The Habs have had several quality defencemen from Manitoba suit up for them over the years which made the voting for the spots on our top line extremely close. Here are the results.
Voters were asked to pick three forwards, two defencemen, and one goalie.
Mike Keane (83.2% of votes): The Habs signed Keane as an undrafted free agent and a lot of teams I’m sure were wondering how he slipped through the cracks. He made it to the NHL in 1988 and spent parts of eight seasons with the Habs as a reliable two-way forward while helping them win a Stanley Cup in 1993. Shortly after being named captain, he was included in the infamous Patrick Roy trade which pretty much everyone on the Montreal side would like to try to repress from their memory. Keane went on to play eight more years in the NHL but never reached the offensive heights that he reached with the Canadiens. Following the 2004-05 lockout, he went on to play for five years with his hometown as a member of the Manitoba Moose before finally calling it a career in 2010 just shy of his 43rd birthday. Keane is one of only a small group of players to win a Cup with three separate organizations (Montreal, Colorado, and Dallas).
Canadiens Stats: 506 GP, 90 goals, 179 assists, 269 points, +65 rating, 496 PIMS, 748 shots
Dale Weise (50.4% of votes): While he’s no more than a depth player in his second stint with the Habs, he was an effective third liner in his first opportunity where he posted the best two offensive seasons of his career. Of course, Weise’s value to the team goes beyond that as he was part of the trade that helped land Montreal Phillip Danault and the draft pick that netted Alexander Romanov. In between his time with the Canadiens, Weise spent time with Chicago and Philadelphia. His contract is up at the end of the year and it’s unlikely he’ll be brought back. While statistically, he shouldn’t have been on this list (he made it over Billy Reay who is 58th in franchise scoring), being in the current era certainly helped his case.
Canadiens Stats: 184 GP, 28 goals, 36 assists, 64 points, +24 rating, 93 PIMS, 240 shots
Chuck Lefley (35.9% of votes): Lefley was a first-round pick (sixth overall) of the Habs back in 1970 and we won’t hold it against him that Darryl Sittler went two spots after his selection. He saw NHL action the following two seasons after that before earning a full-time spot in 1972 where he became a reliable secondary scoring option, tallying 100 points over his two full seasons with the team while contributing to their 1973 Stanley Cup title (he also played a single game in their triumph in 1971). Lefley was moved to St. Louis in 1974 and found a new gear offensively, notching 85 points in 1975-76. However, at the expiration of his contract, he went to Finland and Germany before trying an NHL comeback with the Blues that ultimately fell short. As a result, he retired at 30.
Canadiens Stats: 174 GP, 45 goals, 60 assists, 105 points, +42 rating, 60 PIMS, 286 shots
Just Missed The Cut: Terry Reardon
Brian Engblom (51.2% of votes): It took a few years for Engblom to crack the lineup on a regular basis but when he did, he became an important part of Montreal’s back end quickly. Never the biggest threat offensively, he was more of a reliable defender which helped him make the league’s Second All-Star Team in 1981-82, a year where he was +78 in 76 games (and back then, that stat meant a lot). Engblom was moved to Washington as part of the Rod Langway trade but was flipped barely a year later to help the Capitals acquire Larry Murphy. He bounced around towards the end of his career with stints in Buffalo and Calgary before a neck injury ended his career in 1986.
Canadiens Stats: 316 GP, 14 goals, 87 assists, 101 points, +192 rating, 298 PIMS, 403 shots
Tom Johnson (42.2% of votes): Johnson was another notable undrafted free agent acquisition in 1947 and as far as those go, there’s a case to be made that he was the best one. Johnson spent 14 seasons with the Canadiens, winning six Stanley Cup titles along the way plus the Norris Trophy in 1958-59. Like Engblom, offence wasn’t a big part of his game (he reached 30 points once in his career) but he was a stalwart in his own end. He was picked up in the Waiver Draft by Boston in 1963 but suffered a career-ending injury the following year. Johnson was inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1970 and sits 16th on Montreal’s all-time games played list.
Canadiens Stats: 857 GP, 47 goals, 183 assists, 230 points, 897 PIMS
Just Missed The Cut: Ken Reardon – worth noting, all five blueliners had at least 20% of votes (remember, two defenders were picked per ballot) and as a result, this was a very tight race.
Ernie Wakely (53.7% of votes): Admittedly, pickings here were slim as Wakely only played two games with the Habs while the other option, Paul Gauthier, had just one. Wakely was the only one to record a win which was back in his NHL debut in 1962-63. His next NHL appearance came six seasons later but after he was dealt to St. Louis in 1969 (for two players that were later sold for cash), he carved out a decent career for himself, spending three years with the Blues before shifting to the WHA for seven seasons.
Canadiens Stats: 2 GP, 1-1-0 record, 3.50 GAA, .875 SV%
Be sure to check back on Monday for the next Canadian edition of our poll series.