Legends of Hockey -- NHL Player Search -- Player -- Jean-Francois Labbe
Goaltender Jean-Francois Labbe earned a reputation as one of the top goaltenders in minor professional hockey in the 1990's, but he had great difficulty making the final step to the National Hockey League.

Labbe, who played his Junior hockey in Trois-Rivieres, Sherbrooke and Hull was not drafted despite being a First Team All-Star and the recipient of the Jacques Plante Trophy as the league's best goaltender. Instead he turned professional in the Colonial Hockey League and was an instant success. With the Thunder Bay Senators that year he had such a solid year that he walked away with the Rookie of the Year, Goaltender of the Year and Playoff MVP honours while also being selected to the First All-Star Team. Coming off such a successful year, he earned a contract with the parent club and signed a free agent deal with the Ottawa Senators in 1994. Despite the woeful state of the Ottawa franchise at that time, Labbe was never given an opportunity to play in the NHL and was dealt to the Colorado Avalanche prior to the start of the 1995-96 campaign.

He spent two very successful seasons with the Avalanche's farm team's. In '95-'96 he played for the Cornwall Aces and in 55 games he posted a 2.91 average while compiling 25 wins. The following year Colorado was affiliated with the Hershey Bears and Labbe blossomed into a full-fledged American Hockey League star there. Labbe won 34 games and managed a 2.52 average while also posting a .914 save percentage. He then built on this solid year by elevating his game in the post season. Labbe played a league-record 23 games that spring en route to back stopping the team to a Calder Cup Championship. Labbe was heavily decorated for his outstanding season. He was a First Team All-Star, but also captured the Les Cunningham (League's Most Valuable Player,) 'Baz' Bastien Memorial (Most Valuable Goaltender) and Harry "Hap" Holmes Memorial (Best Goals Against Average) Awards for his troubles. Even though he delivered a dominant performance in the AHL that year, he was never called up to the NHL and when his contract expired after his playoff run with Hershey, he looked for a new opportunity and perhaps an easier road to the NHL then the Avalanche, with Patrick Roy, offered.

Labbe inked a deal with the Edmonton Oilers that summer but was unable to unseat veteran goaltender Bob Essensa for the job as Curtis Joseph's back up. Labbe instead spent that season back in the AHL playing for the Hamilton Bulldogs. In the summer, he once again was a free agent and this time signed a deal with the New York Rangers.

The 1998-99 campaign followed a pattern that by now was becoming all-to-familiar to Labbe. He worked hard but was unable to earn an NHL opportunity and spent the year in the AHL with the Hartford Wolf Pack waiting for his chance. Labbe's frustration showed, as his numbers were noticeably worse then in the previous seasons with his average swelling to 3.22 and his save percentage dipping to .898. During his second year with the Wolf Pack was a much different story, however. Labbe quickly re-established himself as premier goaltender when he won 27 of his starts versus just 13 losses and dropped his average all the way down to 2.52 while improving his save percentage to a very impressive .924. To add to the accolades during his incredible season , Labbe corralled a puck outside his net and shot it the length of the ice for an empty net goal versus the Quebec Citadelles during a game in February. More importantly, however, was the phone call he received just three days after his goal, on February 8, 2000 from New York. He was finally getting called up to the big leagues. Though he would be called up and sent down three times that month, when he was summoned for a fourth time on April 5, it was to start the game, not dress as the back up.

Labbe started in net for the Rangers versus the Montreal Canadiens and was able to turn aside 19 of the 22 shots he faced but was tagged with the loss when the Blueshirts were unable to score a goal against the Canadiens Jeff Hackett. Labbe was returned to Hartford in time to provide the solid goaltending required to guide the team all the way to the Calder Cup Championships where Labbe captured his second league title. Just eight games into his third season with Hartford, the Rangers traded him to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for defenseman Bert Robertsson. Columbus, though an expansion club, was set in goal with promising youngster Marc Denis splitting the duties with veteran Ron Tugnutt so Labbe spent the rest of that season toiling for their minor league club in Syracuse. The following year Labbe delivered a performance so solid that he forced the Blue Jackets brass to take notice of him. Labbe posted career bests with a stingy 2.18 goals against average and a .928 save percentage while piling up 27 victories against just 16 losses. When Marc Denis was hurt late in the season, opportunity knocked for Labbe.

He made his return to the National Hockey League when he was brought in to replace Tugnutt in a game versus the Minnesota Wild. When he stopped all of the shots he faced in his twenty five minutes of ice time, Blue Jacket coach Dave King decided to give him the start the following night. Labbe faced the Pittsburgh Penguins and turned aside 34 of the 36 shots he faced while looking quite at home in the NHL. A few nights later he was once again given the call, but this time did not fair as well when he was beaten four times in just a little over half a game before being yanked in favor of Tugnutt.

