Monday, December 31, 2007

My Ten Favorite Unsung Habs

Happy New Years!

Often at this site, I've looked back on the careers of many of the Canadiens greatest players to examine what it is they brought to their respectives teams and era's during the winning years.

In Habs history, there will always be the associated linkage of greats the likes of the Rocket, Beliveau, and Lafleur, or goaltenders such as Vezina, Plante, and Roy, to explain what the blood and sweat of a winner's psyche, heart and guts enabled the team to accomplish.

But teams are made of more than just superstars and leaders. Often, it is the quality of the foot soldiers that lead teams to victory in battle. Consequently, the spotlight tends to pass them by, and their accomplishments are relagated away from headline status.

There are likely dozens of examples of players in Canadiens history that fit this bill.

Beyond the great players whose jerseys should be hung from up high (Newsy Lalonde, Aurel Joliat, Toe Blake, Bill Durnan), there are several whose exempliary careers did not even warrant them Hall Of Fame attention.

Undeservedly, they are tagged unsung heroes.

There are an abundance of unsung heroes in Canadiens lore, and what you are about to read is no ranked listing of the more glaring forgotten contributors, but simply some of my favorite ones whose special skills and gifts helped the Canadiens cause during their time. They could fall into several categories that run the gamut from stay at home defenseman to shut down specialists.

All told, I basically chose them, as players that I felt represented different ideals based on who they were and what they had to give. I'm certain any reader could create their own equally interesting list of unsung Habs heroes.

Claude Provost

Claude Provost was a career Montreal Canadien, playing for 15 seasons in the shadow of the games greatest players. From the mid 1950's, until the dawn of the 1970's, Provost was a steady and aggravating presence in the Habs lineup.

By the time he hung up the blades, he'd racked up 9 Stanley Cup rings, the most of any player not in the Hall Of Fame.

I've never seen Provost play during his time, but I've seen about a dozen replayed games from his time that testify to his worth. My father always mentioned Provost as player who brought a vital ingredient to the team and likened him as a parallel talent to that of which Bob Gainey brought to the Habs in the two decade's he played for Montreal - to much greater acclaim.

When Toe Blake took charge behind the bench of the Montreal Canadiens in 1955-56, he introduced Provost to the club's star studded roster on the basis of his aggressive and hard working approach to checking opponents. His peculiar, wide stance style of skating concealed surprising speed. One observer humorously noted that when he hit the ice, he looked like a drunken sailor walking on a ship's deck during a hurricane. However awkward Provost appeared, he used his hustle to good measure, particarly by serving as Bobby Hull's constant shadow throughout the 1960s.

In addition to superb defensive play in the company of Andre Pronovost and Phil Goyette, Provost made steady improvements to his offensive game as the years progressed. In 1964-65, he was voted to the first All Star on the strength of his team leading 33 goals.

Provost, along with Henri Richard, were two of the mainstays of both the Canadiens 1950's dynasty, and the team which won a further four Cups from 1965 to 1969. During his career, he would appear in eleven All Star games.

Toward the end of his career in 1968, Provost was awarded the first ever Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy as the player who best exemplified the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. A more worthy winner could not have been chosen.
The lack of individual accolades for Provost could likely christen him the ultimate unsung hero. He is one of only five players to have played a 1000 games with Montreal. His career starts are 1005-254-335-589.

Jean Guy Talbot

Defenceman Jean-Guy Talbot earned a regular job on the Montreal Canadiens' blueline in 1955-56 and enjoyed Stanley Cup success in each of his first five NHL seasons. He was an excellent passer who provided physical play in his own zone. Often teamed with Tom Johnson, the pair were an invicible wall of defense.

Talbot won a total of 7 Stanley Cups with Montreal, playing in the shadows of legends. After scoring 47 points in 1961-62, Talbot was voted on to the NHL first all-star team. He also played an important veteran role on Stanley Cup winning teams of 1965 and 1966. He was an integral part of the Canadiens transition game until 1966-67. His consistent play at both ends of the ice was crucial when the Habs had to replace the likes of Rocket Richard, Doug Harvey, and Bernie Geoffrion.

