Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Claude Loiselle

I best remember Claude Loiselle with the New Jersey Devils and later with the Quebec Nordiques. He bounced around late in his career, a utility forward with Toronto and the New York Islanders - the team he grew up idolizing. But he actually got his start with the Detroit Red Wings.

Drafted by out of Windsor 23rd overall in 1981, it took Loiselle a long time to make it to the NHL. Those 1980s Wings teams were pretty weak, but Loiselle could never crack the lineup on a full time basis. He would be moved to New Jersey in exchange for Tim Higgins. It was a great move for Loiselle, as he found a full time job killing penalties for the Devils. He could quit working in the summer time as a carpenter, as his days of minor league pay checks were over.

A decent scorer in junior, Loiselle never had the skills to star in the NHL. What he did have was heart and desire, and the ability to play a bigger, more physical game than his 5'11" 190lbs body suggested.

In many ways the key to Loiselle's game was the very thing that held him back. His skating lacked speed and agility, which hurt him in Detroit. But eventually he developed incredibly strength and balance. While he was not going to win many races, he proved hard to move off of the puck. This really helped him with his hard hitting approach to the game.

He did have a fair ability to anticipate the play, making him a good penalty killer. And, while most of his goals were of the garbage variety, he did have a quick release on his shovel of a shot. Otherwise his skill set was generally average at best.

In 1989 New Jersey traded Loiselle to Quebec in the Walt Poddubny trade. In 1991 the Nords traded Loiselle to Calgary for prospect Bryan Deasley, only to have the trade voided. When Loiselle's plane landed in Alberta he was told the trade was rescinded because Quebec had placed Loiselle on waivers several hours prior to the completion of the trade. Several teams were said to have put in claims for Loiselle - a nice nod to his ability to play in the NHL - with Toronto being awarded Loiselle's rights.

All in all Claude Loiselle played in parts of 13 NHL seasons, all with some of the weakest teams in hockey history. He scored 92 goals and 209 points, adding another 4 goals and 15 points in 41 playoff games. He was a regular player on both the 1988 Devils and 1993 Islanders teams that made suprisingly deep playoff runs.

Ultimately Claude Loiselle was a hard working player who defied the odds. At the same time he was a replaceable utility forward on some bad teams.


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