It’s hard to argue the fact that the Montreal Canadiens are the greatest team in the history of the National Hockey League. There are many reasons why the team is held in such high regards today. There have been countless Hall of Fame players who have donned a Canadiens uniform through the years. They have arguably the loudest and most passionate fan base in the entire league. However, the main reason why they are considered the greatest team, is the simple fact that no team has won more than their 24 Stanley Cups. It’s easy to see why players take so much pride in putting on a Habs jersey and playing in front of a rambunctious Montreal crowd.
While you might think it would be impossible for players not to love playing in Montreal, as history show us, that is not the case. With playing in a hockey-mad city like Montreal, there are high expectations that come from the fans and media alike. As you will soon find out, not every player can handle or even likes to be put in the spotlight. In some rare cases, players careers were ruined after they played in the high-pressure city of Montreal.
Here are 8 players who absolutely loved being a Canadien and 7 who wished they never played for the Canadiens in the first place.
15. Loved: Alexei Kovalev
Alexei Kovalev had a lengthy NHL career. He broke into the league during the 1992-93 season, finally finishing off his career in 2014. He spent nearly half his career as a member of the New York Rangers, and only four seasons in Montreal. The fact that he loved playing more in Montreal than in New York showed his true passion towards the city. Kovalev’s tenure with the Canadiens was arguably the most productive time of his career. He led the team in points in three out of his four seasons, including an impressive 84 point campaign in 2007-08.
Kovalev’s contract was up in the Summer of 2009, and although he wanted to resign with the Canadiens, the team wanted to go in a different direction. After leaving Montreal, Kovalev’s career was never the same. He has stated numerous times that his career could have been a whole lot different had he not left the Canadiens. To this day, Kovalev has continued to embrace his time as Hab by playing in alumni games with the team.
14. Hated: Andre Racicot
You might think it would be pretty hard for Andre Racicot to hate his time as a Canadien considering it was the only NHL team he ever played for, but you would be wrong. Racicot played parts of five season’s as a backup to one of the best goaltenders in Montreal history in Patrick Roy. To say there was a bit of a dropoff in skill between Racicot and Roy would be a huge understatement. While he was able to hold his own for the most part against weaker teams, he was routinely embarrassed playing against stronger teams. Montreal fans hated him so much that they gave him the horrible nickname of Andre “Red Light” Racicot.
While one might think that having a negative nickname like that would motivate Racicot to get better, that never happened. As his time went on with the Habs, his nickname only suited him better as he continued to let in terrible goal after terrible goal. Racicot never got a sniff of NHL action after he left the Habs in 1994, and he can thank the Montreal fans for completely ruining his reputation.
13. Loved: Denis Savard
If everything worked out the way it should have, Denis Savard would have started his NHL career as a member of the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs held the very first pick of the 1980 NHL Draft and the media and fans were expecting them to take Savard. However, the Canadiens selected Doug Wickenheiser first overall instead, who turn out to be a massive bust for them. The Chicago Blackhawks ended up taking Savard with the third pick. He would go on to play a decade for the Blackhawks becoming on of the league’s elite scorers.
In 1990, the Canadiens tried to make amends for their 1980 draft mistake, by acquiring Savard from the Blackhawks. He would just play three season’s for Montreal, where he was still a productive player, but he had definitely lost a step in his game. Even though his time in Montreal came a decade too late, Savard absolutely cherished playing in his home province of Quebec. In 1993, while playing for Montreal he was able to live out his childhood dream of winning the Stanley Cup, and there was no better place than to do it than in front of his family.
12. Hated: Rod Langway
Rod Langway had a long successful career, one that would have him eventually enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. The defenseman started off his career as a member of the Montreal Canadiens. Langway had a slow start to his time in Montreal, recording just seven points during his rookie season. However, during his next three seasons he proved that he was the Canadiens best all-around defenseman. In 1982, the now two-time NHL All-Star was due for a new contract, and he was looking for big money. Langway wanted extra money because of the higher Canadian taxes and lower Canadian dollar. The Canadiens weren’t able to meet Langway’s demands, so they were forced to trade him to the Washington Capitals.
Langway’s career absolutely flourished as a member of the Capitals, winning back to back Norris Trophies in his first two seasons with the team. It was clear that Langway was not too in love with playing in Montreal considering the fact he simply he chose money over playing in one of the best hockey cities there is.
11. Loved: Shayne Corson
Shayne Corson played a combined 11 seasons with the Canadiens over two separate stints. His first stint started with him as a rookie in 1986 and lasted until he was eventually traded to the Oilers in 1992. It was during his first years as a Canadien where he started establishing himself as an excellent NHL power forward. Corson returned to Montreal in 1996 and stayed there for four more seasons. While his production was starting to decline due to his banged up body, his fantastic leadership skills more than made up for it.
Although Corson was able to finish his career playing close to home for the Toronto Maple Leafs, his time with the Montreal Canadiens has a special place in his heart. He says the ten years he spent in Montreal were not only the best years of his career, but they were also the best tens years of his life in general.
