The Montreal Canadiens are a proud franchise. The team has 24 Stanley Cups in a 107-year existence and is a global brand. Their marketing team has done an amazing job, despite the team's shortage of on-ice success in the last 20-plus years and thus have now made the Habs a billion dollar franchise, second in the NHL to the New York Rangers.
However, the Canadiens as we once knew them, are no more. When you go 23 years without a Stanley Cup, the longest drought in your franchise's history and fail to attain a consistent level of winning, you can no longer be considered an elite franchise, at least on a hockey level. Fans in Montreal live and breathe the Habs, which is why the Bell Centre is still packed night after night and the Habs are the talk of the town, even in the hot months of July and August. In Montreal, you can start an hour long conversation and argue over who the team's fourth line right winger will be... in August!
So why haven't the Canadiens won a Stanley Cup since 1993? It can equate to a lot of things, including the franchise's self-imposed limit of who to hire as general manager and coach (both must be able to speak French), poor draft choices, terrible trades, rushing prospects to the big club before they were ready and a culture where just making the playoffs has become acceptable.
The Canadiens have not had a superstar forward in decades and have long searched for a no.1 centre. Players like Saku Koivu and Tomas Plekanec would have made fantastic no.2s on any NHL team, but due to the lack of depth in Montreal, were forced into a role too large for them.
This list will be looking at players who disappointed, under performed, overpaid or simply couldn't cut it in Montreal. Some of these players were very good elsewhere, but fans would like to forget they once donned the bleu, blanc et rouge to disastrous results. Here are the worst Habs players since 1993.
16 Patrice Brisebois
This is more of the organization's fault than Brisebois', but based on the amount of money Brisebois was being paid for what he brought to the team, he had to land here. Brisebois was on the Habs' 1993 Stanley Cup team, but had played a much smaller role. By the end of the 90s, the Habs had made him the staple of their defense, anchoring their power play. Brisebois produced some decent numbers, peaking at 36 points, but once he was given a three year, $12 million contract, fans turned on him. His play was no longer seen as being worth what he was given. He seemed to always have a brutal giveaway every game and his plus-minus soon plummeted, going down to minus-31 in 2000-01.
15 David Aebischer
David Aebischer was brought in essentially as a way to get rid of a declining Jose Theodore, whom the Habs traded in 2005-06. Aebischer wouldn't amount to anything in Montreal, unable to re-gain his form before the lockout with Colorado. He was quickly relegated to be Cristobal Huet's backup. In 39 games with the Canadiens, Aebischer posted numbers of an .898 SV%, a 3.28 GAA and a record of 17-15-3. After a brief stint in Phoenix in 2007, Aebischer was quickly out of the NHL.
14 Marcel Hossa
The Canadiens figured they had passed on one Hossa and they couldn't afford to let another star Hossa slip through their fingers. Well, the problem is Marcel was not his brother Marian, not even close. Hossa was drafted 16th overall in 2000 and showed promise in the minors, but he wasn't cut out for the NHL. In in 59 games, he managed just 10 goals and 8 assists. He would soon find himself traded to the Rangers for Garth Murray.
13 Matt Higgins
Matt Higgins was just one of many draft disappointments for the Canadiens in the 90s, but since he's one of few who actually played a significant amount of games, he lands here. He was a force in junior with the Moose Jaw Warriors, but he was never able to produce at the NHL level. In 57 games with Montreal, Higgins managed just one goal and two assists. Higgins would eventually continue his career in various leagues across Europe and goes down as another draft bust for the post-93 Habs.
12 Christian Laflamme
Christian Laflamme was essentially a throw-in trade, as two teams were swapping under-performing players. The Oilers traded Laflamme and Matthieu Descoteaux for Igor Ulanov and Alain Nasreddine. Who? Exactly. As for Laflamme, he only managed five assists in 54 games for the Habs over two seasons. Laflamme was originally a second round pick of the Blackhawks back in 1995, but the right handed defenceman was never able to establish himself as a full-time NHLer.
11 Mariusz Czerkawski
Mariusz Czerkawski was acquired by the Canadiens from the Islanders in exchange for Arron Asham and a fifth round pick, hoping he could replicate his past success with the Islanders. He had put forth multiple 20-plus goal seasons before. The Polish forward was only able to muster 14 points in 43 games with the Habs. He was quickly sent down to the minors and saw his contract bought out from the team, only to return to the Islanders and notch another 25-goal season in 2003-04.