It seems, however, that Labbe might have finally earned an NHL spot with his brief late-season stay with the Blue Jackets. In the off-season Columbus decided to trade Ron Tugnutt to the Dallas Stars and unless another goaltending move is in the plans, they will head into the 2002-03 campaign with Marc Denis and Jean-Francois Labbe as their tandem.


REGULAR SEASON PLAYOFFS
Season Club League GP W L T SO Avg GP W L T SO Avg
1988-89 Montreal L'est Cantonniers QAAA 29 22 7 0 1 3.20 5 1 4 0 0 3.42
1989-90 Trois-Rivieres Draveurs QMJHL 28 13 12 0 1 4.24 3 1 1 0 0 3.62
1990-91 Trois-Rivieres Draveurs QMJHL 54 34 15 0 5 3.30 5 1 3 0 0 4.89
1991-92 Trois-Rivieres Draveurs QMJHL 48 30 12 3 1 3.03 15 10 3 0 1 2.50
1992-93 Sherbrooke Faucons QMJHL 3 1 2 0 0 4.16
1992-93 Hull Olympiques QMJHL 43 25 16 2 2 3.44 10 6 3 0 1 2.78
1993-94 Thunder Bay Senators ColHL 52 35 11 4 2 3.10 8 7 1 2 2.19
1993-94 P.E.I. Senators AHL 7 4 3 0 0 3.39
1994-95 P.E.I. Senators AHL 32 13 14 3 2 3.10
1995-96 Cornwall Aces AHL 55 25 21 5 3 2.91 8 3 5 1 2.68
1996-97 Hershey Bears AHL 66 34 22 9 6 2.52 23 14 8 1 2.60
1997-98 Hamilton Bulldogs AHL 52 24 17 11 2 2.85 7 3 4 0 2.90
1998-99 Hartford Wolf Pack AHL 59 28 26 3 2 3.22 7 3 4 0 2.95
1999-00 New York Rangers NHL 1 0 1 0 0 3.00
1999-00 Hartford Wolf Pack AHL 49 27 13 7 1 2.52 22 15 7 3 2.18
2000-01 Hartford Wolf Pack AHL 8 4 2 1 0 3.04
2000-01 Syracuse Crunch AHL 37 15 15 5 2 2.86 5 2 3 0 3.34
2001-02 Columbus Blue Jackets NHL 3 1 1 0 0 3.08
2001-02 Syracuse Crunch AHL 51 27 16 7 9 2.18 10 6 4 2 1.91
2002-03 Columbus Blue Jackets NHL 11 2 4 0 0 3.59
2002-03 Syracuse Crunch AHL 4 1 2 1 0 2.68
2003-04 Lada Togliatti Russia 30 8 1.49
2003-04 St-Georges Garaga QSPHL 11 8 1 2 2 1.97
2004-05 Augsburger Panther Germany 50 3 2.81 5 3.42
2005-06 Nurnberg Ice Tigers Germany 49 3 2.16 4 0 4.63
2006-07 Sinupret Ice Tigers Nurnberg Germany 44 5 2.43 13 2 2.76
NHL Totals 15 3 6 0 0 3.43


QMJHL First All-Star Team (1992)
ColHL First All-Star Team (1994)
ColHL Rookie of the Year (1994)
ColHL Outstanding Goaltender (1994)
ColHL Playoff MVP (1994)
AHL First All-Star Team (1997)
Harry ``Hap'' Holmes Memorial Award (fewest goals against - AHL) (1997)
Aldege "Baz" Bastien Memorial Award (Outstanding Goaltender - AHL) (1997)
Les Cunningham Award (MVP - AHL) (1997)
Harry "Hap" Holmes Memorial Award (fewest goals against - AHL) (2000) (shared with Milan Hnilicka)
AHL Second All-Star Team (2002)
Signed as a free agent by Ottawa, May 12, 1994. Traded to Colorado by Ottawa for future considerations, September 20, 1995. Signed as a free agent by Edmonton, September 2, 1997. Signed as a free agent by NY Rangers, July 30, 1998.
Scored a goal vs. Quebec (AHL), February 5, 2000. Traded to Columbus by NY Rangers for Bert Robertsson, November 9, 2000. Signed as a free agent by Togliatti (Russia), July 1, 2003. Signed as a free agent by Augsburg (Germany), August 4, 2004. Signed as a free agent by Nurnberg (Germany), April 1, 2005.
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