When the Montreal Canadiens signed Alexander Semin to a one year, $1.1 million contract in July it was seen as a low risk, high reward deal. If the dynamic Russian forward could re-find his game in Montreal, after two off years in Carolina, it would provide the Canadiens with some much needed depth in the form of a top six winger. If not, it wasn’t like the Canadiens were breaking the bank to afford to his contract and it would be easy for the two sides to part ways. It didn’t work. Despite strong possession numbers from Semin and a winning record for the Canadiens with him in their lineup, Semin failed to produce much offense. After posting just four points in 16 games, Semin was waived, went unclaimed, was demoted, and then had his contract terminated so that he could resume his career in Europe.
In the history of the Canadiens, Semin will go down as just another blip on the radar, a small, insignificant player among the 800-plus to have donned the bleu, blanc et rouge, a player whose tenure in Montreal will quickly be forgotten. Of course, Semin is far from the first big name NHL player to disappear into obscurity in one of the league’s largest markets. Many players, who were integral pieces elsewhere, passed through Montreal without much notoriety. Some began their careers with Montreal before moving on to bigger and better things, while others found success elsewhere first and briefly stopped in Montreal along their NHL journey and provided very limited production.
Given that many of these players didn’t have much of an impact with the Canadiens, it’s easy to forget that they once played in Montreal. So let’s take a moment to remember 15 former Canadiens players that we’ve easily forgotten.
15. Donald Brashear
Donald Brashear is most remembered for being one of the league’s top enforcers during his six seasons with the Vancouver Canucks and the 2000 incident in which he was struck in the head by a stick from Marty McSorley. However, Brashear actually began his career with the Canadiens. Signed as a free agent in the summer of 1992, Brashear played 34 games between 1993-94 and 1994-95 before becoming a full-time NHL player in 1995-96.
After a dispute with Canadiens head coach Mario Tremblay, Brashear was dealt to the Canucks in November of 1996. In the 2001-02 season Brashear was traded to Philadelphia and played parts of four seasons with the Flyers, three with the Washington Capitals and one with the New York Rangers to end his career.
14. Dave Manson
Dave Manson played defense for six NHL teams, including two stints with both the Chicago Blackhawks and Dallas Stars, during his 16 year career, so it’s easy to forget that Canadiens were one of those teams. Manson was drafted 11th overall by Chicago in 1985 and played five seasons with the Blackhawks, posting a career high 54 points in 1988-89, before he was traded to the Edmonton Oilers. Manson played parts of three seasons with the Oilers and four with the Winnipeg Jets/Phoenix Coyotes, before he was traded to the Canadiens and posted two points in nine games to end the 1996-97 season.
Manson put up 34 points in 81 games for the Canadiens in 1997-98 and two points in 11 games the following season before he was traded back to the Blackhawks. He spllit his final three seasons between Chicago, Toronto, and Dallas.
13. Mariusz Czerkawski
Mariusz Czerkawski played parts of three seasons with the Boston Bruins and two with the Edmonton Oilers before breaking out as a member of the New York Islanders. Czerkawski played five seasons with the Islanders and recorded back-to-back 30-goal campaigns and posted a career high 70 points in 1999-00. Prior to the 2002-03 season, the Polish Prince was traded to the Canadiens to provide them with some scoring depth, but was a massive disappointment. He posted just 14 points in 43 games and was waived and demoted to the minors before being bought out at season’s end.
Czerkawski returned to the Islanders and posted another 25 goal season and then split the final year of his career between Toronto and Boston. For whatever reason, Czerkawski seemed incapable of producing much outside of Long Island, which is why you probably don’t remember his time with the Canadiens.
