North America is home to the four biggest professional sports leagues in the world, all of which have now existed for more than half a century, and because they have been around for so long, each league has certain teams that are more successful and popular than the rest. In baseball, the most historic teams are the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, while in football we have the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers. In basketball, we have the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtic, but in hockey, there are six teams who fit that description. Of those six teams, the Montreal Canadiens stand atop all the rest, as they are not only the oldest team in the National Hockey League, but the most successful, with the franchise having won a record 24 Stanley Cups.
The Canadiens have been around since 1909, and in over a century of existence, the team has produced many players who are now immortalized in the Hall of Fame, and just like every other professional sports team, they have found success thanks to the draft. Every summer, the Canadiens, along with every other hockey team, gather to select players who they believe will help their franchise succeed in the future, and although quite a few of these draft picks turn out to be good or even great players, the majority turn out to be duds. Montreal may be the NHL’s most successful franchise, but they too make their fair share of drafting mistakes, mistakes that are sometimes too hard and embarrassing to forget, and the purpose of this article is to identify 15 of those big-time drafting mistakes.
15. Ben Maxwell
The 2006 draft saw names like Jonathan Toews, Nicklas Backstrom, and Phil Kessel get drafted into the NHL, and in the 2nd round of that year’s draft, the Montreal Canadiens used their 49th pick to select forward Ben Maxwell. At the time they drafted him, Montreal was known for being a small team, which is why it was a bit puzzling that they went out and got another small forward, but in Maxwell’s case, they hoped he would develop skills which would negate his small size. Maxwell ended up playing in just 20 games with the Habs’ main roster, where he put up 0 goals and 0 points, and his production never really improved elsewhere, which is why he has not played in the NHL since 2011. That’s also why Montreal must have wished they picked Milan Lucic instead, as Boston drafted him with the very next pick.
14. Shayne Corson
With this entry we have Shayne Corson, a winger who the Canadiens drafted 8th overall back in 1984, and unlike most of the other players on this list, he actually put up fairly good numbers for the team on a consistent basis. In total, Corson played in Montreal for parts of 11 seasons, where he scored 168 goals and 423 points in 662 games, which are good numbers, but unfortunately for the team, he was a player who was absolutely despised in the locker room. Corson was known for caring more about his own stats than the success of his team, which is a mindset that does not work in any hockey city, especially Montreal, which is why the Habs likely regretted drafting him instead of either Gary Roberts or Kevin Hatcher who were both taken later in the 1st round.
13. Tom Chorske
Over the course of his playing career, Tom Chorske spent parts of 11 seasons in the NHL, where he played in nearly 600 games, and managed to win a Stanley Cup as a member of the New Jersey Devils in 1995, making him a relatively okay player. Chorske was originally drafted by Montreal 16th overall back in 1985, and the winger actually got to play on the Habs’ main roster for parts of two seasons in which he scored 12 goals and 24 points in 71 games. Those numbers though turned out to be too low for a forward taken in the 1st round, so Montreal allowed him to sign elsewhere.
Although he was not terrible, the Canadiens in hindsight wish they could have chosen a different forward that year, as Joe Nieuwendyk, a Hall of Fame-worthy centerman who won three Cups, was selected later that same round.
12. Louis Leblanc
Most of the hockey legends who played for the Montreal Canadiens were French-Canadians who were born and raised in the province of Quebec, and although the NHL took away their regional advantage, the team continues to look for quality Quebec-born players in every draft. In 2009, Montreal used their 18th overall pick to select Pointe-Claire native Louis Leblanc, and aside from him being French, the team thought that based on his junior performance, he would eventually be a welcomed offensive addition to the roster. As it turned out though, Leblanc could not score at the NHL level, posting just 5 goals and 10 points in 50 games with Montreal, and as a result, he has not played in the league since 2014. His selection is something that would really haunt Montreal in the future though, as the Rangers selected Chris Kreider right after Leblanc, and if Montreal had picked Kreider instead, he may not have injured Carey Price a few years ago when the Canadiens had a real shot at winning the Cup.
