The Habs have had some notable contributions from players born in the USA over the years with several of those having prominent roles. Which ones were good enough to make the cut on our all-time line?
Voters were asked to pick three forwards, two defencemen, and one goalie.
Max Pacioretty (95.9% of votes): While his tenure with Montreal didn’t exactly end on the highest of notes, there’s no denying that Pacioretty was a key cog for the Habs for a long time. A first-round pick back in 2007, he didn’t become a full-time regular until the 2011-12 campaign but he had his first of five seasons out of a six-year stretch with at least 30 goals and 60 points. (The one year in that stretch where he didn’t get there was the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign where he played at a 73-point pace.) Along the way, he became the captain of the team but that role seemed to wear on him over time and eventually led to a trade request. He was dealt to Vegas in 2018 and this season, he had another 30-goal/60-point campaign to lead the Golden Knights in scoring. Pacioretty is the top-scoring American-born player in franchise history so it’s no surprise that he topped the vote here.
Canadiens Stats: 626 GP, 226 goals, 222 assists, 428 points, +36 rating, 339 PIMS, 2,047 shots
John LeClair (63.8% of votes): The version of LeClair the Habs had is not the one that became part one of the most dominant lines in the NHL in Philadelphia but he was still a quality forward for them over his two full seasons with the team. He also chipped in with three game-winning goals during Montreal’s Stanley Cup-winning run back in 1993 which certainly helped earn him a lot of support. He was dealt to Philadelphia in a trade many would like to forget (him, Eric Desjardins, and Gilbert Dionne for Mark Recchi and a fifth-rounder) and blossomed into a dominant power forward with them with a decade before wrapping up his career with a pair of years in Pittsburgh; he retired in 2007.
Canadiens Stats: 224 GP, 49 goals, 69 assists, 118 points, +33 rating, 91 PIMS, 395 shots
Brian Gionta (63.5% of votes): Like LeClair, the Habs didn’t have Gionta in the prime of his career but he was an effective two-way winger. He never was able to beat his career-high in points that he had in his last season with New Jersey before joining the Habs but Gionta put up 28 and 29-goal seasons before his offence started to dip but his defensive ability still enabled him to play more than 19 minutes a game throughout his five-year contract. He earned the captaincy after just one season with the team, a role he held until his departure in 2014. Gionta went on to play three years in Buffalo and part of one season in Boston before calling it a career in 2018.
Canadiens Stats: 303 GP, 97 goals, 76 assists, 113 points, +3 rating, 96 PIMS, 906 shots
Just Missed The Cut: Chris Nilan
Chris Chelios (81.6% of votes): Chelios wasted little time becoming an integral all-around player on Montreal’s back end, collecting 64 points in his first full season back in 1983-84. When he was healthy, he was a legitimate number one blueliner. The problem was that staying healthy was a challenge which played a role in Montreal surprisingly deciding to trade him in 1990, just a year removed from a Norris Trophy victory. While Denis Savard (who came the other way) played well in three years with the Habs and won the Stanley Cup in 1993, Chelios went on to play for 19 more years between Chicago, Detroit, and Atlanta (for a handful of games). He retired at the age of 48 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2014.
Canadiens Stats: 402 GP, 72 goals, 237 assists, 309 points, +75 rating, 783 PIMS, 993 shots
Jeff Petry (46.7% of votes): Marc Bergevin brought in Petry at the 2014 trade deadline in a rare move that saw him bring in an impact rental player. He played a big role that postseason which helped him earn a new six-year deal with the Habs. During that time, he has become a reliable two-way player that has anchored their second pairing while moving up and holding his own in a bigger role when injuries have taken their toll. Petry has one more year on his deal left after this one and given how important he is to the Canadiens at the moment, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Bergevin try to get an extension done with him this offseason…whenever that actually comes around.
Canadiens Stats: 385 GP, 52 goals, 127 assists, 179 points, -51 rating, 130 PIMS, 801 shots
Just Missed The Cut: Rod Langway
Charlie Lindgren (32.1% of votes): In a battle of four goalies that were good enough to be backups at some point but had limited success overall, Lindgren narrowly gets the nod here. His tenure as Carey Price’s understudy has been minimal thus far but he has shown some flashes of upside over his parts of five seasons with the team (and yes, it really has been that long). Considering he went undrafted, getting to the point of being in the mix for a regular NHL spot is a nice accomplishment. With another year left on his contract, he certainly should be in the mix for the full-time number two role next season although it’s quite possible that they turn to the free agent market for a more proven option. If that happens, Lindgren will be waiting his turn once again.
Canadiens Stats: 24 GP, 10-12-2 record, 3.00 GAA, .907 SV%, 2 SO
Just Missed The Cut: Al Montoya
Be sure to check back on Monday as we begin the Team Canada edition of our poll series.