10. Hated: Mike Ribeiro
It seemed like Mike Ribeiro and the Canadiens were a perfect match. The Montreal native Ribeiro was an elite scorer in junior, and the Canadiens were in desperate need of some offense. After being drafted in 1998, Ribeiro split his first few seasons with Montreal and their AHL affiliate. The 2003-04 season was a breakout year for him, as led the team with 65 points. However, Ribeiro’s career season was overshadowed by a certain incident that occurred during the 2004 playoffs. During a game against the Boston Bruins, Ribeiro went down hard after he was barely touched by Bruins forward Mike Knuble. It looked like he was seriously hurt by the way he was absolutely squirming in pain. A minute later Ribeiro was shown on the bench laughing it up. The Bruins obviously weren’t happy about Ribeiro’s actions, but the Canadiens weren’t pleased either. Nobody likes when a player fakes an injury, no matter what team they are on.
Ribeiro’s reputation in the league and Montreal took a huge hit after that incident. It wouldn’t be a huge shock if Ribiero became a bit of a lone wolf in the dressing room after pulling a stunt like that. Despite him being the Canadiens best offensive player, Ribeiro was traded to Dallas just one season later. You can bet Ribeiro was probably more than happy to go to Dallas where spotlight on him wasn’t so bright.
9. Loved: Kirk Muller
Kirk Muller may have played only four seasons as a member of the Montreal Canadiens, but he was still able to make a big impact in his short time. Muller was traded to Montreal by New Jersey in 1991, and in his very first season with the Canadiens, he led the team with 77 points. The following season in 1992-93 is one that neither Muller or the Canadiens will ever forget. The team wasn’t predicted by anyone to be contenders for the Stanley Cup, but they defied the odds and won the team’s 24th Stanley Cup in franchise history. Muller played a huge role in the Canadiens victory. He had a career season production wise, scoring an impressive 94 points during the regular season while adding another 17 playoff points.
Muller was named captain of the Canadiens during the 1994-95 season, but in a surprising move, he was actually traded to the New York Islanders that very same season. Although his run with the Canadiens was brief, Muller absolutely loved his time in Montreal. He loved the fact that the Canadiens fans had such high expectations, which Muller credits the main reason for him always trying to step up his game. He loved his time in Montreal so much that once his playing career was done he joined the Canadiens coaching staff.
8. Hated: Doug Wickenheiser
Doug Wickenheiser’s time in Montreal could have been different had he not had the high expectations that came with being a first overall draft selection. After being taken with the first pick in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft, Wickenheiser would spend just four seasons with the Canadiens where his numbers were mediocre at best. His best season with Montreal came during the 1982-83 season when he recorded 25 goals and 55 points. However, no matter how he performed he was never going to win over Canadiens fans. The reason for this is because the fans had wanted the team to select Denis Savard with the first pick back in 1981, not him.
Savard’s amazing play did nothing to help Wickenheiser’s cause. To put it in perspective, Savard scored 409 points during his first four seasons with the Blackhawks, while Wickenheiser recorded just 115 points during his four years with the Canadiens. He was traded to the St.Louis Blues in 1984, but it was too late as he already carried the tag of being Montreal’s biggest draft bust of all-time.
7. Loved: Saku Koivu
When Saku Koivu was taken in the first round of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, fans were hoping that Koivu would be the player that would continue to lead the team to the promise land. While he failed to help win the Canadiens another Stanley Cup, Koivu gave it everything he had during his time in Montreal. The team struggled in the standings during Koivu’s first few years in the league, but that didn’t stop him from trying to become player every year. By 1999, Koivu had become the team’s de facto leader and was named the 27th captain in franchise history and the first player from Europe to ever wear the “C.” While Koivu was never one of the league’s top scorers, he was arguably one of the hardest working players. His gritty play helped the Canadiens have multiple long playoff runs.
In 2009, with Montreal Canadiens and Koivu parted ways after he spent thirteen seasons in a Habs uniform. Although Koivu now lives back in his native home of Finland, Montreal remains a second home to him. He says it was in Montreal where he went from being a boy to a man.
6. Hated: Sergei Samsonov
Prior to joining Montreal in 2006, Sergei Samsonov had spent eight seasons playing for the Canadiens rivals, the Boston Bruins. During his time with Bruins, he established himself as an excellent point producer. In 2006, the Bruins were struggling so they shipped off Samsonov to the Oilers for what was hopefully a long playoff run. He turned out to be a great fit for Edmonton as he recorded 16 points in 19 regular season games, adding another 15 points in the playoffs.
The Canadiens were looking to add a player with some offensive skill during the 2006 offseason and they thought Samsonov could be that man. They signed him to a two-year deal worth $7.1 million. Samsonov’s time as a Hab lasted just 63 games where he struggled mightily with just 26 points. The Canadiens were lucky enough to be able to get him off of their hands when they dealt him to Chicago in 2007. Although Samsonov had a couple more decent seasons after leaving Montreal, he was nowhere near the same player as he was during his days with Bruins. His stressful time with the Canadiens definitely didn’t do any favours for his career.