11. Turner Stevenson
Turner Stevenson played in parts of 13 seasons in the NHL, most of which were, in fact spent, with Montreal, where he scored 45 goals and 101 points in 385 games, which were good numbers for him considering that he always played on either the 3rd or 4th line. Unfortunately for the Canadiens though, they did not want Stevenson to become a bottom six forward, because if they knew that that was the extent of his abilities, they probably would not have used their 12th-overall pick in 1990 on him. Granted, Stevenson turned out to be a versatile player who went on to help New Jersey win a Cup in 2003, but Montreal knows they messed up in picking him, as they could have instead gone with players like Doug Weight or Keith Tkachuk.
10. Matt Higgins
In 1996, the Canadiens decided to use their 1st round pick to select Calgary native Matt Higgins 18th overall, a centerman who was just coming off a junior season which saw him score 33 goals and 90 points. Based on those junior numbers, Montreal was hoping that Higgins would develop into a skilled offensive player who would greatly aid in the team’s scoring, but in reality, he was incapable of scoring in the NHL. Higgins went on to play in just 51 NHL games, all with Montreal, where he scored a measly 1 goal and 3 points, which are abysmal numbers for a 1st-round pick. That is why the Habs greatly regret wasting that pick on him, especially since they could have drafted forward Daniel Briere instead, who was taken 6 picks later, and who finished his career with almost 700 points.
9. Marcel Hossa
Thanks to the three Stanley Cups he was able to win with the Chicago Blackhawks, Marian Hossa is guaranteed to one day be inducted into the Hall of Fame, but the same cannot be said about his younger brother. Unlike Marian, Marcel Hossa was never able to play at the NHL level, as evidenced by the fact that he has not played in the league since 2008 when he decided to go back to Europe. Going into the 2000 draft, Marcel showed potential, which is why Montreal used their 18th overall pick to select him, but they were quickly disappointed, as he played in just 59 combined games over three seasons, scoring just 10 goals and 19 points. If they could do it all over again, the Canadiens would likely skip Hossa, and pick either Brooks Orpik, Justin Williams, or Niklas Kronwall, who were all drafted later that round, who all still play in the league, and who have all won Stanley Cups.
8. Eric Chouinard
Here we have Atlanta native, Eric Chouinard who is yet another forward that the Canadiens wish they had not used a 1st-round pick on, as he was not even capable of playing in 100 NHL games. The Habs picked Chouinard 16th overall in 1998, a decision which at the time seemed like a smart idea, as that year he had scored 41 goals and 83 points in junior. When he was called up to the main roster, though, it became evident that he could not score in the NHL, as he only played in 13 games with Montreal where he scored 1 goal and 4 points. And although he went on to play for both Philadelphia and Minnesota, his production never improved. If only the Canadiens had picked Simon Gagne instead. Although he was drafted 22nd-overall that year, Gagne finished his career with over 822 NHL games and 601 points.
7. Cory Urquhart
As far as drafts go, the 2003 draft is considered to be the best in NHL history, as it produced many good and skilled players who have found various degrees of success in the league. In that draft, the Canadiens used their 40th overall pick to take Cory Urquhart, and though they hoped that he would make the team, he ended up never playing a single game in the NHL. Seeing as Urquhart was taken in the 2nd round, Montreal would normally not regret drafting him, but this is the 2003 draft we are talking about, and as it happens, the Canadiens could have drafted players like Corey Crawford or Patrice Bergeron, both of whom now have their names on the Stanley Cup, and both of whom were taken in the 2nd round after Urquhart.