When the Canadiens chose to supplant Talbot with the younger like Serge Savard, he was left unprotected in the 1967 Expansion Draft. After one season split in Minnesota and Detroit, Talbot was picked up by the St. Louis Blues where his puck handling and experience helped the club reach the Stanley Cup final three straight years beginning in 1968.

Ralph Backstrom

Ralph Backstrom was a swift skater with a deft scoring touch whose defensive and team oriented play earned him much appreciation throughout his career. The most significant years of his pro tenure were the decade spent with the Montreal Canadiens, with whom he won the Stanley Cup six times between 1959 and 1969.

Backstrom captained the Hull Ottawa Canadiens to the Memorial Cup in 1958, when he was arguably the top junior skater in the country. The Canadiens planned to send Backstrom to the Rochester Americans of the AHL for a year of minor pro seasoning, but his performance at training camp was so impressive that the Habs brain trust decided to give him a shot at the big league right away.

Backstrom rewarded Montreal by scoring 40 points and earning the Calder Trophy. His freshman season was so laudable that he received more than double the votes of runner up Carl Brewer of Toronto.

The following year he impressed coach Toe Blake by approaching his sophomore training camp with increased dedication and enthusiasm. His production dropped to 28 points, but he solidified his place as a key defensive forward on the club.

Although he was overshadowed by Montreal's top two centers, Jean Beliveau and Henri Richard, Backstrom became an important two way forward on 6 Stanley Cup winning teams. He and teammate Claude Provost garnered reputations as two of the most dogged forwards in the game. Even though he often drew checking assignments, Backstrom produced five 20 goal seasons, including a personal high of 27 in 1961-62.

Years later, Backstrom reflected on this period, saying "There were times in my career that I felt I could have played better statistically if I would have played on another team besides the Canadiens. But there was nothing like the team successes that the Canadiens had during the time I played with them."

By 1969, Backstrom sensed that he had accomplished all that he could in a Canadiens uniform. Two prolonged scoring slumps underscored his frustration and during the 1970 off-season, it became apparent that Backstrom wanted a change of scenery, preferably on the West Coast. The thought of returning to Montreal as a role player was so discouraging to him that he notified the team that he'd likely retire.

Backstrom received his requested move when he was involved in a notorious transaction between Montreal and Los Angeles. In May 1970, shrewd Habs general manager Sam Pollock acquired the Oakland Seals' first round pick with the hope that they'd finish last overall and give him a chance to draft junior star Guy Lafleur. Halfway through the 1970-71 season, it was clear that the L.A. Kings were having a sufficiently bad season to challenge for the first pick in the draft. Consequently, Backstrom was sent west in a move that gave him a new lease on life and boosted the Kings in the NHL standings.

Rogie Vachon

Rogatien Vachon is another NHL great sadly not recognized by the Hall Of Fame. He Canadiens tenure was shorter than what was initially projected for him, and was punctuated by two disappointments - namely the 1967 playoff final loss to Toronto and the missed playoffs of 1970.

When my own interest in hockey was sparked at age 8, I always identified with the goaltender first. I was the goalie in street hockey games and in my mind that was what I thought of being in my NHL dreams. My mother had sown Rogie's number 29 ( one of several numbers he'd wear ), cut out from a pillowcase, onto my Canadiens sweater.

I was always Rogie when I played in the street.

Coincidentally, when Ken Dryden bumped Vachon from the Habs crease hierarchy, the 29 remained as Rogie's number in my heart, even though he wore 30 from then on.

Vachon joined the Montreal Canadiens in 1966-67 to back up Gump Worsley and ended up playing the majority of their playoff games when they reached the Stanley Cup finals. Toronto won the Cup, but the diminutive Vachon earned a permanent place in the big league with his excellent play.

