This week is a rare chance for the Habs and their families to be together for an extended period over the holidays. It is rare that we don't have a game on the 23rd or 26th. That, of course, also means that these are slow times for us here at Lions in Winter as there is little going on in Habsworld.
We have, however, been conducting some research for an upcoming piece on the greatest players in team history and through that we have stumbled across some very astounding and fun stats. The following is a list of 20 achievements over the Habs career of certain players. Some you may know, some may be news to you, but I urge you, nevertheless, to take a look and remember just how good of a team we have been over the past 99 years.
We don't hear much about the Habs' first star, but before Morenz there was Lalonde. He only suited up for the team in a total of 218 games, but during that time he accumulated 353 points. He played in the inaugural season and went on to play in 11 of the first 12. He led the team 9 times in regular season scoring and led the league a total of 3 times.
Among Howie's major achievements are the fact that he led the Habs in both goals and points a total of 7 times each - twice he led the league. More impressive was the fact that he won an astonishing 3 Hart trophies as league MVP; more than any other Hab.
The pocket-rocket was team captain for 4 years, is a hall-of-famer and is one of the very few to have his shirt hanging from the rafters. The one stat, however, that I believe he will never lose or share is the fact that he won 11 Stanley Cups. Just think of that for a second, think of Roy and his 4, Gretzky and his 4, Messier and his 6 and it just makes this that much more special.
Before the trap in New Jersey there was a fire-wagon in Montreal, and, don't be fooled, Jacques was definitely among the flying frenchmen. His 139 career playoff points ranks second in team history, only le Gros Bill has more.
Koivu will hopefully, if we get him signed, become the longest ever serving captain in team history. Saku's leadership, however, extends beyond the ice. In 2006 he became the only player in team history to win the league's King Clancy Award, given annually, since 1988, to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.
Don't be alarmed if this name isn't familiar as I too learned it for the first time a few days ago. In 274 games alongside Lalonde on the earliest versions of the Habs (playoffs included) he managed 296 points for a point/game average of 1.08. He ranks 4th all-time on the team in points/game, of players who have played at least 250 games, behind Lafleur, Frank Mahovolich and Beliveau.
Claude ranks 5th all-time in games played for the Habs and most notable has played more games in the bleu-blanc-rouge than any other right winger - notably Maurice Richard, Lafleur and Cournoyer.
Of all the impressive stats that the roadrunner put up in his career one in particular stands out to me. He is the all-time leader in playoff game-winning goals with 15. I really don't know if there is more crucial stat than that at the end of the day.
When you think of Chris you think of knuckles, fighting and thus PIM. However, did you realize he leads the Habs in all-time penalty minutes by over 1000 minutes over his next closest rival; Shayne Corson. Nilan averaged over 4 minutes in the box, per game, during his Hab career.
The coach right? Well before the coach came the player. Did you know there are only 6 players in team history to lead the team in scoring at least 5 times? 4 of those players are now immortalized in bronze outside the Bell Centre, the others are Lalonde and Toe Blake. Blake holds the distinction of being the only LW to achieve this feat.
Was Scotty Bowman a LW too? Apparently great hockey minds started their journeys on the left sides of ice rinks. Once called the greatest player in the world by the Soviets (at a time when they were also playing against Lafleur, Dryden, Orr, Esposito etc.), Bob has the distinction of having a trophy made for him. That trophy is the Selke; awarded annually to the best defensive forward. In all Bob won a league-record 4 of those and that doesn't include all the ones he would have won while he convincing the league he deserved such an honour.
Doug was regarded as the best defenceman in the world before a certain Bobby Orr came along, but still likely ranks in the top-5 of all time. In fact, many consider him the best player to ever suit up for Montreal. It, therefore, is no wonder that he has won an impressive 6 Norris trophies as the league's best defenceman - more than all other Habs combined.
I remember Jacques as a long time defensive coach for the Habs, but little did I know just how good of a player he had been. In all he played 779 games for the Habs and put his name on the Cup 5 times. He is the only defenceman in team history to ever win the Calder Trophy, as the league's best rookie. This trophy is usually reserved for forwards and goalies as defencemen usually take years to develop into NHL-capable blue-liners. In all the Calder has been won by 8 other defencemen, including Orr, Potvin, Bourque and Leetch.
I took an interest in the career +/- of Habs players and I found that the top-ranked player is miles apart from Sheldon Souray, whose -44 ranks as a team worst. Larry's +/- is a whopping +700! I can't even believe how that is possible as it ranks over 200 points better than any other player in team history. Robinson clearly was a lot more than a big hitter and high point-getter.
Luongo isn't the only goalie to be the captain of a team. In fact, we had 2: Vezina and Durnan. Bill, however, seems to be one of those players that has got lost in the history books. Few Habs fans would put him on a top-5 of our team's all-time best goalies as few even know the name. His most impressive stat, however, could change a few minds. He played over 200 games less than Plante with the Habs, but matched his 6 Vezina trophies nonetheless.
The numbers would probably suggest Plante was the Habs' best ever goalie and he may very well be the best the league has ever seen. Despite all the accolades there was still one number that amazed me. In 646 career games he recoded 68 shutouts - more than 1 every 10 games.
He came in at the top and left even higher. In only 8 years he accomplished more than any other goalie before or since. His Stanley Cups and 5 Vezina Trophies are mind-boggling considering the length of his career. I was most taken, however, by his 0.737 winning %. In every 2 games he played he came away with about 3 points - forget losing streaks!
We all know the drama that came with Jose, but at his core there was a fantastic goalie. Rarely has that player been seen since the 2002 season, but so long as he isn't facing the Habs I hope he one day rebounds with the Capitals to the form we all know he had. In that magical season of 2002 he became the 12th Hab goalie to win the Vezina, but more impressively was just the second (Plante) to win the Hart as the league's MVP. We waited 24 years to win this trophy, our longest ever wait, let's hope the next one comes a bit sooner.
Of all the great goalies we've had few have impressed me the way Cristo did. He was a fierce competitor and a true gentleman. But, above all he was an excellent goalie. He, in fact, is the Habs all-time leader in save % as he is the only player to stop 92% of shots he faced.
The last of the 20 pieces on numbers is something that has always bothered me. According to my NHL guide (1995-1996) the Canadiens had at that time retired 2 more numbers than they now claim to have done. Along with the 15 players we honour now, I believe there are 2 that we are forgetting. Both Aurele Joliat (4) and Elmer Lach (16) had, according to the league, their sweaters retired. These 2 players' career numbers would leave any other team calling them franchise players and even on the Habs I believe they are amongst that illustrious group. If anyone knows the story behind all of this I would love to hear it.
That is all for now. From us hear at Lions have a great Christmas and we'll be back in touch on Saturday as the Habs get back at 'er.