Montreal fans are some of the loudest, wildest, and most passionate of all the hockey lovers out there. They riot when they win a Cup (1986, 1993). They riot when players are unfairly suspended (Maurice Richard, 1955). They riot after a playoff victory (2008, 2010). But they also mourn when their beloved former players pass away (Dickie Moore, Jean Beliveau). They scream outrage when a favorite player leaves (PK Subban, 2016). They ache when dedicated Le CH members pass on (head equipment manager Eddy Palchak, 2011). They feel things keenly. They feel everything keenly.
It’s no surprise, then, that when their GMs made trade decisions they don’t approve of, Habs lovers will hold onto their bitterness for years, even decades. Sure, every team has the occasional transaction that turns out to be less than ideal, but the French fans seem to feel it more deeply than others, and they definitely hold the grudge longer.
This list of mind-boggling trades is made all the more embarrassing for the players, the management, and die-hards everywhere simply because the fans’ emotions and reactions are so strong. Last year’s transaction that saw Subban join the Nashville Predators is the most recent example, and the team is still feeling the sting a year later – although, after Nashville’s incredulous journey to the Stanley Cup finals this year, it’s more like a knife through the heart than a simple sting. That sure didn’t help.
Management makes mistakes, we get that. You’d think they’d learn from past mistakes, though! When you take over an official position after someone else steps down, it’s standard practice to research your predecessor’s job performance, right? So you can perform as well, preferably better. The Montreal Canadiens have had several GMs who seem to have ignored this crucial aspect of the job, though, and these trades have left us scratching our heads in disbelief and feeling our cheeks flame with indignation and embarrassment.
15 Patrick Roy
Patrick Roy is an icon of the sport. What makes this trade particularly embarrassing is how and why it happened. Coach Mario Tremblay and Roy are said to have had a testy relationship, to put it nicely. During that fateful game against Detroit, the worst home game in Montreal’s history, Roy allowed nine goals on 26 shots, and he claims Tremblay kept him in net just to humiliate him. His fateful words to then-president, Ronald Corey, “It’s my last game in Montreal” will never be forgotten.
Whether or not Tremblay was purposely tormenting the great goaltender, Roy should not have caused a scene and ended his career with a franchise that loved and support him. On the other hand, management should have tried to smooth things over so Roy would stay. And really, they could have tried a bit harder and replaced St. Patrick with someone of similar caliber. Jocelyn Thibault, Martin Rucinsky, and Andrei Kovalenko weren’t even on the same playing field – er, ice rink.
14 Chris Chelios
This was a case of severe buyer’s remorse, really. They should have picked Denis Savard as their 1980 first overall pick, but they went with Doug Wickenheiser instead, and he stuck around for barely four seasons. When they finally had another opportunity to snatch Savard up, they took it, never mind that injuries had caused him to miss 42 games over the past two seasons. Overall, his Montreal performance was decent but didn’t come close to matching his Chicago play.
Chelios, though, was already a Norris winner by the time they shipped him to Chicago. And we all know how he became part of the Blackhawk backbone and continued in the same way with Detroit. He picked up two more Norris Trophies post-Montreal, was an All-Star six more times, won two Stanley Cups with the Red Wings, and now is a Hall of Fame member. The Chelios-Savard trade sticks in the craw, as any Habs fan will tell you.
13 Rogie Vachon
As a two-time Stanley Cup champion and Vezina winner, Vachon’s reflexes were near flawless when he was traded to LA in 1971. He became the best goalie the Kings have ever had, holding the records for the goalie with the most shutouts, most games played, and most wins in franchise history. In fact, LA retired his number in January 1985.
In return for sending LA this superstar, Montreal picked up Denis DeJordy, Dale Hoganson, Noel Price, and Doug Robinson. DeJordy played seven games with the Habs and was promptly traded to Detroit for the following season. The word “letdown” doesn’t begin to describe Hoganson’s 4.52 goals-against average in only seven games. Price lasted a bit longer, two seasons, but still only brought in a lackluster nine points. And Robinson didn’t play with Montreal at all; they sent him to play with the Nova Scotia Voyageurs of the AHL instead.
Then-GM Sam Pollock showed that even the best in the business could make a mistake.
12 Pierre Turgeon
As if Patrick Roy wasn’t enough, Rejean Houle had to go and ship Turgeon off too. A 1996 All Star with 127 points in three years, and team captain to boot, he had also proved himself the Habs’ best player during the playoffs the previous year. But Houle sent him packing in October 1996, no doubt praying that Shayne Corson had the tenacity his team needed.
While Turgeon racked up 60, 70, and 80-odd points per season with the Blues, Corson brought home only 168 total goals in 11 years with Montreal. Looking at his minor league stats, though, he certainly had potential: 71, 90, and 98-point seasons are impressive. But his much-anticipated offense never produced for Montreal. Meanwhile, Turgeon had a +/- rating that never went negative, and had 537 points over the next 10 years. The Lady Byng-winning centerman skated circles around Corson.