5. Loved: Jean Beliveau
You can’t have a conversation about the greatest Montreal Canadiens of all-time without mentioning the legendary Jean Beliveau. As crazy as it may seem, there was a time where Beliveau did not want to play for the Canadiens. Montreal owned his rights as a junior player, so if Beliveau wanted to play pro hockey it had to be with the Canadiens. He would instead play a couple of seasons in a men’s senior league. The Canadiens wanted Beliveau so bad that they decided to purchase the entire senior league which Beliveau was playing in. That left him with little options but to sign with the Canadiens. It’s safe to say that after 18 seasons in Montreal and ten Stanley Cups, Beliveau had no regrets about signing.
After Beliveau retired in 1971, he would spend the rest of his life working with the Canadiens in some capacity. He would add another seven Stanley Cups as an executive in Montreal. His name is engraved on the Stanley Cup a record seventeen times. While Beliveau passed away in 2014, his legacy will continue to live on with every player who puts on Montreal Canadiens uniform.
4. Hated: Mike Cammalleri
Mike Cammalleri was coming off impressive 39 goal season with the Calgary Flames when he signed a five-year $30 million contract with the Canadiens in 2009. In the end, Cammalleri only spent half of the contract with the Canadiens. Cammalleri wasn’t a complete bust during his time in a Habs uniform, but he wasn’t able to stay healthy for his first couple of seasons. However, it was his third season with the team in 2011-12 where things started to unravel for Cammalleri and the Canadiens. He got off to a slow start offensively, recorded just 22 points in 38 games. Not only was Cammalleri struggling, but the team was struggling as a whole. Cammalleri wasn’t happy with the way the team was playing, and stated that the team had a “losing attitude.” He also wasn’t happy with the amount of playing time he was getting under new head coach Randy Cunneyworth.
It wasn’t too long after that Cammalleri was pulled out from a game, only to find out that he had been traded to the Calgary Flames in a deal involving Rene Bourque. Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier gave a parting shot towards Cammalleri, stating that Bourque would score the “hard goals” that Cammalleri wasn’t willing to do. Although Cammalleri never directly asked for a trade out of Montreal, it was clear he wasn’t too happy playing there.
3. Loved: Maurice “The Rocket” Richard
“The Rocket” was arguably the first ever superstar in the history of the National Hockey League. Maurice Richard spent his entire 18 season NHL career as a member of the Montreal Canadiens. In just his third season, he became the first player to score 50 goals, which he accomplished in just 50 games. Richard continued to put the puck in the net at a rapid pace, and in 1957 he became the first player to ever record 500 regular season goals.
Playing in the hockey-mad city of Montreal, Richard became almost Godlike. An incident that occurred in 1955 proved just how much the fans loved him. Richard may have been known as a goal scorer, but he was also known for his fiery temper, one that got him into to trouble on many occasions. In a game against the rival Boston Bruins, Maurice was given a match penalty for deliberately injuring a player and punching a linesman. NHL president Clarence Campbell would suspend Richard for the remainder of the season. To say that Habs fan weren’t too happy about Campbell’s decision would be a massive understatement. During the game following Richard’s suspension, a massive riot occurred that caused a $100,000 in property damage, thirty-seven injuries, and 100 arrests. How could Richard not love playing in Montreal after seeing fans willing to go that far for him?
2. Hated: Scott Gomez
When Scott Gomez was traded to the Canadiens from the Rangers it was shocking. The part what made it so shocking was the fact the Rangers were able to get Gomez’ terrible contract off of their salary cap. Gomez was just two years into his seven-year contract with the Rangers that was worth a whopping $51.5 million. While Gomez was at once a top playmaker in the league, his career at the time was definitely in decline.
With the big contract, came big expectations for Gomez. His first season with Montreal was actually pretty good as he finished his second on the team with 59 points. His next two season in Montreal were a completely different story. After posting 38 points his next season, Gomez only managed to put up 11 points in 38 games during his last season as a Hab. Gomez would eventually be bought out by the Canadiens. To makes matters worse for Montreal was the fact that they gave up future stud defenseman Ryan McDonagh to acquire Gomez.
If Scott Gomez could go back in time, there is a good chance he never leaves New Jersey. Playing in high-pressure markets like New York and especially Montreal ended up being the downfall of his career.
1. Loved: P.K. Subban
June 30, 2016 is a day that Montreal Canadiens will never forget. It was on that day when the Canadiens traded away their star defenseman P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber. While it may be too early to say who won this trade, there is no denying the Subban left a huge mark on the franchise. While Carey Price was the team’s best defensive player, the team’s offense ran through the enigmatic Subban. In just his third full season with the team in 2012-13, he would capture the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman.
While Subban no doubt left a huge impact on the ice for Montreal, his impact off the ice was equally as great. The Toronto, Ontario native made the city of Montreal his new home. He fell in love with the people of Montreal and how quickly they embraced him as one of their own. Subban gave back to the community by donating $10 million to the Montreal Children’s Hospital. Even though Subban only played seven season’s with the Canadiens and his exit wasn’t so gracious, no matter where he goes in his career, he will look back at his time in Montreal with only fond memories.
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