Sunday, 22 May 2016

Les frères Héroux, drafted early by the Canadiens and Nordiques, profiled on RDS

RDS aired one of its “Trajectoires” one-hour specials on les frères Alain and Yves Héroux.  Alain was a first-round pick of the Canadiens and General Manager Irving Grundman in 1982, 19th overall.

Gord Kluzak to the Bruins, Brian Bellows to the North Stars, and Gary Nylund to Toronto were drafted 1-2-3 that year. Leave it to the Leafs to pick a highly-touted defenceman and colaiacovo him.

Immediately before Alain Héroux, Buffalo picked Dave Andreychuk, Detroit picked Murray Craven, and the Devils got Ken Daneyko, who all had 1000+ games in the NHL.

At #21, two slots later, the champion Islanders, with three Stanley Cups already in the bank, picked up Pat Flatley, who for a few years teamed up with Pat Lafontaine to give me nightmares about a ten-year Isles reign.

Anyway, Alain Héroux had the impact of a damp firecracker. I’ve posted before about his being picked:
None of us, no one in the media, had ever heard of Alain Héroux. Marc Lachapelle never uttered his name as far as I could remember in his game recaps. Alain Qui? We furrowed our brow and wondered if this wasn’t a longshot, an outright pander to the fans by an already hot-seated Irving Grundman, trying too hard to get a French-Canadian player on board.

Ultimately no harm done, 1982 wasn’t that great a draft year, and at least we didn’t take Rocky Trottier 8th overall like the Devils did. I hated Brian Trottier, couldn’t stomach the idea of having a player named Rocky Trottier on my team. Not that I’d ever heard of him or anything. I strongly suspected the risible Devils were trying to catch lightning in a bottle and picking the player on his name alone.

And, at least we didn’t double down and draft Yves Héroux, Alain’s brother, the next year. The stupid Nordiques did that. The Canadiens ignored him and picked Claude Lemieux and Sergio Momesso, back to back, bang bang, early in the second round. I was elated over that. Those two were on heavy rotation on Marc Lachapelle’s recaps, and not just for points, they were tough and mean. This was in a time period when the Canadiens would get amazing players from the Q in the second rounds and lower, other players like Stéphane Richer and Patrick Roy, for example.

We never heard much about Alain Héroux, he came and went so fast, I never learned what happened to him. His HockeyDB page is underwhelming.

In the program on RDS, he seems like a pretty mild-mannered guy, and he explains that after one season in Sherbrooke under the new Serge Savard administration, during which they won the Calder Cup, he felt like they weren’t too keen on him, that he was getting passed by their own drafted prospects, so he asked for a trade. He said former Canadiens coach Bob Berry, who was working for the Baltimore Skipjacks, the Penguins’ farm team at the time, expressed interest in having him on board.

Which to me sounds like tampering, we should petition the league for redress, get their 2017 first-round pick or something as compensation, now that dogged investigative journalism has uncovered this outrage.

In any case, the Canadiens complied with his request, bought out his contract, and he attended the Pens’ camp.  They wanted to send him to the AHL, but on a tryout basis only, they didn’t want to sign him to a contract. So he retired, and started working for the hockey company Titan as a rep, and he eventually got into refereeing as a sideline.  Which is fine, the guy had a good life, he has a great family and all, so good on him.

His brother Yves only played one game for les Nordiques, when they were pretty stacked and he couldn’t crack their roster, but he played a lot of AHL, IHL and in Europe.

But it seems like Alain Héroux, as nice a guy as he seems, didn’t have the passion, the temperament of the players Serge Savard seemed to like, Patrick Roy, Sergio Momesso, Claude Lemieux, Shayne Corson, all players with a healthy amount of attitude, they weren’t no pushovers nohow. Alain Héroux kind of confirmed that fact by the very fact that he asked out, instead of going to Sherbrooke for a second season and battling for an eventual roster spot.

So an interesting bit of light shone on a player, a prospect who stumped me when he was picked, during his brief tenure as a Canadiens prospect, and when he dropped off the face of the map.

And it kind of validates Marc Bergevin’s concern with character, how he looks for certain traits in his players. Alain Héroux, as intriguing as his potential might have seemed, clearly didn’t have much ‘dog’ in him, didn’t have the stones for a pro career, all the ups and downs, and the effort that would be needed, if we judge him by his words during this TV program.

And that, as much as size and production and other traits are things which must be evaluated when drafting 18-year-old prospects, so must character, and all it entails, and which separates the wheat from the chaff, the Brendan Gallaghers from the other fifth-rounders with significant hurdles to overcome to ever obtain a NHL career.

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