Montreal Canadiens history is replete with stories of flying frenchmen. The scorers, the skaters, the goaltenders, even the great defensemen get their due.
But there is a role on hockey teams that is often ignored. That is the role of the defensive forward. The checker or shadow is employed not so much to score but to keep the other team’s star from scoring on you. The checking forward often will follow that star around the ice and work to deny him the puck. If he gets the puck the checking forward’s job is to do whatever it takes to get the puck out of his zone and away from his net.
It is not a glamorous role. Yet it was a role that became painfully apparent as the Canadiens had to deal with Gordie Howe, Frank Mahovlich, Bobby Hull, Bobby Orr, Mike Bossy, Wayne Gretzky, and Mario Lemieux. The ability to stop those players from beating you becomes crucial.
Montreal, like all the other NHL teams, resorts to using checkers to cover these and minimize their impact. I've put together a list of the selfless defensive forwards who I think were the ten best in Montreal Canadiens history.
Thanks to Mike Leonetti and his 2003 book, Canadiens Legends Montreal's Hockey Heroes for stories on many of these players and especially for the information on Floyd Curry and Bert Olmstead. Also thanks to hockeydb.com for the statistics.