So the Puck Daddy blog at Yahoo Sports have started a new theme going into this year: the NHL version of Mount Rushmore (called Mount Puckmore).
The site is using bloggers that represent all 30 NHL teams. Each of those bloggers come up with the top four faces representing their franchise.
Some of them have been good. The guy who did Carolina/Hartford, for example, chose Ron Francis, Rod Brind’Amour, Eric Staal and Glen Wesley. Hard to argue with those choices.
But most of them have been brutal. The Chicago Blackhawks are the best example. They chose William Wirtz, Bobby Hull, Rocky Wirtz and Jonathan Toews. Two owners, and a player that has been there for three years? But no Stan Mikita, Glenn Hall, Chris Chelios, Jeremy Roenick, etc. The team has been around for 84 years, and that’s the best they could come up with? Absolutely awful.
The Ottawa Senators choices were no better. The first three were pretty obvious: Daniel Alfredsson, Alexei Yashin and Alexandre Daigle. But the fourth choice? A Goalie to be Named Later. I’m sorry, what? You can’t pick four guys from the past 18 years? How about Jason Spezza, which perfectly epitomizes the love/hate relationship Sens fans have with their players. How about Dany Heatley, who dominated with the team for a couple of seasons? Then there’s guys like fan favourite Chris Neil, sturdy defenceman Zdeno Chara, and their supposedly “top defenceman in the league until he left the team” Wade Redden. Surely, one of them should have been chosen instead of a goalie to be named later. Isn’t that what happens in a trade? Why not just throw future considerations up there, or a seventh round draft pick? Horrific call.
So they haven’t done the Montreal Canadiens one yet. I’m hoping it will be done by either Four Habs Fans (for humour), Dennis Kane (for the everyday fan perspective), but I’m guessing it will Eyes on the Prize (the most logical thinking and rational site). Those guys could put up Lyle Odelein, and convince you with stats and numbers that yes, he belongs up there.
So I figured I would give it a shot at my choices for the Montreal Canadiens. I think out of all the teams, the Habs will be the hardest to choose from. Since you can include owners, general managers, coaches and players, it’s going to be a tough decision for the Habs. If you took Guy Lafleur, Maurice Richard, Jean Beliveau and Sam Pollock, you’re leaving out great such as George Vezina, Henri Richard, Scotty Bowman, Patrick Roy, Bill Durnan, Jacques Plante, Larry Robinson, Doug Harvey, Howie Morenz and dozens of others.
So no matter who the blogger chooses, it’s going to be controversial. That being said, here are my choices for the Mount Puckmore, and will see how close it is to the final choices on Puck Daddy:
The easiest choice, and will belong up on the mountain no matter who is doing the choosing. In fact, if you’re ever having a discussion about this, and the other person doesn’t include the Rocket, just stop talking to him, hit him over the head with an anvil and walk away. Richard scored 544 goals, was the first person to score 50 goals in 50 games, and was the leader of the Canadiens during his 18 seasons with the Habs. He won eight Stanley Cups, and helped turn around a Montreal team that was almost bankrupt and was in danger of folding in 1940.
But despite all these numbers, that’s not even the main reasons he belongs on the mountain. It’s because of the passion he played with on the ice, and the passion he inspired in fans. No other player in any other league would ever cause a whole city to riot because he was suspended for the postseason (and he deserved the suspension, no doubt about it).
There was one game back in the 1940s, where Richard scored all five goals in a 5-1 victory, and was named all three stars. You could probably make an argument that Richard could be all four faces on the mountain, and most people could understand. That shows how important Richard was to the Canadiens, and to the fans.
Possibly the most influential Montreal Canadien of all-time, Pollock did nothing short of creating dynasties for Montreal, and stopping dynasties from other teams. He helped create the team that won four of five cups in the late 60s, and four straight in the late 70s. Those last four cups stopped the Philadelphia Flyers from becoming a dynasty, and their two cups in the early 1970s stopped the Bruins from having a dynasty of their own.
He was so shrewd with trades, it’s an amazement other general managers didn’t hang up on him when he started calling. For example, Pollock traded a player and his first rounder to the Oakland Seals for a player and their first rounder for the 1971 draft. That was a steal for the Habs, as Oakland was pretty bad, and it was sure to be a high draft pick. But when it turned out the L.A. Kings may be worse, Pollock traded a top veteran in Ralph Backstom to the Kings for a couple of minor leaguers. The trade turned the Kings’ season around, and the Oakland Seals finished last. That meant the Habs had the first overall pick, and they used it to draft Guy Lafleur.