12. Sergei Berezin
Russian sniper Sergei Berezin played five seasons in Toronto, reaching the 20 goal mark four times and posting a career high 37 goals and 59 points in 1998-99. Prior to the 2001-02 season, Berezin was traded to the Coyotes and went on to play for four different teams in his final two seasons. After 16 points in 41 games with Phoenix, he was traded to the Canadiens and posted just 10 points in 29 easily forgettable games before being dealt to the Chicago Blackhawks and posted 31 points in 66 games. Berezin was then traded to the Washington Capitals for his final nine games, which he played at a point per game pace.
11. Ron Hainsey
Current Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Ron Hainsey was drafted 13th overall by the Canadiens in 2000, but he failed to establish himself as a full-time NHL defenseman in Montreal, playing just 33 games in the two seasons prior to the 2004-05 lockout. After the lockout, Hainsey was claimed off waivers by the Columbus Blue Jackets and quickly became a top four defenseman.
His play in three seasons with the Blue Jackets earned him a five-year, $22.5 million contract from the Atlanta Thrashers in the summer of 2008. Hainsey played all five years of the deal with the Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets organization and although his offensive numbers began to drop off during the team’s final two seasons in Atlanta, he continued to be a top four defenseman. Hainsey joined the Hurricanes prior to the 2013-14 season and trails only Justin Faulk in ice time on the Hurricanes in 2015-16.
10. Darcy Tucker
The best years of Darcy Tucker’s career came during the parts of eight seasons he played with the Toronto Maple Leafs. A fan favorite in Toronto, Tucker was an agitator who became hated among non-Leafs fans for his sometimes questionable hits. He also recorded a career high 28 goals and 61 points in 2005-06, earning himself a four year, $12 million contract that the Maple Leafs would later buy out. Tucker would go on to finish his career with two seasons as a member of the Colorado Avalanche.
Years prior to all of that, Tucker began his career by being drafted 151st overall by the Canadiens in 1993. He got into three games in his first year with the Canadiens and posted 26 points in 115 games over three seasons in Montreal before he was traded to Tampa Bay, played parts of three seasons with the Lightning, and was dealt to the Maple Leafs where he’s most remembered.
9. Dainius Zubrus
The Philadelphia Flyers used the 15th overall pick in 1996 to draft Dainius Zubrus, but he failed to live up to expectations and part way through his third season he was dealt to the Montreal Canadiens in a trade for Mark Recchi. Zubrus posted 74 points in 139 games for the Canadiens and was then dealt to the Washintgton Capitals where he would enjoy the best offensive years of his career.
After seeing Zubrus play for the Capitals for parts of six seasons and then play eight seasons with the New Jersey Devils, before joining the San Jose Sharks, it’s not hard to forget his time in Montreal.
8. Radek Bonk
The third overall pick in the 1994 NHL draft played 10 seasons with the Ottawa Senators and was relied on heavily as a shutdown centre, while also providing some offense – he posted a career high 70 points in 2001-02. After the 2004-05 lockout, Bonk was traded to the Canadiens in a three team deal. Bonk played two seasons in Montreal, but his game had severely dropped off and he produced just 44 points in 135 games. Bonk played two more NHL seasons with the Nashville Predators and then finished his career in Europe.
7. Craig Conroy
Craig Conroy is best remembered for his time with the Calgary Flames where in parts of four seasons he became the team’s top line centre and helped them to reach the 2004 Stanley Cup Final before moving on to the Los Angeles Kings and later being traded back to the Flames to end his career. However, Conroy began his NHL career in Montreal. The Canadiens chose Conroy 123rd overall in 1990 and after four years at Clarkson University he turned pro, playing the bulk of his first two season in the AHL while getting into 13 games and scoring one goal with the Canadiens.
Early in the 1996-97 season Conroy was traded to St. Louis in a deal for Shayne Corson and played parts of five seasons for the Blues before being dealt to the Flames.
6. Francois Beauchemin
Francois Beauchemin was drafted 75th overall by the Canadiens in 1998. He played four seasons in the minors and just one game for Montreal before being claimed on waivers by the Columbus Blue Jackets prior to the 2004-05 lockout. Beauchemin spent the lockout year with the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch and then played 11 games for Blue Jackets in 2005-06 before he was traded to the Anaheim Ducks.