11 Ryan McDonagh
He was a first round draft pick in 2007. But we’re not sure that Bob Gainey truly understood what that meant.
Gainey let a first round pick go to the Rangers, handing them this wicked defenseman on a platter. In his seven years with New York, McDonagh hasn’t dipped below a +11 rating or 22 penalty minutes per season, averages 128 blocks and 37 takeaways each year and has been a five- time Norris Trophy candidate. Even before his NHL debut, he’d won a silver Olympic medal with team USA and was captain of his team at the U of Wisconsin. He earned that first pick.
The Rangers were trying to get rid of some hefty salary commitments, like the annual $7.5 million for Gomez, and “Gomer” confirmed the Rangers' suspicions when he got to Montreal... that his best days were behind him. So how did the Habs' pro scouting department not know that? We have no idea. Meanwhile, McDonagh has become New York gold, placing him on every “Best Ranger Trades of All time” list out there.
10 Rod Langway
Before serving 11 seasons as the Capitals’ captain, before winning back-to-back James Norris trophies, and before bringing the Caps out of their eight-season drought and leading them to the playoffs 10 times, Langway was a Canadien.
When Irving Grundman traded Langway, Brian Engblom, Craig Laughlin, and Doug Jarvis to Washington in 1982, he picked up Ryan Walter and Rick Green as replacements. Unfortunately, Walter had already had the best season of his career, and only once did he produce numbers as impressive as those he had with the Caps. It was pretty much downhill from there. And although the bulky Rick Green spent seven seasons in Montreal, he never managed to get more than 26 points in a season, and even that he only made once.
Langway is credited as being a savior of the Capitals franchise. Imagine what he could have done for Montreal if he had stayed!
9 LeClair, Desjardins, Dionne For Mark Recchi
With 121 goals in four years with Philly, Mark Recchi was a proven scorer and just what GM Serge Savard wanted for the Habs. And nobody can deny that he was a solid team player, one who gave them three seasons of heart and hustle.
However. the Habs gave up a huge sum for Recchi, sending Eric Desjardins, John LeClair and Gilbert Dionne.
Following the trade, LeClair had three 50-goal seasons, and helped form the Legion of Doom with Eric Lindros and Mikael Renberg. Desjardins remained a solid defenceman throughout his career. The Flyers became Stanley Cup contenders while the Habs began to slip into mediocrity.
While Recchi was indeed an offensive weapon, the move clearly backfired on Montreal as the chemistry in the lineup was off.
8 Mike Ribeiro For Janne Niinimaa
Trading 26-year old Mike Ribeiro for 31-year old Janne Niinimaa. What now? In hockey years, 31 is approaching geriatric status, making this trade a head scratcher.
Now, Ribeiro wasn’t exactly Mr. Popularity (he’s been called the “black sheep” more than once, but his final two seasons with the Habs were more than solid; 51 and 65 points per season. He fit in well with the Stars, though, leading them in points for his first three years and earning All-Star status in 2008. In fact, his career-best, 78-point season occurred while he was a Star. He skated in the playoffs five more times after leaving Montreal, scoring a total of 29 points for his various teams.
There’s not much we can say about Niinimaa, since he only lasted one, uneventful season with Montreal. He only played 41 games that year and made 3 assists. To be fair, he had been a second-round pick, had made appearances on the All-Rookie and All-Star teams, and been to the Olympics twice. But even this wasn’t enough to risk losing Ribeiro. Right, Gainey?
7 Mark Recchi For Dainus Zubrus
As if it wasn’t enough that the Habs acquired Recchi by getting rid of LeClair, they got rid of him in an equally baffling manner. Traded for Dainius Zubrus and two draft picks, Recchi already had 78-point and 80-point seasons with the Habs, and turned heads in 1999-00 when he reached 91 points for the Flyers. He continued to be a solid player for several other teams before hanging up his skates.
Zubrus was decent, but really only hit the mark once he was traded to Washington. When they lost him, the Habs picked up Jan Bulis and Richard Zednik, both of whom were even less exciting than Zubrus. It’s like every man along the line of replacements for Recchi (who himself was a replacement for LeClair!) was more lackluster than the previous one.
6 Vincent Damphousse For Draft Picks
It may have been six years since their Stanley Cup win, and they may have been in a bit of slump, but when Montreal traded this veteran centreman to San Jose, they lost a legend.
The team captain and fan favorite – who had accumulated 498 points in his 7 years as a Canadien – wasn’t even traded for another player. Nope, we got three draft picks over the next three years instead, pretty much all of whom were disappointments. Kiel McLeod never made it to the NHL, Marc-Andre Thinel didn’t show up in the pros either, and although Marcel Hossa shares DNA with the unforgettable Marion Hossa, he only offered the Habs 19 points over three seasons.
