Top Ten Canadiens, '85-05

For 50 years, Red Fisher has been covering the Montreal Canadiens. During the lockout he wrote articles on the top ten Habs he has seen. (Excellent articles, by the way. Go read them, now!) It is striking that only Gainey and Robinson had careers that reached into the last twenty years, and they were in their twilights.

I have been a Habs fan since the 1986 Cup. This season will mark the 20th anniversary of Cup #23. In celebration of this milestone, and with a tip of the hat (and apologies) to Mr. Fisher, I give you my top 10 Montreal Canadiens of the last twenty years.

This list is not necessarily the best players who happened to don a Habs jersey sometime over the last two decades. That list would probably include names like Recchi and Muller. Rather, it lists the players who made the greatest contributions to the team over the years.

10. Stephane Richer
A man of his talent should place higher on this list. Unfortunately, he personified many of the negative qualities of professional athletes over the last 20 years. Nonetheless, there were many nights he was the Habs sole threat to score and he has a couple of 50 goal seasons on his resume. 225 goals, 421 points in 490 games with the Habs from 1984-1998.

9. Shayne Corson
Another player long on promise yet short on results. He was expected to be the next great power forward. It never happened, but he gave the team some much needed size and grit up front. I hope his stint with the Leafs, where he caught the "Darcy Tucker Crazy," doesn't tarnish his long career. 423 points, 1341 PIM in 662 games, 1985-2000.

8. Bobby Smith
Bearing an uncanny resemblance to one of the goonies, this rangy, talented two-way centre produced at nearly a point-per-game pace. Yes, this happened smack-dab in the middle of the Gretzky NHL. 482 points in 505 games, 1983-1990.

7. Vincent Damphousse
A solid offensive performer with a surprising edge to his game. One of the few players whose production did not drop off after joining the Habs - indeed his best seasons (40g, 91pts in 93-94 & 38g, 94pts in 95-96) were with the tricolore. 23pts in 20 games in the '93 Cup run. 498 points in 519 games from 1992-1999.

6. Chris Chelios
The best defenseman to wear the uniform after Larry Robinson and the reason I wore #24 in minor hockey. He was with the team before hitting his peak, but enjoyed some great seasons. I'll never forget Ron Hextall taking a run at him after a deliberate offside in their '89 playoff series. 309 points, 783 PIM in 402 games from 1983-1990.

5. Mats Naslund
An inspiration to small players, including Hart winner Martin St. Louis who also wears #26. Naslund racked up 110 points in the '86 Cup season, and won the Lady Byng in '88. 612 points in 617 games from 1982-1990.

4. Jose Theodore
Hart and Vezina winner in 2002. First Hab to win the Hart since Guy Lafleur. Led the team to playoff upsets over the Bruins in 2002 and 2004. Now please sign him, Bob Gainey.

3. Saku Koivu
Sisu personified. Pierre Turgeon bagged 96 points in '95-96. At the tender age of 21, Koivu's performance in '96-97 made Turgeon expendable. Despite his size, his injuries and his illness, he has been the team's heart and soul for the last nine years. 398 hard fought points in 497 games from 1995-2004. Please start working on a long term contract for your captain, Mr. Gainey.

2. Guy Carbonneau
Allowed fans to continue chanting "Guy, Guy, Guy!" well after Lafleur retired. His three Selke trophies trail only Gainey's four. Took over as co-captain with Chelios when Robinson left. A quintessential defensive specialist, this guy had great hands and was a real threat in the offensive zone. 547 points in 912 games from 1980-1994.

1. Patrick Roy
Who else? Four Jennings, Three Vezinas, and Two Smythe trophies. He's the only player from the last two decades worthy of being on Red's top 10 list (but wasn't, inexplicably). The torch was passed from Richard to Beliveau to Lafleur to Roy... then the catastrophe in 1996 broke the chain.

Honourable mentions go to Patrice Brisebois (Canadiens' 6th highest scoring defenseman of all-time), Claude Lemieux, Chris Nilan, Mike Keane, Benoit Brunet and Eric Desjardins.


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