In 1967-68 Vachon excelled in 39 regular season contests and shared the Vezina Trophy with teammate Gump Worsley. Their goals against mark of 2.26 was the league's best since 1958-59. His play contributed significantly to Montreal's consecutive Stanley Cup championships in 1968 and 1969. After Worsley suffered a nervous breakdown and moved out of Montreal, Vachon inherited the starting job in the Montreal net. He played well in 1969-70 but the defending champions failed to make the playoffs.

The Canadiens confidence in Vachon as a goalie who could take on the majority of the season's games was invariably shook when he encountered in juryproblems in the early 1970's. His inconsistant play opened the door for Dryden's arrival and Vachon was not comfortable or able to contribute in a secondary role. In 1971-72 Vachon requested a trade after he allowing four goals in his only period of action with Montreal that season.

Vachon was given a new lease on life when the Los Angeles Kings acquired his services in November 1971. and he went on to enjoy some of his finest seasons and helped the Kings become a competitive hockey club. He recorded 32 of his 51 career shutouts in Los Angeles and he was twice selected to the NHL's second All Star team.

In Los Angeles, Vachon and Marcel Dionne became the most popular figure in franchise history and he was selected the team's most valuable player four times in five years between 1973 and 1977.

As Vachon had become so identified with the Kings, his contribution as the backstopper to two of the Canadiens Cups during what seemed transional seasons has lessened his claim as a great Habs goalie.

Nonetheless, it remains a slight that he is not in the Hockey Hall of Fame. He is the most winning goalie of the 1970's not so enshrined and was one of the final Original Six era players, along with Wayne Cashman, to still play into the mid 1980's.

Jimmy Roberts

In the 1960's and 1970's, Jimmy Roberts was a key cog for the Habs, rarely in the limelight, but always an essential ingredient to the teams composition. He was a defensive specialist by definition, killing penalties and shutting down opposition lines to great effect. His intuition for positional poise, and his composure in the heat of the action, made him the ideal candidate to fill in as a defenseman when the Canadiens needed depth at that position. Through two tenures with the team, he became the Canadiens man for all seasons, often thriving at being an unfettered thorn in the opposition's sides.

Roberts had an enthusiam for the dirty work roles of an underdog. Hitting the ice an alert and intense competitor, part of the fun of watching Roberts irritate opponants had alot to do with watching his focused stare burst into a disbelieving grin whenever he or a linemate scored.

Roberts was never the most talented prospect, but was fortunate to come under the tutelage of a young Scotty Bowman with the Peterborough Petes in the late 1950's. He listened intently and learned the inner workings of the game within the game and the lessons inherited served him well.

Roberts gradually climbed the echelons of the Canadiens minor team structure for five seasons, getting closer to his goal in each passing year. From the Petes, he moved on to play with the Montreal Royals, the Hull Ottawa Canadiens, the Cleveland Barons, the Quebec Aces, and the Omaha Knights before getting an NHL break. Throughout his ascention, Roberts was hardly ever a team star, while perfecting his endeavor as a role player par excellence.

Roberts established himself as what Toronto Maple Leafs GM Conn Smythe once described as "a hewer of wood and a hauler of water." Roberts was once termed as being "built like a mooring post for a battleship." Roberts won 5 Stanley Cups with the Canadiens, and appeared in three consecutive finals with St. Louis from 1968 to 1970 with Bowman as his coach. He parlayed his dedication into a long career that led to coaching after his retirement.

Mario Tremblay

Mario Tremblay was part of a tag team youth invasion to the Habs in the mid 1970's when he and Doug Risebrough were brought into the Habs machine to provide an unsettling effect to opponants with their tireless work ethic.

Tremblay in many ways, was a hotheaded yapper who could score, check, hit, and get under the skin of opponents. With Risebrough and Yvon Lambert, the trio soon became the NHL's most feared and best third line and were key ingredients in the Canadiens four straight Cups wins from 1976 to 1979. Tremblay was credited with the Cup winning goal in the tightest of their 4 Cup defenses, in game 6 of the 1978 finals against the Boston Bruins.