He also traded Paul Reid and Guy Allen to the Boston Bruins for Alex Campbell and some guy named Ken Dryden. He was also head of the 1976 Canada Cup team, which is probably the greatest international team Canada has ever put together.
Over the years, he drafted Pierre Bouchard, Rejean Houle, Marc Tardif, Lafleur, Murray Wilson, Larry Robinson, Chuck Lefley, Steve Shutt, Michel “Bunny” Larocque, Bob Gainey, Doug Risebrough, Mario Tremblay, Rick Chartraw, Pierre Mondou, Brian Engblom, Mark Napier, Rod Langway, and Barry Melrose (the future coach).
In 1974, he had five first round draft picks. In 1977, he had 25 picks total.
In short, the guy was a genius, and helped shape the Habs for decades.
It must be tough to be the best person at something right before someone better comes along. It overshadows all your accomplishments, and you’re generally underappreciated. It’s like being Marcel Dionne, right before Wayne Gretzky came into the league.
Harvey falls into this category. Probably the greatest defenceman of the first 50 years of the NHL, Harvey is overlooked because of a young upstart in Boston named Bobby Orr, who helped revolutionize the game.
But Harvey was in a class all of his own for the first 50 years of the league. He was named to the all-star team 11 straight times. In total, he won seven Norris trophies as the league’s best defenceman in eight years. The only player to win more was Bobby Orr, with eight trophies.
He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1973. His jersey was retired by the Habs in 1985.
Books are filled with anecdotes about his ability to slow down or speed up the pace of game, depending on what he thought needed to be done. And when he wanted to help form a union, he was traded to the New York Rangers. It didn’t matter, as he won a Norris trophy there as well.
No matter how good Bobby Orr, it doesn’t diminish the fact that Harvey was one of the best defencemen of all-time.
Last year, I wrote a list of the Top 100 Habs of all-time. I made Roy #2, after Richard, but before Habs greats such as Jean Beliveau, Guy Lafleur, Jacques Plantre, Ken Dryden, Larry Robinson and Howie Morenz. It wasn’t a popular call. But this is what I wrote as my reasoning of it:
Many of you are probably asking, how could I rank Patrick Roy over Montreal Canadiens legends such as Jean Beliveau and Guy Lafleur.
Those players are all great, but you have to look at the teams they were on. Beliveau, for example, played with many other Hall of Famers. In one season, 1959-60 for example, he played with Henri Richard, Maurice Richard, Doug Harvey, Jacques Plante, Bernie Geoffrion, Dickie Moore and J.C. Tremblay (and that’s not including players such as Jean-Guy Talbot, Ralph Backstrom, Tom Johnson, Phil Goyette and Don Marshall). And that’s just one season!
Patrick Roy never had that type of help. When the Habs won the Stanley Cup in 1993, he had defenceman in front of him such as Kevin Haller, Rob Ramage, J.J. Daigneault, Sean Hill and Donald Dufresne. He had pressure to always be on top of his game, because he had Andre “Red Light” Racicot backing him up. The forwards featured players such as Gilbert Dionne, Todd Ewan, Benoit Brunet and Gary Leeman. He didn’t have the opportunity to play with so many hall of famers with Montreal.
When Montreal won Stanley Cups in the 50s, 60s and 70s, it’s because they had a team of all-stars. But with Patrick Roy, he was the sole reason the Habs would win. You can’t say that about the other legends.
This still holds true today. Unlike guys like Gretzky, Orr, the Habs legends above, or almost any other player that has won a Stanley Cup, probably no one did as much with so little for teammates as Patrick Roy.
He’s won the Calder Cup championship in the AHL, won the Stanley Cup four times (was the Conn Smythe winner in three of them, which is a record), five Jennings trophies (also a record), three Vezinas and was in the all-star game 11 times (tied for second for goaltenders).
He also holds the record for most playoff wins by a goaltender with 151, which is amazing considering how weak many of those teams he played on were.
Roy has been the only true superstar the team has had in the last 25 years. No one else comes close.
He deserves to be there.