Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images
Former Montreal Canadiens captain Yvan Cournoyer.
Named captain: Prior to the 1975-76 season
Number of seasons as captain: 4
Number of playoff appearances: 4
Number of Stanley Cups: 4
Whereas Gainey went eight for eight in terms of playoff appearances over seasons as captain, Yvan Cournoyer was even more perfect. Capturing four Stanley Cups in his four seasons as captain—an amazing 10 overall—Cournoyer helped set a golden standard that has not since been matched.*
Captaining some of the greatest teams in NHL history in the 1976-77 and 1977-78 Habs, Cournoyer obviously had it relatively easy.
Proof of that came during the 1977 postseason, the entirety of which Cournoyer missed due to back surgery. The best team ever assembled (earning a record 132 regular season points) still cut through the competition like butter without him, losing just two games en route to the Stanley Cup.
Nevertheless, it’s hard not to give credit where credit is due. After all, that 1976-77 team boasted the likes of Lafleur, Steve Shutt, Robinson, Guy Lapointe, Jacques Lemaire and Pete Mahovlich—just for starters.
Like Gainey (also on the team), Cournoyer, especially in that latter stage of his career, definitely wasn’t the Habs’ best player, but he was still a future Hall of Famer. Granted, he was one of many, but not just for his scoring ability.
After a full season played in 1977-78, he played just 15 games in 1978-79, his last before retiring. Again, the Habs won it all without him playing during the playoffs, but, while the Roadrunner couldn’t outrun his health issues any longer, he left the game trailing only Lafleur, Maurice Richard and Jean Beliveau on the team’s all-time goal-scoring list.
Not exactly bad company to keep.
*Denis Potvin helped lead the New York Islanders to four straight Cups from 1979-83, but he acted as team captain from 1979-87, thus falling well short of the four-for-four, perfect standard described above. It’s an admitted technicality and not meant in any way to diminish the significance of Potvin’s accomplishment.