MONTREAL – A subjective look at the 10 top players in the Montreal Canadiens’ 100-year history:
1. Jean Beliveau: The big centre was so gifted the Canadiens bought an entire senior league to secure his rights in the 1950s. He came through with 507 goals, 712 assists and 10 Stanley Cups in an 18-year career that ended in 1971. He was team captain the last 10 years. Beliveau was named MVP of the league in 1956 and 1964. He later served as team vice-president, a period in which seven more Cups were won.
2. Maurice (Rocket) Richard: The fiery winger is considered the best pure goal-scorer in team history and was the first NHL player to score 50 goals (in 50 games) in a season in 1944-45 as a member of the famed Punch Line with Toe Blake and Elmer Lach. The eight-time Stanley Cup champ was so beloved by Canadiens fans, they rioted when he was suspended for the end of the 1955 season and the playoffs after a brawl. He was named MVP in 1947 and retired after a fifth straight Cup in 1960.
3. Guy Lafleur: The dashing right-winger was the engine of a team that won four consecutive Cups in the 1970s. He led the NHL in scoring three times, was named MVP in 1977 and 1978, and was the first player to score 50 goals and 100 points in six consecutive seasons. Three years after a bitter retirement in 1984, he made a comeback with the New York Rangers, but later returned to Montreal as a public relations ambassador.
4. Howie Morenz: Considered the NHL’s first superstar, he won Stanley Cups in 1924, 1930 and 1931, was named MVP three times and twice led the league in scoring. In 1929-30, he had 40 goals in a 44-game schedule. He died shortly after suffering a career-ending broken leg in 1937 and thousands of fans attended his funeral at the Montreal Forum.
5. Doug Harvey: The seven-time Norris Trophy winner was the top defenceman of his era and a key player on the team that won five straight Cups in the 1950s. The Montreal native was said to be able to control the tempo of a game with his ability to keep the puck and bring it up ice either slowly or at great speed. He was named to the first all-star team 10 times.
6. Jacques Plante: Knitting his own tuques was not the only exceptional aspect of the six-time Vezina Trophy goaltender and backstop of the 1950s dynasty. An innovator, he was the first goalie to leave his crease to play pucks, and in 1959, he became the first to wear a mask full-time. Later, he became the first NHL goalie coach. Won both the Hart and Vezina trophies in 1961-62.
7. Larry Robinson: The six-foot-four defenceman was the backbone of the 1970s dynasty and was still in Montreal for the surprise Cup in 1986. Mixing offensive skill with a feared physical presence in his own zone, he won Norris Trophies in 1977 and 1980 and a Conn Smythe as MVP of the playoffs in 1978.
8. Patrick Roy: The skinny goalie from Quebec City who popularized the butterfly style was as fierce a competitor as any in the team’s history. His outstanding play was by far the main reason underdog Montreal teams won Cups in 1986 and 1993, and he took the Conn Smythe Trophy both times. The three-time Vezina winner won two more Cups with Colorado after a bitter parting with the Canadiens in December, 1995.
9. Serge Savard: The big, skilled defenceman overcame two broken legs early in his career to play 17 seasons and win eight Cups as a player. His evasive move that broadcaster Danny Gallivan called the Savardian Spinarama is part of Canadiens lore. He later became general manager and built the 1986 and 1993 Cup winners.
10. Henri Richard: The Rocket’s younger brother was a small, speedy centre who holds a record that will likely never be matched – 11 Stanley Cups. His career started with five straight Cups in the 1950s and he was also part of the 1960s team that won four times in a five-year span. And he added two more in the early 1970s.