The Montreal Canadiens are a proud franchise with a long and storied history. The team was founded in 1909 and in the more than one hundred years since the team has won the Stanley Cup a record 24 times – 11 more than the second place Toronto Maple Leafs. Donning the jersey of the bleu, blanc et rouge and taking to the ice in a National Hockey League game is a privilege that only 798 players have known since the league was first founded. Many star players have worn the iconic uniform over the years. Names like Maurice and Henri Richard, Jean Beliveau, Guy Lafleur, Jacques Plante, Patrick Roy, Ken Dryden, and many others have found glory while sporting the C and H across their chest.
With such a long history there also comes many years of futility. Failure is inevitible. Building a competitive team year in and year out can be a daunting task and staying at the top of the league for a century is practically impossible. Every team has had its share of losses. Every team has had to take its lumps. So, while the Canadiens have had many dynasties over the years, they’ve also had their fair share of poor teams and with any poor team performance comes many poor individual player performances. You’ll notice on this list that many names are post-1993. From 1995 to the present has been the driest spell in the franchise’s history, so it’s only natural that their worst players would be from this era.
The list of the top 15 worst Montreal Canadiens players of all time isn’t just a list of poor performers, nor is it a list of bad hockey players. These aren’t 15 guys that no one has ever heard of before who played a handful of games in the NHL and then disappeared, never to be heard from again. Instead, this is a list of players who despite their potential, their expectations, and their past and/or future success, failed to produce for the game’s most storied franchise. Here are 15 players whose names make every Habs fan cringe:
15. Alfie Turcotte
Turcotte was the 17th overall pick in the 1983 NHL Draft by Montreal and played parts of three seasons for the Canadiens. Despite getting plenty of oppurtunities on the power play, he was unable to prove himself as an NHL player. Turcotte produced 15 goals and 23 assists in 85 games for the Canadiens and then spent the majority of his career in the minors and Europe with a couple of brief stints with the Winnipeg Jets and Washington Capitals along the way.
14. Jonas Hoglund
Hoglund scored 19 goals as a rookie with the Calgary Flames in the 1996-97 season, but was traded to the Canadiens midway through his second season in a deal for Valeri Bure. Hoglund would prove to be a huge disappointment in Montreal, as he scored just 14 goals and 29 points in 102 games, before signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He posted back-to-back 20 goals seasons in Toronto and scored a hat trick against his former team on November 18, 2000.
13. Rene Bourque
After back-to-back 27 goal seasons with the Calgary Flames, Bourque was traded to Montreal midway through the 2011-12 season as part of a deal for Mike Cammalleri and Karri Ramo. In parts of four seasons with the Canadiens, he scored 21 goals and 18 assists in 141 games. His peak was undoubtedly the 2014 playoffs, where he scored eight goals, including a hat trick against the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals, but he showed nothing but flashes. He found himself scratched several times throughout his Habs tenure. After being held to just two assists in 13 games during the 2014-15 season, Bourque was briefly sent to the minors before he was traded to the Anaheim Ducks for Bryan Allen.
12. Tomas Kaberle
Kaberle played parts of 12 seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, before he was traded to the Boston Bruins where he won a Stanley Cup in 2011. He then signed a three year, $12.75 million contract with the Carolina Hurricanes, but after a disappointing 29 games he was traded to the Canadiens. The defenseman scored just three goals and 19 assists in 43 games for Montreal that season. He played in only 10 games during the 2012-13 lockout shortened season, registering three assists, and was a healthy scratch on numerous occasions. The Canadiens subsequently bought out the remainder of his contract.
11. Perry Turnbull
The 2nd overall pick by the St. Louis Blues in the 1979 NHL Draft played parts of his first five NHL seasons in St. Louis and topped the 30 goal plateau three times. Midway through the 1983-84 season Turnbull was traded to the Canadiens in a deal for former first overall pick Doug Wickenheiser. He played just 40 regular season games for Montreal and scored only six goals and seven assists. The following offseason Turnbull was traded to the Winnipeg Jets.
10. Mariusz Czerkawski
After four 20-goal seasons with the New York Islanders – including two 30 goal campaigns – Czerkawski was traded to Montreal prior to the 2002-03 season in hopes of giving the the team an offensive boost. Instead what they received was just five goals and 14 points in 43 games. Czerkawski was a healthy scratch several times and was eventually demoted to the minors before the Canadiens bought out the final year of his contract after the season. The Polish Prince then returned to the Islanders and recorded another 25 goal campaign.
9. Sergei Samsonov
The former Calder Trophy winner reached the 20-goal plateau four times over parts of eight seasons with the Boston Bruins. After a 2006 trade deadline deal to Edmonton and a run to the Stanley Cup Final with the Oilers, the Russian winger signed a two year, $6.25 million deal with the Canadiens. In his lone season in Montreal, Samsonov scored nine goals and 17 assists in 63 games and was placed on waivers. After the season he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks.