Well, Vinnie showed them. He went on to play another 6 years with San Jose, for a total of 298 points, 15 playoff goals, and two more NHL All-Star games. Take that, Rejean Houle.
5 Mike Cammalleri For Rene Bourque - Mid Game!
His own comments on the team’s subpar performance sealed his fate, really, and the fans were just as outraged at this as management was, but Montreal has to be regretting the decision to trade Cammalleri in 2012.
Cammalleri was a great player before and during his time with Montreal, and continues to be so. Basically, the guy thrives wherever he is. Rene Bourque, on the other hand, was disappointing as a Hab and has gotten progressively worse with time. His career-best 58 points while playing for the Flames is a distant memory. The Habs also grabbed Patrick Holland from the minors, but when Cammalleri scored 45 points for Calgary in 2013-14, Holland’s sole NHL season saw him on the ice only five times, with zero points.
Gauthier might have claimed that the trade had nothing to do with Cammalleri’s comments about the team’s “losing mentality,” but it’s doubtful that anyone believed this. And since the trade was in no way beneficial for Montreal, he’s got to be kicking himself right now.
4 Claude Lemieux For Sylvain Turgeon
Okay, we get that he was a pretty rough, angry guy who upset many people and that he had several injuries in 1989-90. But we traded an injury-plagued Lemieux for Sylvain Turgeon, who was barely two weeks post hernia surgery. That seems a bit ironic and ridiculous, right?
Lemieux became a four-time Stanley Cup champion, a Conn Smythe winner, and a World Cup participant. His career-best 81 points occurred in 1992-93 with the Devils. He won the Smythe after leading NJ to their first Stanley Cup. He had a 71-point season in 1995-96 with Colorado. He had 23 playoff points with the Avalanche in 1997. And he is 11th on the list of players with the most playoff goals ever.
In comparison, Turgeon didn’t surpass 20 points in any season as a Canadien, despite having cracked 79 points with the Hartford Whalers in 1985-86. He never won a Stanley Cup or earned any distinguishing NHL awards. Though he had decent numbers later, in Ottawa, he only made it another three seasons before retiring. He played almost half as many NHL seasons as Lemieux.
3 Jyrki Lumme
The Habs traded Jyrki Lumme for in 1990 for a second-round pick, which turned out to be Craig Darby, a guy who played two whopping seasons with them before being sent to the AHL. Darby didn’t even see professional ice until 1994, and even then he only skated in 10 games before being traded to the Islanders. When the Habs picked him up again in 1999, he played three more seasons with them but brought home only 45 points in total.
In stark contrast, Lumme became a quality defensemen for the Canucks for more than eight seasons. In fact, his best season was 1993-94 when he scored 13 goals and offered 42 assists for Vancouver. That’s 31 more points than he made during his time with Montreal. The point being, after offering the Habs some decent numbers and proving he’s a worthwhile investment, he continued to play a great game even after they gave him the boot. That bitter taste in your mouth, Savard? That’s regret.
2 Jaroslav Halak For Lars Eller & Ian Schultz
When Gauthier authorized the Halak trade with St. Louis in 2010, the 24-year-old goalie had just come off one of his best seasons yet. During the regular season, he’d started in 43 out of 45 games, earned a goals-against average of 2.40 (the second-best of his career so far), and triumphed with five shutouts. He shone even brighter during the playoffs that year; he started every one of Montreal’s 18 games and saved 519 of the 562 shots on his net, earning him a 2.55 goals-against average. He led the Habs to the semi-finals for the first time in decades.
Nobody is denying that keeping Price was a good call (to put it mildly). But the issue was that reports surfaced that Gauthier hadn't even bothered to call several teams and he took the first offer he got. That's terrible GMing. Halak's value was at its highest, coming off a legendary playoff performance. Why settle for the first offer?
1 P.K. Subban For Shea Weber
Shea Weber knows his stuff. With 166 goals and 277 assists over 11 seasons in Nashville, it would be fair to think he’d be a solid addition for the Habs. And he has been. There have been numerous, well argued, discussions regarding how Weber’s had a better season than Subban this year. With a +20 rating and 42 points that included 12 power play goals, Weber proved to be a great asset.
But P.K.! We love P.K.! After seven years, 434 games, 278 points, five playoff stints, and immeasurable heart, Subban’s trade made Marc Bergevin the sworn enemy of every Montreal fan on earth. We get that Bergevin thought the team needed better leadership, and we get that Subban was his most valuable trade, but P.K. was also one of the few players whose efforts and results remained strong and consistent during the team’s 2015-16 slump.
Nobody expected Subban to be traded. Then again, nobody expected the Preds to make it to the Stanley Cup Final this year either. Are the two related? Hmm. A betting man would wonder if this is also on Bergevin’s mind.