Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Jacques Cloutier Autographed Card

Jacques Cloutier was an average back-up goaltender in an age where 100-point scorers were a dime a dozen - there could be more than 10 in any given year in the 1980s and early 1990s. That's one of the reasons why the 5'7'' goalie never posted a GAA under 3.00 and even went above 4.00 a few times. Then again, playing for the 1990-91 and 1991-92 Québec Nordiques didn't help, either.

Cloutier spent 4 years playing Juniors in the LHJMQ, then most of 7 seasons in the AHL with the Rochester Americans before the Buffalo Sabres gave him a chance to back up Tom Barrasso and Daren Puppa.

He only played 40 or more games twice in the NHL, but during one of those seasons, in 1989-90, he was the Chicago Blackhawks' best goalie, one of three Quebecers to tend the net for them (the other two being Jimmy Waite and Alain Chevrier), with Greg Millen also appearing in 10 games. Cloutier had a 3.03 GAA that season, to go along with 2 shutouts, a team-leading .888 save percentage (yes, you read that right) and a 18-15-2 record. That year, the Mike Keenan-coached team finished first in the league's worst division (the Norris) and went to the Conference Finals.

Upon retiring in 1994, he made the transition to goaltending coach with the Nordiques and their AHL affiliate Cornwall Aces, then made the move to Denver with the rest of the team as they became the Colorado Avalanche. It wasn't long before head coach Marc Crawford made him a full-time assistant, a position he has held ever since, usually following Crawford's replacement Bob Hartley wherever he went, including behind the bench of a reality series about hockey (Montréal-Québec, in 2010-11), in Zurich, Switzerland in 2011-12, and with the Calgary Flames as of last season.

I got him to sign this card for me in black sharpie in the mid-1990s (I'm educated-guessing 96-98), after a game pitting the Avs to the Montréal Canadiens at the then-Molson Centre:
It's from the 1990-91 O-Pee-Chee set (card #378) by Topps. He'd just had his fine season with the Hawks and probably didn't expect to be traded in the middle of the following season to make room for two rookies who'd end up in the Hall Of Fame, Ed Belfour and Dominik Hasek.

I'll likely try to send him some Nordiques cards TTM this season.

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