Patrick Roy night

So the Montreal Canadiens retired Patrick Roy’s jersey.

It was a pretty controversial decision, as some people think Roy didn’t do enough for the team (there’s a great debate about this at Denis Kane’s Excellent Montreal Canadiens Blog).roy1

I don’t buy the argument that Patrick didn’t do enough for the team. The team wouldn’t have been anything without him. Without him, we would have had goalies like Steve Penney, JC Bergeron and Andre Racicot leading the team for those years.

Some think that Roy doesn’t stand up to other former players, and one of the main reasons is that he didn’t win enough Stanley Cups with the team.

But it’s also hard to compare years and eras. Sure Jean Beliveau won a ton of cups, but there were six teams back then, and NHL teams could sign players and teams to contracts when they were very young, not like now with the draft. When the Habs won the Cups in the late 70s, there was a dilution in talent because of the WHA. In the late 80s and early 90s, the number of teams jumped to 21. Now we’re at 30. More teams make it more difficult to continue to be successful because the talent is spread out.

Now there’s a salary cap. Had there been one in the 70s, could Montreal have afforded to keep all those superstars? Probably not. Which would have decreased their chances of winning those Cups.

Ken Dryden won his Cups with Serge Savard, Larry Robinson, J.C. Tremblay, Guy Lapointe and Jacques Laperriere playing defence in front of him. Patrick Roy had to contend with Patrice Brisebois, Kevin Haller, Eric Desjardins, JJ Daigneault, and Donald Dufresne. Dryden’s teams also had players who could score easier than what Roy’s teams did.

My point is that you can’t look at Patrick Roy and say he doesn’t deserve to be in the rafters because he doesn’t stand up to other great Hab players, because you can’t compare them because circumstances are always different. The game seems to be totally turned on its heels every decade or so, and no one knows for sure how players would have fared in other eras.

But you can’t idolize players past like they were the be all and end all. The media just didn’t report on them like they do nowadays. Look at Bernie Geoffrion. According to wikipedia: “Likely the reason for his first retirement was Jean Béliveau (who was not one of three alternate captains), getting appointed team captain in 1961.” If that were to happen now, the media would be all over it, and I can tell you that history wouldn’t look so kindly upon that person (imagine if Lidstrom “retired” because Datsyuk was named captain after Yzerman finished his playing career).

Times change. The game changes. The players change. Let’s honour those who deserve to be honoured for what they did for the team, and not keep waxing on about how great things might have been.

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