10 Juha Lind
Juha Lind was another player acquired in a trade, this time for Scott Thornton. Lind was often scratched in Montreal and managed only four goals in 60 games with the Canadiens. Lind was soft and didn't have any speed. This was the year 2000 though and the Canadiens were mired in mediocrity, never good enough to make the playoffs and not bad enough to get a top-5 pick to turn things around. Lind would be sent down to the AHL, before moving across the pond to continue his hockey career.
9 Patrick Traverse
Patrick Traverse was a defenceman who always had trouble in his own end. This is only excusable if you're producing a ton of points in the offensive end, but Traverse was able to do neither. In 109 games in Montreal, Traverse managed 23 points to go with a minus-24 rating. Traverse had been acquired by the Habs in exchange for Eric Weinrich back in 2001 from the Flyers. Philadelphia was probably very happy in unloading Traverse on the Habs.
8 Jason Ward
Jason Ward was another first round pick who flamed out in Montreal, but he actually did play more games than a lot of their other first round disappointments, this he can qualify for this list. Ward played 105 games with the Canadiens, never coming close to the top-six forward he was drafted to be. He recorded 20 points in his Montreal career. Oh and on top of this disappointment, his draft year of 1997 is when the Canadiens passed on Marian Hossa.
7 Alex Semin
Alex Semin, we hardly knew ye. Every Habs observer knew this was unlikely to work out in Montreal, but given that Semin was once a great offensive player and was coming in on a one-year, $1.1 million deal at just over 30 years old, there seemed to be a chance he could at least live up to the price tag. Semin looked slow and disinterested in playing hard in his short stint in Montreal. He lasted just 15 games, recording four points. Semin was often scratched and the Habs decided to terminate his contract. Semin is now playing in the KHL.
6 Sergei Samsonov
Sergei Samsonov drove up his value with a solid playoff run in Edmonton en route to the Oilers' Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2006. The Canadiens signed Samsonov to a two-year, $7.05 million deal in hopes to boost their offence. It was another disappointment, as the Habs wound up placing him on waivers by February of the 2006-07 season. Samsonov managed 26 points in 63 games and was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks in the summer of 2007. Have the Habs ever signed a winger that proved to be a long-term solution?
5 Scott Gomez
Oh boy... Scott Gomez has had a good NHL career, but the massive contract he signed as a New York Ranger in 2007 - $51.5 million at seven years and his failures to live up to that contract are what land him here. The Canadiens traded a young prospect named Ryan McDonagh to get Gomez. Gomez produced decently his first year, but his massive contract quickly became a liability to the Canadiens. What made it worse for Habs fans was watching McDonagh blossom as a defenceman. Gomez was bought out early in 2013 shortly after the new CBA was struck between the NHL and its players.
4 Kyle Chipchura
Kyle Chipchura showed signs of leadership being the captain for Canada's world junior team, leading them to a 2006 gold medal. Leadership abilities only get you so far in the NHL. Playing 68 games in Montreal, Chipchura managed 14 points and looked incredibly slow on a Habs team that was built on speed. Chipchura has since toiled away as a bottom-six player and has seen his role diminish with time. The Canadiens even had some blunder to open the 2000s.
3 Janne Niinimaa
Janne Niinimaa was a decent defenceman for the Oilers in the late 90s and early 2000s, but by the time the Habs acquired him in 2006, giving up on a talented, but troubled young player in Mike Ribeiro, he was done. Ribeiro went on to have several productive years in Dallas while Niiniimaa proved to be a liability to the Habs blue line. He recorded just three assists and played in just 41 games, often a healthy scratch. He finished with a minus-13 rating and never played in the NHL again.
2 Georges Laraque
Tired of being pushed around by teams like the Bruins and Flyers, the Canadiens signed enforcer Georges Laraque to a three-year, $4.5 million deal. Look, I understand wanting to protect your players, but giving a three-year contract to a fighter is absurd. Laraque was damaged goods coming to Montreal, as he would soon battle back issues and in 51 games, he recorded five points along with a minus-12. Again, this was more of a case of a bad decision by management. Here's a funny story. During the 2009 playoffs, Laraque was placed on the team's first line, alongside Saku Koivu and Alex Kovalev. Here's another piece of irony; the Canadiens were again pushed around by the Bruins who swept them in the opening round of the 2009 playoffs.