The feisty Tremblay continued to be a force in Montreal after the Cup dynasty ended and he recorded consecutive 30 goal seasons in the early 1980s while playing on a line with Rejean Houle and Pierre Mondou. In 1984-85, he scored 31 goals, including 14 with the extra man. Tremblay played 56 games the following year, but injuries prevented him from being apart of the 1986 Stanley Cup.

While Tremblay was always a warrior who wore the Habs crest close to his heart, it is unfortunate that his player's legacy will always be tainted by the confrontation that he had as Canadiens coach that resulted in Patrick Roy's exile from Montreal.

Craig Ludwig

Defenceman Craig Ludwig was a solid player in his own end and a punishing hitter during his eight seasons with the Canadiens. His experience and savvy were an important factor on both the 1986 Habs Cup and 1999 Dallas Stanley Cup winning teams.

Ludwig's role with Montreal was to solidly anchor the play of more offensive types by providing positional consistency and rugged play. Teamed often with either of Larry Robinson or Chris Chelios, Ludwig made choosing his side of the Habs end a bruising one. Not only did Ludwig hit with authority, he was badass nasty when it came to sending messages to opponants with high sticks, elbows, and scratchy gloves in players faces.

Ludwig understood his role perfectly and always played within his means. He was an adept first passer, a feared pugilist seldom tested, and a shot blocker with few peers. This steady assault of workmanlike attributes were big factors when Montreal reached the semi finals in 1984, won the Stanley Cup in 1986, and reached the finals again in 1989.

Mike Keane

I recall how, when Mike Keane made the Canadiens from training camp in 1988, that Habs coach Pat Burns was practically vilified in the media for the promotion.

Burns evidently knew something about Keane that the Montreal press did not, and it didn't take long for Keane's worth to show itself. hardly an offensive threat, Keane demonstrated leadership from the get - go with head first play and an unabashed enthusiam for mixing it up. His scrappy essentials and unselfish giving of his every pound translated itself to teammates conciences, and Keane was no stranger to speaking loudly when those around him took the easy route.

The feisty Keane was signed as a free agent by Montreal just before start of 1985-86 season and he scored 68 points in 78 games during his first pro season in Sherbrooke. Burns loved his aggresive style and brought him up to the NHL in 1988-89. He scored 16 goals as a rookie and immediatly impressed with his robust play. He added another four goals in the playoffs to help Montreal reach the final, a series they eventually lost to the Calgary Flames. Keane's best year was 1992-93 when he scored 60 points and scored 15 points in 19 post-season games as Montreal won the Stanley Cup.

He remained one of the Canadiens most consistent players and was named team captain after Kirk Muller was traded to the New York Islanders in 1995. As the first two months of the 1995-96 season were turmoil filled in Montreal, Keane was unappreciatively tossed into the Patrick Roy trade.

It equalled a giant sucking out of dressing room leadership for the Canadiens, whose brass was intent on ridding themselves of an unconventional English speaking captain.

Keane's worth was again on display when the Avalanche won the Cup following the deal. As Conn Smyther winner Joe Sakic was asked about Roy's contribution, he stated that the unequivocal dressing room leader had surprisingly been Keane.

Keane would win another Cup in Dallas, forming the "Grumpy Old Men" line with former Habs dethroned captains Muller and Carbonneau.

There's an obvious lesson for all to ponder.

Vincent Damphousse

On August 27, 1992, when Vincent Damphousse was traded to the Montreal Canadiens, they aquired the big centreman that had lacked since Bobby Smith. Playing in his home town, Damphousse was primed and motivated, and he responded with 39 goals and 58 assists. He was even more keyed in the 1993 playoffs, and responded with 23 points in 20 games as the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup.

A large center, who was diffecult to budge from the puck, Damphousse gave the Canadiens great strength down the middle when added to the likes of Guy Carbonneau and Kirk Muller. He was a consistant point per game player for the Canadiens for five of his seven seasons there.

Named captain in 1996, his role slowly evolved with the team, and he was groomed into a savvy two way defensive specialist. As consumed as he was with fulfilling his roles and duties, the timing of the change in play philosophies could not have been worse. Saddled with a hefty contract as his production declined on a team whose woes were just beginning, Damphousse was often blamed for the team's shortcomings.

