The Montreal Canadiens in their 100 years of history have produced some of the greatest snipers to ever play the game. Maurice "The Rocket" Richard and Guy Lafleur are two of the most famous. That league best setup man has been rarer for them.
Other organizations seem to produce a multiplicity of great passers and playmakers: Stan Mikita, Dave Keon, Sid Abel, Jean Ratelle, Alex Delvecchio, Denis Savard, Brian Trottier, Ron Francis, Phil Esposito, Wayne Gretzky, Marcel Dionne, Adam Oates, Joe Thornton, Gilbert Perreault, Mario Lemieux, Joe Sakic, Bernie Federko, Dale Hawerchuk, Bobby Clarke, Steve Yzerman, Mike Modano.
The only forwards who played for the Montreal Canadiens and were among the top 30 career assist men in the league are Mark Recchi, Denis Savard and Pierre Turgeon. They had barely a decade of service in Montreal between the three of them. There are very few all-time great setup men who were career Montreal Canadiens.
A recent survey of team fans commemorating 100 years of Montreal Canadiens hockey produced this list of the top 10 playmakers in team history. I have used this list as my starting point and expanded and modified it.
I have made an attempt to include Montreal Canadiens from all eras. This is a problem especially when dealing with the early NHL and the NHA years when assists weren't counted or only awarded for a key play that set up a goal. Some of these players come from an era when the forward pass was illegal.
The Montreal Canadiens still have produced a large number of fast skating, highly skilled, stick handling, sharp passing, playmakers. I've ranked them using their total assist numbers, the assists they produced per game played, how often they lead the team in assists, how often they lead the league or were among the league leaders in assists in a regular season, how long they played in Montreal, as well as any personal recollections I have of players I watched from 1967 on, and any anecdotes I can glean from books and stories on the these players.
I have included with each player the amount of regular season games they played with Les Habitants, the number of assists they recorded in that time and the number of assists per game they generated in their Montreal Canadiens career. Those numbers all come from ourhistory.canadiens.com.
This then is my list of the players I believe were the greatest play makers or setup men, if you will, ever, on the Montreal Canadiens.