There has been no shortage of elite Quebec-born players to suit for the Habs over the years. Which Hall of Famers earned spots on their all-time number one line?
Jean Beliveau (98.6% of votes) – Considering the Canadiens had to buy a league in order to secure his rights, expectations were high for Beliveau in Montreal from day one. Boy, did he ever live up to them and then some. He was a top centre for the better part of two decades, one of the leading scorers in franchise history, and won ten Stanley Cups as a player (plus seven more as an executive). He spent his entire career with the Habs, spanning 20 years. But his legacy will live on in Montreal for more than just his on-ice accolades as he was nothing short of hockey royalty away from the rink, making him the ideal choice as the top vote-getter for forwards in this exercise.
Canadiens Stats: 1,125 GP, 507 goals, 712 assists, 1,219 points, +117 rating*, 1,033 PIMS, 2,627 shots*
(*-These stats were only counted starting in 1959-60; by then, Beliveau had 377 games under his belt.)
Maurice Richard (70.2% of votes) – It wasn’t exactly a high-scoring era when he played but Richard was one of the great goal scorers of his time. He led the league in that department five different times over his 18-year NHL career (again, all with Montreal) and made it to an All-Star team in 14 straight years. That was enough to make him the all-time leading goal-getter in franchise history while he helped lead the Habs to eight Stanley Cup titles. His nickname will long live on as Montreal’s farm team was called the Rocket in his honour.
Canadiens Stats: 978 GP, 544 goals, 422 assists, 966 points, 1,287 PIMS
Guy Lafleur (63.0% of votes) – Nearly 800 different skaters have worn a Canadiens sweater over their 100-plus years and not a single one of them had more points than Lafleur did. (He also holds the single-season records for goals and points for good measure.) Between 1974-75 and 1979-80, he was virtually unstoppable, becoming the first player in league history to have at least 100 points in six straight years while leading the league in scoring in three of those seasons. While Montreal’s top Cup-winning years were before his time, the Habs still won five with him on the team. Unlike Beliveau and Richard, Lafleur did play elsewhere as following his induction into the Hall of Fame in 1988, he unretired to play a year with the Rangers and two with the Nordiques.
Canadiens Stats: 961 GP, 518 goals, 728 assists, 1,246 points, +47 rating, 381 PIMS, 3,204 shots
Serge Savard (70.8% of votes) – Savard was a key component of Montreal’s Big Three (which was better than their current top-three despite Weber, Petry, and Chiarot getting that designation in the playoffs) back in the late 1960s and 1970s. He wasn’t the most offensively adept of that unit (though he was still strong on that side of the puck) but after recovering from significant injuries early in his career, he changed his style of play to be more of a defensive defender and simply was elite in that role though he still was adept enough with the puck to lead Danny Gallivan to coin the term ‘Savardian Spinarama’ (it wasn’t Denis, it was Serge). The Habs won seven titles while he was around and like Lafleur, he was coaxed out of retirement to play elsewhere. Mere months after hanging things up with the Habs, he was off to Winnipeg to play the final two seasons of his career.
Canadiens Stats: 917 GP, 100 goals, 312 assists, 412 points, +497 rating, 537 PIMS, 1,298 shots
Doug Harvey (63.0% of votes) – It took some time for Harvey to really emerge as a top blueliner but when he did, he was at or near the top of the class around the league for the better part of a decade, finishing no lower than fourth in Norris voting in nine straight years, winning seven times (all but one of which was with Montreal). He helped lead the Habs to six Stanley Cup titles but had seemingly worn out his welcome by the end of his tenure, leading to a trade to the Rangers. While Harvey’s time with the Canadiens may not have ended on the highest of notes, he’s still viewed as one of the top defencemen in franchise history.
Canadiens Stats: 890 GP, 76 goals, 371 assists, 447 points, 1,051 PIMS
Jacques Plante (37.3% of votes) – There have been many great goalies over the years in the NHL but Plante may ultimately have had the biggest lasting impact of them all as he was the first goalie to regularly wear a mask. The concept of not wearing one seems crazy today but before 1959-60, it was the standard. That came toward the end of Plante’s tenure with the Habs but during his prime, he was the premier goalie in the league, winning six Vezinas in just a seven-year span while leading the league in GAA six times. Plante went on to play for more than a decade after leaving the Habs but his best days came with the Canadiens where he helped lead the team to six Stanley Cup titles.
Canadiens Stats: 556 GP, 314-133-107 record, 2.22 GAA, .920 SV%, 58 SO
Be sure to check back next week as the voting continues with the All-Time Quebec second line.