100 Years Of Canadiens History, 100 Years Of Unsung Heroes, Part Five

Matt HomdisCorrespondent IAugust 28, 2008

The Montreal Canadiens are celebrating the centennial anniversary of the team this upcoming '08-'09 NHL season. Many ceremonies will surely take place at the Bell Centre this year; a motion picture detailing their history is scheduled to come out this winter. All the while, celebrating all 24 Stanley Cups the team has won, all the great players who have worn the journey, and the fans that have stood behind them since day one.

Well, for every Guy Lafleur, Henri Richard, and Jean Beliveau on the Stanley Cup, there are hundreds of lesser known players who have put their mark on this team. There surely will be dozens of best of all-time lists this year from experts and non-experts alike.

I would like to share with you some of the men who have helped shape this greatest of hockey teams.

Oleg Petrov

Papa Smurf

Following the NHL lockout a few years ago, major changes where made to the way the game is played at the pro level, making it easier for smaller, quicker more skilled players to excel, without having to worry about the constant clutching and grabbing the league had become infamous for in the mid-90s.

Drafted in 1991 in the sixth round as an afterthought, Oleg Petrov made his debut in the NHL late in the 93 season, playing one game in Montreal's playoff run which ended with them capturing the Stanley Cup.

Over the next few years, he bounced between the Habs and the AHL, never being able to secure a roster spot, due to his diminutive size. In 1996, discouraged by not being able to crack the lineup he returned to Europe and proceeded to play 3 years where he posted over 200 points in little over 100 games, and was once again brought back to Montreal. With Saku Koivu and Valeri Bure, he helped form a strong second line for the Habs, famously named the Smurf Line, due to the smallish size of the three. Putting up solid for a few years, Petrov was shipped off to Nashville in 2002 as the Canadiens continued to rebuild with younger players.

Apres Habs

Upon playing a lackluster year with the Predators, Petrov once again returned to Europe, where he once again excelled, as the style of hockey was more suited to his style.

He is now playing in Russia in the new KHL league with the AK Bars Kazan team heavily favored to win the championship in its inaugural season.

Closing Thoughts

In life, sometimes you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, and Oleg Petrov may be the best example of this as he came into the league when defense was number one, and offensive talent like himself where cast aside.

With the smaller and quicker teams in the league being the future so far in the new NHL, Petrov would have probably ripped the scoring sheets apart if he had the chance to play here in his prime.