November 22, 2015

Larry Pleau

Larry Pleau was a rarity in the late 1960s and 1970s - an American born hockey player.

He was obviously very highly skilled - far superior to the other Massachusetts kids in his area. At age 15 he left home and moved to Montreal where he would apprentice with the Montreal Junior Canadiens for 3 years. Part of that time was spent playing with future NHL stars like Jacques Lemaire, Serge Savard, Carol Vadnais, Pierre Bouchard.

After Pleau's successful stint in the juniors, Pleau played with the American national team and Olympic team before playing with the Jersey Devils in 1968-69.

In 1969-70 Pleau, who is a distant cousin of the legendary Jean Beliveau, debuted with the Habs, getting into 20 games, scoring just 1 goal. The next year he again saw limited time in an injury plagued year, scoring 6 points in 19 games. His only full NHL season was in 1971-72 and he scored 7 goals and 17 points in 55 games and got into his only 4 NHL playoff games.

Pleau, like so many other good though not great players, was a victim of Montreal's incredible depth. Despite being blessed with high finesse and great stickhandling combined with good size and speed, Pleau never got a chance to prove himself in the NHL.

Pleau jumped at an offer from the WHA in 1972-73. He ended up playing with his close-to-hometown New England Whalers. In fact he was the first Whaler to sign a WHA contract! He was a stand out there for the team's first 4 years, becoming a regular 30 goal, 75 point threat. He was described as an "instinctive playmaker" and "absolutely vital to the Whalers' success." His fine play earned him a spot on the inaugural Team USA Canada Cup squad in 1976.

He played the three final seasons in the WHA Whalers history, but played a much smaller role as age caught up with him.

Pleau of course went on to become a highly front office hockey manager, coach and scout. He coached Hartford through three different stints during the 1980s, compiling a 79-127-34 record in 240 games behind the bench. Today he is best known as the general manager of one of hockey's top teams - the St. Louis Blues. Between his days in Hartford and St. Louis Pleau worked for 8 years for the New York Rangers, most notably as a director of player development.

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