8. Jason Ward
The Canadiens made a series of bad first round draft picks in the 1990s, one of which came at the 1997 NHL Draft when they chose Jason Ward with the 11th overall pick, one spot before the Ottawa Senators took Marian Hossa. Over parts of four seasons in Montreal, Ward recorded 10 goals and 10 assists in 105 games and spent the majority of his time in the minors, never playing more than 53 NHL games in a season. Following the 2004-05 lockout, Ward signed with the New York Rangers and recorded 10 goals and 28 points in 81 games, but he never established himself as a player worthy of a first round pick.
7. Marcel Hossa
Three years after they passed on his brother, the Canadiens drafted Marcel Hossa with the 16th overall pick at the 2000 NHL Draft. Although he showed promise in the minors, his career NHL totals with Montreal amount to 10 goals and 8 assists in 59 games. He was traded to the New York Rangers for Garth Murray following the 2004-05 lockout and played parts of three seasons in New York and briefly in Phoenix before resuming his career in Europe.
6. Matt Higgins
Another one of those poor first round picks, the Canadiens took the Moose Jaw Warriors centre 18th overall in the 1996 NHL Draft, six picks before the Phoenix Coyotes took Quebec native Danny Briere. Higgins scored a total of one goal and two assists in 57 NHL games all with the Canadiens. He played several years in the minors and then finished his career in Europe. As you’ll find out, this wasn’t the first time the Canadiens made the mistake of passing on a French-Canadian player.
5. Janne Niinimaa
Niinimaa was an offensive threat early in his career, having recorded five seasons of 30 or more points. However, the 30-year old defenseman was clearly on the decline by the time he was traded to the Canadiens for playmaking centre Mike Ribeiro prior to the 2006-07 season. Niinimaa played just one season in Montreal, recording 3 assists in 41 games and spending half the season as a healthy scratch. Niinimaa finished out the end of his career in Europe.
4. Dan Geoffrion
The son of Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion and grandson of Howie Morenz, Geoffrion was taken with the eighth overall pick in the 1978 NHL Draft after an impressive junior career with the QMJHL’s Cornwall Royals. Geoffrion played one season with the WHA’s Quebec Nordiques, scoring 12 goals and 26 points, before joining the Canadiens where his father was now the coach. He would post just six assists in 32 games for Montreal and was then traded to the Winnipeg Jets for cash, where he played only one more full NHL season.
3. Garry Monahan
The first player taken in the first ever NHL Draft in 1963, Monahan was just 16 years old at the time. He would play just 14 games for the Canadiens, recording zero points, before he was traded for the second player ever drafted – Peter Mahovlich. Monahan would play 10 more NHL seasons, but never put up elite level numbers. When asked why he thought the Canadiens drafted him over Mahovlich, Monahan said, “Sammy Pollock was the shrewdest man in hockey because he drafted me first, which was very astute. But even more astute, he realized within two years that he had made a mistake, so he turned around and traded me for Peter. How clever is that? He wasn’t afraid to admit his mistakes.”
2. Scott Gomez
Having failed to trade for star centre Vincent Lecavalier, Canadiens GM Bob Gainey orchestrated a trade centred around defense prospect Ryan McDonagh to acquire Gomez and his $7.35 million/year contract from the New York Rangers in 2009. Gomez scored just 12 goals in his first season in Montreal and seven in his second.
After scoring his seventh goal on February 5, 2011, Gomez would go more than a year before scoring another on February 9, 2012 and finished his third season with a mere two goals in 38 games. He would finish his Canadiens career with 21 goals in 196 games and was bought out following the 2012-13 lockout.
Not only will Gomez be remembered as one of the worst players to ever don the CH, but his name is a constant reminder that the Habs could have had a defensive pairing of PK Subban and Ryan McDonagh.
1. Doug Wickenheiser
The first overall pick by the Canadiens in the 1980 NHL Draft played parts of four seasons in Montreal. He recorded 49 goals and 66 assists in 202 games for the Canadiens, but never developed into the premier centre they thought they were drafting from the Regina Pats. After Wickenheiser recorded just 10 points in the first 27 games of the 1983-84 season, the Canadiens ran out of patience with him and completed the Turnbull trade with the Blues.
He played parts of four seasons in St. Louis, reaching the 20 goal mark just once, and had brief stints with the Canucks, Rangers and Capitals. Wickenheiser may be remembered as one of the biggest first overall pick busts in history, but what made Wickenheiser’s failure in Montreal a complete disaster was who the team passed on. The Montreal Canadiens, a franchise with a history of putting a premium on French-Canadian players – sometimes to a fault, chose Wickenheiser over a Montreal Juniors centre and eventual Hall of Famer by the name of Denis Savard. In the eyes of many fans of the bleu, blanc et rouge this makes Doug Wickenheiser the worst Montreal Canadiens player of all time. It’s also a year many mark as the end of an era of dominance, as the Habs won 22 Stanley Cups from 1909 to 1980, averaging one every three and a half years, to two since 1980, an average of one every 17 years.
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