April 22, 2016

Jean Guy Lagace

At 5'8" and 170lbs defenseman Jean-Guy Lagace was too small to make a big impact at the NHL level. Undeterred, he persevered to participate in nearly 200 NHL games. He scored 9 goals and 48 points as a puck moving defenseman with good mobility. He relied on positional defense, but, try as he might, he didn't have the strength to compete with the top forwards in the NHL.

Born in L'Abord A Plouffe, Quebec, Lagace was part of the Montreal Canadiens junior system in the days before there was a NHL draft. He would turn pro in the Habs system, albeit spent most of his time with the lowly Muskegon Zephyrs/Mohawks of the IHL because Montreal had too many players ahead of him on their depth chart. He never did fulfill his dream of playing for the Canadiens.

In November 1968, Lagace got his big break. He was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Larry Hillman and played 17 games with the Pens that year. The Pens had high hopes for Lagace, but lost him when he was claimed by the Buffalo Sabres in the 1970 Expansion Draft. Aside from 3 games with the Sabres, he spent the entire 1970-71 season in the minor leagues.

In January 1971, Pittsburgh Penguins reacquired Lagace in exchange for defenseman Terry Ball. Lagace was initially farmed out to the AHL, but by the 1972-73 season he split his playing time between the Pens and the minor leagues. In 1973-74 he spent an injury plagued season in the NHL, participating in just 31 games.

Lagace put in a solid first half of the 1974-75 season before he and goalie Denis Heron were traded to the expansion Kansas City Scouts. In Kansas City he proved to be a stable defensive player for the first time, appearing in a gritty 69 contests.

Although he finally made it to the NHL, Lagace couldn't help but sensing his career was nearing an end as he aged. He opted for a higher money contract with the WHA's Birmingham Bulls for the 1976-77 season. He scored 2 goals and 27 assists in what proved to be his final season in pro hockey.

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