While the Habs have been around for more than 100 years, they haven’t had a ton of representation from Atlantic Canada. However, if we combine the provinces together, there are enough quality players to assemble an all-time top line.
Normally, we’d do a poll for this but there just aren’t enough impact players to make a ballot (wait until we get to the defence) so instead, let’s jump straight to the ‘results’.
Bobby Smith (Nova Scotia) – While his best offensive seasons came with Minnesota before he joined the Canadiens, Smith was a key cog for the Habs for parts of seven years. Over his first five seasons with the team, he averaged more than a point per game and was known for some creative playmaking. He may be best remembered, however, for scoring the Cup-clinching goal in 1986 against Calgary. Smith sits 26th in franchise history in points and likely would have slotted in a little bit higher had Montreal not flipped him back to the North Stars in 1990 for a fourth-round pick that never made it to the NHL.
Canadiens Stats: 505 GP, 172 goals, 310 assists, 482 points, +35 rating, 432 PIMS, 1,219 shots
Mike McPhee (Nova Scotia) – While he nearly was dealt to Vancouver in the 1985-86 season for Cam Neely, McPhee wound up being an important secondary piece for the Canadiens for the better part of a decade. He was never the most prolific of offensive players but he was quite consistent offensively, ranging between 39 and 43 points over his first seven full NHL seasons while chipping in with some energy and physicality. McPhee was a part of Montreal’s 1986 Cup-winning team and was moved to Minnesota for a fifth-round pick (that never signed with them) back in 1992.
Canadiens Stats: 581 GP, 162 goals, 162 assists, 324 points, +92 rating, 581 PIMS, 1,102 shots
Michael Ryder (Newfoundland) – The Habs haven’t had many rookies burst onto the scene and make an immediate impact in recent years (and no, I’m not forgetting Nick Suzuki but he wasn’t as productive as Ryder in his rookie campaign) but Ryder was a key cog right away. He was second in Calder Trophy voting in his first season and followed that up with a pair of 30-goal years before seeing his output drop significantly in 2007-08. That paved the way for him to leave the team and go to Boston but Montreal picked Ryder up a few years later as part of the cost-clearing move that saw Erik Cole go to Dallas. Ryder enjoyed his return as he picked up 21 points in 27 games before again departing in free agency, this time to New Jersey. He spent two years there before retiring in 2015.
Canadiens Stats: 341 GP, 109 goals, 119 assists, 228 points, -26 rating, 164 PIMS, 1,049 shots
Honourable Mention: Dick Gamble (New Brunswick)
Al MacNeil (Nova Scotia) – This has nothing to do with his one year spent as a head coach with the Habs (where they won the Stanley Cup) but among the handful of Atlantic Canada-born defencemen to suit up for Montreal, he’s the only one to have actually scored a goal. In fact, he’s the only one to record a point so he has to be on this list basically by default. MacNeil spent only one year as a player with the Canadiens (1961-62) where he was a serviceable depth defenceman. He was moved to Chicago the following offseason and while he had a couple of other stints in the organization (one not even lasting a day), he didn’t suit up for Montreal again in his career.
Canadiens Stats: 61 GP, 1 goal, 7 assists, 8 points, -3 rating, 74 PIMS, 22 shots
Brad Brown (Nova Scotia) – A first-round pick of the Habs back in 1994, he didn’t exactly live up to his draft billing. He was limited to just 13 games with the team before they shipped him as part of a six-player trade with Chicago that saw Jeff Hackett and Jocelyn Thibault switch teams. So there’s that, at least; no other eligible Atlantic Canadian defenceman with a 0-0-0 stat line for the Habs has that going for him. Brown was out of the NHL five years later.
Canadiens Stats: 13 GP, 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 points, -1 rating, 43 PIMS, 0 shots
Honourable Mention: John Hanna
Claude Bourque (Nova Scotia) – Bourque spent parts of two seasons with Montreal and after splitting playing time in his rookie year, he was Montreal’s starter for the 1939-40 season. He’s the only Atlantic Canadian goalie to play in more than nine games for the Habs so this is another one awarded by default.
Canadiens Stats: 61 GP, 18-36-7 record, 3.01 GAA, 5 SO
Honourable Mention: Roland Melanson (again, excluding his time as a coach with the team)
Next up on the docket will be Team Quebec which will be done as a full roster in four separate ballots. We’ll kick that off next week.