In 1999, as he was pursuing a long term deal with the team, issues came to a boil with coach Alain Vigneault. While the team felt there was not enough upside left in Damphousse's game, the player wished to prove otherwise. The Canadiens then shipped their last Quebec born captain to the Sharks for draft choices that never panned out. The move was ill advised, as Damphousse could surely have contributed another five solid seasons and retired a Montreal Canadien.

Doug Gilmour

Doug Gilmour is one of my all time favorite players. His competitiveness and his ability to leave his all on the ice each night, made him a favorite of mine going all the way back to the days when he played in my hometown with the Cornwall Royals.

I've always felt that Gilmour had in his eyes, the same piercing glare of "go through the boards insanity" that was perhaps only surpassed by Rocket Richard and Mark Messier.

"Killer" was in Cornwall in the summer of 1999 to visit old friends when he told me of his curiosity in finishing his career in either a Habs or Senators uniform. The words rang in my ears for three seasons.

Gilmour finally arrived in Montreal towards the end of a glorious career. Many doubted that he had much fire in the tank and he was not perceived as a savior of any kind by that time.

Signed shortly after the season started for his leadership abilities, in light of Saku Koivu's season long absense from stomach cancer, Gilmour brought the team together with an inspired brew of guts and a hatred for losing.

In his first game as a Hab, Gilmour went after the Sabres Miroslav Satan, when the Buffalo player took liberties with an unsuspecting Canadiens player. It was a gesture that earned Gilmour a one game suspension, and the respect of his new teammates.

It took some time for Gilmour to find his legs and his game that year, but once he did, he rallied the team in it's goal of a playoff spot. With Koivu's return as an inspiration, and Jose Theodore imitating God in goal, Gilmour was a captain without the "C" as the team fought on bravely.

"Killer" made several references to the on ice plight the Habs were involved in being nothing compared to Koivu's fight off ice and the team responded positively. He backed up his words with the promise that if Koivu were able to return for the post season, the Canadiens would meet him there.

Led by Gilmour's fiery play, the Canadiens met their goal. Koivu's late season return, combined with the subsequent upsetting of the first place Bruins, turned what looked to be a disastrous season into a testament of the values of character, desire and belief.

Gilmour wasn't quite the same sparkplug the following season as both Theodore and the Canadiens as a whole took a step back.

My numerous Canadiens memories encompass the events and seasons that include 9 Stanley Cup victories - from 1969 to the present. In all those years I have seen many feats worthy of retelling and watching Gilmour and Koivu channel spirit from each other in 2002 will be a long cherished favorite.

Robert L Note: This being my last post of 2007, I want to wish all my readers all the best in 2008.

Unbelievably, this little hobby site of mine garnered over 120,000 hits in 2007, more than 80,000 of which came since last June. In the coming year, and I am certain of this, our Canadiens will provide us fans with even more to be cheerful for, and God willing, I will be around to blog about it for you.

I cannot put into words what you all, my readers, have meant to me during this past year. I have felt every kind word of appreciation from the lot of you for what it is I do here. Eighteen months into this project, I am still juiced when I receive a comment or e-mail that says " I love your blog", "I'm a longtime reader", and "Keep up the good work".

I take all those words straight to heart. I sincerely hope that my own appreciation of you tuning in comes through.

As this site chronicles the Habs destiny towards it's next Stanley, my New Years wish for all of you ties into the Habs successes on many fronts. May those of you who have been handed down your Habs love from a fanatic hockey parent, cherish together another Cup win. For those of you who have seen and lived through the glory days and are sickening your sons and daughters to no end with tales of how it once was, may you soon able to share in the glory of the present tense together.

I would fit into both these categories folks, and I know exactly what you would be feeling!

Beyond the daily life distractions that hockey offers us in coping with life as a whole, I wish you all the health and prosperity you can handle. I extend to you the same New Years resolution I renew within myself each passing year - Let's all be good to each other, damnit!