6. Jason Ward
Not many Canadiens fans remember that Marian Hossa’s brother was drafted by their team, but what even more fans are unaware of is the fact that Montreal actually had a chance to draft Marian himself. In 1997, the Habs had the 11th-overall pick, and instead of taking Hossa, they decided to take winger Jason Ward, which allowed Hossa to be taken 12th overall by the Ottawa Senators. This turned out to be a major blunder for the franchise, as Ward managed to score just 36 goals and 81 points in an NHL career that spanned 336 games, whereas Hossa has played in over 1,300 games, has scored 525 goals and 1,134 points, and has won multiple championships. Granted there was no guarantee that Hossa was going to be as great of a player in Montreal, but he still would have probably provided more offense for the team than Ward did.
5. David Fischer
Former Canadiens GM Bob Gainey was accused of making horrible decisions near the end of his tenure with the team, despite the fact that he was the one who drafted the likes of Carey Price, P.K. Subban, and Max Pacioretty. That being said, though, Gainey did indeed make several mistakes when it came to drafting players, with the biggest one being when he used the team’s 20th overall pick in 2006 to select defenseman David Fischer. The idea was for Fischer to become a solid member of the team’s blue line, but he was never good enough to be called up to the main roster, in fact he was so bad, that he never even played a game in the NHL. Montreal literally wasted their 1st round pick that year, which is a shame, because they had the chance to draft a player like Claude Giroux or Nick Foligno, who were both taken later that round.
4. Brent Bilodeau
Most people remember the 1991 draft because of the Eric Lindros and Quebec Nordiques situation, but for Canadiens fans, the draft was memorable because the team used their 1st round pick to draft Brent Bilodeau. The defenseman was taken 17th overall, and was known for playing a solid defensive game, which is what made his selection somewhat questionable, because the Canadiens at that time were playing in a system that was far more offensively-oriented. As it turns out, Bilodeau never played in a real NHL game, and spent the entirety of his playing career in various minor leagues, which means that Montreal essentially wasted a 1st round pick on him. That was incredibly dumb pick to make, seeing as Glen Murray, who played in over 1,000 games and earned over 650 points, was the very next player taken in that draft.
3. Andrei Kostitsyn
With this entry we return to the 2003 draft, where the Canadiens used the 10th overall pick to select winger Andrei Kostitsyn, who at the time was considered to be a very talented forward. To be fair, Kostitsyn was indeed talented, which is why he spent parts of seven seasons with the team, where he scored 99 goals and 210 points in 379 games. These were good numbers, but they would have likely been much better if he actually competed every time he was on the ice. Kostitsyn’s inconsistent play proved to be his downfall, as he has not played in an NHL game since 2012, and looking back, Montreal deeply regrets using their pick on him, because very successful players like Brent Seabrook, Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Brent Burns, and Ryan Kesler were all drafted later that same round.
2. Ryan McDonagh
In 2007, Montreal possessed the 12th overall pick, and used it to draft Ryan McDonagh, a defenseman who never even got to play for the team as he was traded to the New York Rangers in 2009. So far, McDonagh has spent his entire playing career with the Rangers, where he has scored 49 goals and 212 points in 467 games, and since 2014, he has served as the team’s captain, which shows just how important of a player he is. McDonagh may not put up huge point totals, but he is amongst the top defensemen in the league, and Montreal dealt him away in one of the worst trades the franchise has ever made.
It is because of how good he has become that Montreal is still embarrassed about drafting him, because they essentially just gave away someone who could have been their franchise blue liner for a fairly useless forward in Scott Gomez.
1. Terry Ryan
In 1995, the Montreal Canadiens were already 2 years removed from winning their last Stanley Cup, and although the team and the city were hoping to win another title that year, they failed to make the playoffs, but in doing so, they got the 8th overall pick in that year’s draft. That pick turned out to be the highest the team had throughout the 1990s, and instead of using it to get future Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla, they decided to use it on winger Terry Ryan. Drafting Ryan is without a doubt the Canadiens’ most embarrassing draft mistake, as he ended up playing all 8 of his career NHL games with Montreal, where he did not even register a single point. Meanwhile Iginla, whom they thought was not a better player, has so far played in 1,554 games, where he has scored 625 goals and 1,300 points.
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