The All-Time Greatest Montreal Canadiens at Every Position
The Montreal Canadiens are one of the all-time greatest organizations in professional hockey.
The franchise will celebrate its 104th birthday on Dec. 4, and over the last century, Habs fans have witnessed some of hockey's finest athletes play in front of them.
Choosing a best player at each position is no easy task, but it's fun to do nonetheless.
Here are the all-time greatest Montreal Canadiens at every position.
A special thanks to ourhistory.canadiens.com for their wonderful historical information.
The All Runner-Up Team
Center: Henri Richard
The Pocket Rocket sits third in all-time Canadiens scoring with 1,046 points. He also appeared in a club record 1,256 regular season games. His 11 Stanley Cup rings represent more championships than any other athlete in North American professional sports.
Left Wing: Mats Naslund
Naslund was the first European to play for the Habs, and he's been remembered as one of the most exciting left wingers in Canadiens history. Despite playing just eight seasons in Montreal (617 games), Naslund amassed 612 points, including 243 goals. He remains the most recent Canadien to score 100 points in a season, picking up 110 in 1985-86.
Right Wing: Guy Lafleur
The Flower would be considered the best right winger in almost any other organization's history, but the Canadiens had a certain Rocket who played this same position. Lafleur is the all-time leading point-getter for the Habs with 1,246 in 961 regular season games played. He won five Stanley Cups in the 1970s and also has two Hart Trophies to his credit.
Defense: Guy Lapointe
Lapointe played 14 seasons in Montreal and helped the team win six Stanley Cups in the process. He was one of the better offensive defensemen in club history and actually ranks second in points by a defender with 572.
Defense: Serge Savard
Savard will always be remembered for his famous "Savardian Spin-o-rama", but he was much more than just that as a defenseman. He appeared in 917 regular season games, scoring 412 points from the blue line while finishing his career at plus-492. He was a major part of eight championship teams and even took home the Conn Smythe in 1968-69.
Goalie: Jacques Plante
The pioneer of the modern-day goalie mask was also a tremendous keeper himself. He's the all-time leader in Canadiens wins with 314, finishing his career with a 2.23 goals against average. He also posted 58 shutouts and won six Stanley Cups.
Plante edges Ken Dryden as runner-up mostly due to the fact that Dryden's career was simply too short.
Center: Jean Beliveau
Jean Beliveau is the most beloved Canadiens figure of all time and the best center in the history of this great organization.
Beliveau's offensive statistics lead all centers to ever don the red, white and blue. He totaled 1,219 points (507-712) in 1,125 regular season games. He sits second to only Guy Lafleur in career scoring with the Habs.
Le Gros Bill debuted in 1953-54 and would go on to play 20 seasons with the Canadiens—10 of them as captain.
His illustrious career included 10 Stanley Cup championships, two Hart Trophies, an Art Ross and a Conn Smythe.
He was a great hockey player and an even better person. He'll forever be remembered as not only one of the best centers to ever play the game, but one of the most respected as well.
Left Wing: Steve Shutt
Steve Shutt was a highly recruited amateur but had a hard time breaking in to the NHL. Until he was put on a line with Guy Lafleur, that is.
Once coach Scotty Bowman paired wingers Shutt and Lafleur with center Peter Mahovlich, things clicked. In their first year together, Shutt had 30 goals and 35 assists as a third-year player in the league (Lafleur scored 53 times and Mahovlich had 117 points.)
That was only the beginning for Shutt. The 1974-75 season was the first of nine consecutive 30-goal seasons for the 5'11" left winger from Toronto. That run included three seasons of 40-plus goals and one of 60—a Canadiens record that still stands today.
Shutt retired in 1983-84 after 13 seasons and five Stanley Cups. He was named to the hockey Hall of Fame in 1993.
Right Wing: Maurice Richard
When Maurice Richard broke into the league in 1942-43, he scored five goals in 16 games before a broken leg ended his season. He had shown promise, but no one in the league at that time could have predicted what he would go on to do.
When he returned to the ice the next season, The Rocket quickly became the most exciting player the NHL had witnessed in quite some time. His offensive skill set had never been seen before, and defenders had no idea how to stop him.
Richard is famously known as the first player in league history to score 50 goals in a season. He did it in just 50 games and in only his second full NHL season.
For his career, The Rocket scored 544 times in the regular season and a whopping 82 times in the playoffs. Both still stand as Canadiens records.
Richard brought eight Stanley Cups to the city of Montreal, including five straight from 1955-60.
The Rocket played his last game in 1960 and was immediately voted into the hockey Hall of Fame.
Defense: Larry Robinson
Simply put, Larry Robinson was one of the greatest offensive defensemen to ever play the game.
A steal in the second round of the 1971 amateur draft (where the Habs also chose Guy Lafleur first overall), Big Bird would go on to play 17 incredible seasons with the Canadiens.
After 1,202 career regular season games played in Montreal, Robinson sits near the top of all of the Canadiens' major offensive records. His 883 points sit fifth on the all-time list, while his 686 assists rank fourth.
He was also pretty good in his own end, finishing his career a plus-730 (plus-700 with the Canadiens). Yes, you read that correctly. Plus-730.
Robinson won six Stanley Cups, two Norris Trophies and one Conn Smythe in his 17 seasons with the Canadiens. He retired in 1992.
Defense: Doug Harvey
Doug Harvey debuted with the Canadiens in 1947-48 and would go on to revolutionize the position. He was one of hockey's first defensemen to be an important part of his team's offensive attack.
Harvey was the workhorse blueliner for the dominant Canadiens squads of the 1950s. He was a key part of six Stanley Cup championships, winning in 1952-53 and then five straight from 1955-60.
He also captured seven Norris Trophies in eight seasons from 1955-62, with teammate Tom Johnson borrowing the honor in 1959. Only Bobby Orr has won it more times in a career (eight).
Statistically, Harvey finished his NHL career with 540 points (447 with the Habs) in 1,113 games. He retired from the game after the 1968-69 season.
Goalie: Patrick Roy
Let's blame it on Ronald Corey.
After all, he was the one who fired coach Jacques Demers and general manager Serge Savard four games into the 1995-96 season. Surely, they wouldn't have made the mistakes that their successors would.
Corey then hired Rejean Houle as GM and Mario Tremblay as coach, even though the latter had never coached a day before in his life.
Six weeks into his coaching career, Tremblay decided to leave Patrick Roy in the net for nine goals against the Red Wings. Roy, who had a strong dislike for Tremblay even before he was hired to coach the Canadiens, demanded a trade.
Houle, the rookie general manager, was now put in the impossible position of having to trade one of the most popular players to ever represent the city of Montreal. The move he made with the Colorado Avalanche was one of the worst in NHL history.
Roy, with his 289 wins and two Stanley Cups, and captain Mike Keane were shipped off for Jocelyn Thibault, Martin Rucinsky and Andrei Kovalenko. Ouch.
Even though Roy had already appeared in 551 games with the Canadiens, his career was far from over.
He would go on to play eight seasons in Colorado and would run his career record to 551-315-131. He had a career goals-against average of 2.54 and a .912 save percentage. He also added 66 shutouts.
From the time Roy left the Habs until he retired, the Canadiens would win just two playoffs series. The Avalanche won two Stanley Cups.
Roy is always in discussion as being the best goaltender to ever play the game of hockey. He's, therefore, worthy of being named Montreal's all-time greatest netminder, no matter how abruptly his Canadiens career ended.
Now, if only Ronald Corey hadn't fired Demers and Savard...
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