On another note - again directed to regular readers - a new computer will be entering this household in the first week of the new year, and it may cause some latent chronicling of the team. It's been a hellish month dealing with an outdated system and a myriad of issues too long to get into. That combined with a slew of 3 to 11 shifts at work have made this December a thin month here for posts and after game reads - my apologies.

New years equal new beginnings, and I can't wait. Thanks in advance for your patience and loyal readership.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Habs Experience A Little Southern Comfort

(Robert L Note: Bare with me, loyal readers - this post is all over the place! It takes in these two recent wins in Florida, the team's fumbling and stumbling through ups and downs, its youthful growing pains, a fan's view, and my own perceptions and deceptions with having to take it all in while trying to make it all make sense in the grand scheme of things. This piece may read like a collage of thoughts and feelings you may have felt at times when pondering the Habs fate of late. Admittedly, that is exactly what it is. I hope that somehow it comes together as a whole for those reading it.)

Back to back wins, on consecutive nights, in the state of Florida?

Like, when has that ever happened with the Canadiens?

Usually, the southern state twofer presents itself as a traditional rough spot for the Canadiens and I'm certain many were not predicting this result after a very uninspired showing in Dallas on December 23rd - historically a 2 point Habs graveyard.

In addition to that notion, it is doubtful than any fan foresaw a ten goal outpourring down south after it was announced that coach Carbonneau had reconstituted the first and third lines incomprehensibly. What looked like desperate and foolish juggling some 48 hours ago, now looks genial two wins later.

Even Michael Ryder, in the midst of the most successsful vanishing act since Sergei Zholtok, chipped in with his first goal in eons!

As surprising as this recent pair of wins is, the team is still as mysterious as it is youthful. The Canadiens can be all guns some nights, and nothing but firers of blanks the next. It gets outshot badly, yet wins, and the next game the opposite happens and they lose while outchancing opponants.

Another paradox involves watching young players flourish while the team as a whole stumbles. Individual performances do not add up to a united chemistry. The puzzle pieces of the team are confusing in how they are all seemingly sitting there, but not always coming together like the big picture it demands it should be.

I have been struggling, to be quite honest, with how to approach writing about the repeated fumbles of the team in the past weeks. It is difficult when the team merely plays .500 hockey, to maintain some freshness in regards to a point of view and an overall theme.

This site was baptized as "Eyes On The Prize" because I sought to pursue the big picture - the Stanley Cup as a goal - with lessons learned from the past linking to the trials of the present.

Sometimes, with that goal in mind, I have to remind myself that big picture patience requires blogger patience!

I have long believed the Montreal Canadiens to be on the right path, with some of the right players, and the best coach and GM available presently to allow the process of building a championship team to be an accentuated one. This season, like last season, we are witnessing that the procerss does not happen overnight.

I feel I need to declare and explain such particular points when the frustration over the team's treading water begins to make me feel my words are becoming redundant.

Occasionally I get to feeling this way when I place myself in readers shoes and perceive my own words as beginning to sound like a broken record. I make no apologies for how I look at things in Habsland - it's just my job to try to not get boring and repetitive.

So, if what you are about to read sounds like something you have heard here before - crucify me for my consistency of thought.

The Canadiens back to back wins over the Lightening and Panthers reminds me of how much we as Habs fans have come to resemble fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs at times. We spring eternal hope with a mere sound win, yet despair to the depths of hell in back to back losses.

The connundrum baffles me to no end. Have we fans strayed so far from the teams glory years of the Canadiens that we have lost sight of the perspective of how to build winning teams that we must question every decision a coach makes in regards to line changes?

Have we reached a point of frustration where, sitting in a playoff spot, 5th in the conference, simply is not good enough by mid season?

Considering how young the present edition of the Canadiens is, shouldn't we be more hopeful than we are confused?

The answers to all these questions are hardly simple. They require some perspective and tunnel vision. They also require of a fan, the ability to focus inward at the soul of what hope means, while not glancing too long at the current NHL picture as a whole.

