many players and their stats. Injuries happen for a reason, and I contend that Guy's partying and refusal to do any conditioning other than the skating he'd always done, his refusal to stop smoking, contributed to his nosedive in productivity and increased fragility.

      Also, let's remember that 30-40 goals was a much easier target to reach in the eighties as opposed to now. I look at his last seasons' totals now and they're still very impressive based on today's game, but when you look at the leading scorers it brings it into perspective.

      I lived through the Guy Lafleur decline, and it's not an uninformed opinion that his effectiveness as a player diminished greatly, and that he was still acting as if he was the superstar of the team who was beyond criticism.

      Look, I love Guy Lafleur, loved how he played during the Cup years of '76 to '79, he was my boyhood hero. We don't need to vilify Jacques Lemaire as a bad guy to explain why our hero fell on hard times, hard living and advancing years did that.