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With talk now shifting to who should be the next captain of the Canadiens, we thought it would be a good time to reflect for a moment on the outgoing one. Brian Gionta spent five seasons in Montreal with the Habs making the postseason in four of those while playing an important two-way role throughout. On the flip side, injuries played a major role towards the end of his contract, reducing his effectiveness. At the end of the day, was his tenure with the Habs a success?
Simon Aronson: In my opinion, his tenure in Montreal was a successful one. The team made the playoffs in four of the five seasons that he was with the team, reaching the conference finals in two of those years. Gionta had seasons of 28 and 29 goals and always managed to score at least close to 0.50 points per game; In 303 regular season games he had 97 goals with a total of 173 points. Gionta was a good leader, demonstrating a strong work ethic and being defensively responsible. In my opinion, Gionta was a key piece in establishing the culture change after the Koivu/Kovalev era and did well passing on the good leadership characteristics on to the young core in the room.
Matt Dilworth: Obviously, if you connote ”successful” with winning a Stanley Cup, then Gionta’s tenure wouldn’t be seen as such. I don’t, and since Montreal did well in four out of the five years he played there, I would say Gionta’s tour as a Hab was a successful one. From day one, his leadership was evident on and off the ice, and the internal drama that had plagued the Canadiens for about a decade abruptly ceased. A lot of that had to do with purging particular Canadiens and acquiring the “character” guys that GM Marc Bergevin is so fond of, but Gionta certainly played a part in the turnaround. Even as injuries increasingly limited Gionta’s efficiency as he played out his contract, he continued to find a way to make a positive impact on the ice, and consistently delivered in the goals department. His leadership will be missed, but I think that Gionta has influenced the next wave of Canadiens to emulate his work ethic; we will see a few of Gionta’s characteristics in some of the young veterans this year.
Brian La Rose: It would be hard to argue that his tenure wasn't successful even though I get the sense that quite a lot of fans are happy that he's gone. Gionta was never supposed to be a top line player so it can't be held against him that he didn't put up lofty numbers offensively. He was a reliable two-way player throughout and the team played well for most of his five years (the one year they were terrible was the season that he missed more than half the games). The culture of the organization has changed and while that's a buzz word that we've primarily seen since Bergevin took over as GM, Gionta deserves some credit as the captain/leader as well.
I think his size unfairly skewed some people's opinion of Gionta. Instead of being looked at as the solid contributor that he was, he'll be remembered in the eyes of many as the epitome of the 'smurf squad.' It's not his fault that other players on the team are/were lacking in the height department but that seemed to be held against him regularly. Gionta had a good run with the Habs and he'll certainly be missed.
Alex Létourneau: I’d say it was. He still had the scoring touch in his first two seasons followed by two unfortunate bicep injuries the next two seasons - that were no fault of his. The guy was always classy in the spotlight, never did anything to tarnish the captaincy or the club. He reinvented his game this past season, becoming a strong defensive player, and always played hard. His shoving matches with everyone bigger than him were an indication of the heart he had during his time here. He looked humbled and honoured to be part of the organization, never putting himself above it.
Kevin Meldrum: I would say a good part of Gionta's tenure was a success. In the first couple of seasons he scored big goals and was a key player who could be relied upon as a solid three zone player. But injuries really were a big factor in two of the past years and he just broke down. Last year, he played way too much with little to show for in the playoffs and showed that he has lost a step. That being said he has a lot of heart/character and he battled hard to come back from those serious injuries so he deserves a lot of credit; in saying that he was a very solid signing for the Habs so his run was successful for most of the last five years.