In Anaheim he quickly established himself as a top four defenseman and helped the Ducks to a 2007 Stanley Cup victory. He signed with the Maple Leafs in the summer of 2009 and played parts of two seasons in Toronto before being traded back to Anaheim. Beauchemin played another four full seasons with the Ducks, then signed with the Avalanche last summer.
5. Andrew Cassels
The Canadiens drafted Cassels 17th overall in 1987, but he found his playing time limited in Montreal and recorded just 27 points in 60 games before he was dealt to the Hartford Whalers for a second round pick. Cassels had his best years in Hartford, playing six seasons with the Whalers and recording a career high 85 points in 1992-93. He then went on to play two seasons with the Calgary Flames, three with the Vancouver Canucks, two with the Columbus Blue Jackets, and ended his career with the Washington Capitals.
4. Trevor Linden
Long-time Canucks captain Trevor Linden played the bulk of his first 10 NHL seasons in Vancouver before he was traded to the New York Islanders during the disastrous Mark Messier era, albeit it was in a deal that greatly benefited the Canucks. Linden disappointed on Long Island and scored 64 points in 107 games before he was dealt to the Canadiens. Linden fared about the same in Montreal, producing 63 points in the same number of games and was then traded to the Washington Capitals. He played just 28 games for the Capitals before he was dealt back to the Canucks where he played the majority of his final six seasons before retiring. Most fans prefer to only remember Linden’s Vancouver years.
3. Tomas Vokoun
The Canadiens drafted Tomas Vokoun with the 226th pick in the 1994 NHL Draft, but the Czech goaltender played just one game for the Canadiens and spent two seasons with their AHL affiliate in Fredericton before he was taken in the 1998 Expansion Draft by the Nasvhille Predators. Vokoun would establish himself as a bonafide number one goaltender in Nashville during his eight seasons for the Predators. He went on the play four seasons for the Florida Panthers and briefly for the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins before retiring. If you’re a Canadiens fan who happens to remember that Vokoun once played in Montreal, you’re probably wishing he hadn’t gotten away.
2. Alex Tanguay
Alex Tanguay played his first six NHL seasons in Colorado, reaching the 70 point mark three times and helping the Avalanche to a Stanley Cup victory in 2001. At the 2006 draft, Tanguay was traded to the Calgary Flames in a deal for Jordan Leopold. Tanguay posted a career high 81 points in his first season with the Flames, but his production dipped to 58 points in his second and at the 2008 draft he was once again traded, this time to the Canadiens.
Tanguay was productive in his lone season in Montreal, posting 41 points while being limited to 50 games, but the following summer he chose to sign with the Tampa Bay Lightning. After a disappointing season in Tampa Bay, he returned to the Flames for three seasons before being dealt back to Colorado, where he’s played for the past three seasons. Given most of Tanguay’s success has come with the Avalanche and Flames, we’ll forgive you for forgetting that he briefly played in Montreal.
1. Doug Gilmour
Doug Gilmour had a Hall of Fame career, beginning with the St. Louis Blues, then onto Calgary where he picked up his lone Stanley Cup victory with the Flames, before really establishing himself as a star with the Toronto Maple Leafs, winning the Selke Trophy in 1993 while finishing second in voting for the Hart and carrying the Maple Leafs to a 1993 Conference Finals appearance.
After Toronto, Gilmour played in New Jersey, Chicago, and Buffalo before making his way to Montreal. He played parts of two seasons with the Canadiens, posting 71 points in 131 games before being traded back to Toronto where he promptly suffered a career ending injury on his first shift. Gilmour didn’t have much of an impact in Montreal and if you do have one memory of him in a Canadiens jersey, it’s probably of him slamming the penalty box door and shattering the glass.
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