The Habs, all roadbumps given so far, aren't faring too badly. They have had their sluggish, frustrating, and distracted moments, but their standing in the upper echelon of the league, despite their slips, isn't all that bad.

Yes, we may agree the team could be doing better, but the memories of what is worse shouldn't be lost on our collective craniums. I mean, remember the days when an Oleg Petrov or Juha Lind represented hope?

The Habs are building - one brick, one loss, one day, one lesson at a time. If that is not fast enough for fans - that's their problem, not the team's.

When the nucleus of this current youth core reaches the ages of 24 to 27 years of age, the Canadiens will be built to contend year in and year out, much like the Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators do.

In each of the last few seasons the team has added rookies from it's own fruitful drafts to shore up the team, building it from the ground up. Since 2005, it has been designed from the net out, with the drafting of Carey Price and the careful and particular selection of character defenseman.

The first wave of young talent - Komisarek, Plekanec, and Higgins - were joined last season by Latendresse, Lapierre, and Andrei Kostitsyn. This season has seen the additions of Price, Chipchura, O'Byrne and Sergei Kostitsyn. Should the next few years bring Alexei Emelin, Ryan McDonagh, P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty - all solid prospects that may arrive sooner than we think - then the Canadiens will have assembled quite a devastating artillery of players from the draft.

It is refreshing, even while the team has meandered inconsistently of late, to watch players such as Latendresse and the younger Kostitsyn, both 20, develop their games and character.

Often, I believe, we forget how young this team actually is in spirit and experience.

Currently, there are 5 players on the team on pace for 20 goal (or more) seasons. Should Koivu and Andrei Kostitsyn pick it up in the second half, there could be seven. The team's best scorer from the last three seasons, Michael Ryder, is not among the group, and that may testify to the progression of the current lineup. Pencil in the younger Kostitsyn as another who may reach that 20 goal total in a year, and it gives the impression that the Canadiens aren't far off in assembling a well balanced team with both offensive attack instincts and defensively rounded games.

Many of these players are projecting career seasons - an upward trend that should continue as seasons pass with gained experience and confidence.

What has me newly inspired with these two wins in Florida, is that it seems the team has turned a corner. It is pushing itself to be better. It may be learning to deal with its own panic tendencies with a calmer reaction and focus. It is starting games with a more eager intent on setting a pace rather than being concerned with the fear of making mistakes.

Coach Carbonneau has caught me off guard with two gutsy changes he has made of late. One, which I do not agree with, was sitting Chipchura - undeservedly in my opinion. I don't understand what was behind the move, but the gamble has resulted in Maxim Lapierre's unleashed best efforts two nights running. Coincidence or plan?

Look into the future - don't Chipchura and Lapierre strike you as killer third and fourth line centers?

The other move that has been pleasingly perplexing to me, has to do with the perceived long standing Habs tradition of bringing in talent by grooming it slowly and surely. It is an old theme, going back to the grooming of such greats as Yvan Cournoyer and Guy Lafleur, who were schooled in defensive systems and placed precariously into fitted roles on well established winning teams.

It has been complained long and hard by fans - "Why don't we just let these young kids play their game?"

It is a valid question.

Has anyone taken note that captain Koivu is centering two 20 years old?

Consequently, has anyone extended kudos to Carbo for having the balls to spread out his team's attack so fluidly over three lines in countering the pop gun, one line attacks of both Southern state opponants?

We have a young team that is learning by experience. We also have a coach who is learning who his team is by the same trials and errors. It could be that Carbonneau often poses the same questions we do - who knows?

I mentioned earlier about hope springing eternal upon the positiveness of good performances. I have come to the conclusion that it is so much easier to despair about the Canadiens, in regards to the current assembled talents in the stable, when the team disappoints, than it is to be hopeful.

But that is a natural reaction built up by hope.

The next time I feel like I have felt of late, I'll tap myself upside the head and consider the options that are presented by no hope at all.

I'd rather this hopeful outlook.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Habs Christmas Wish List

A Habs Christmas Wish List

Saku Koivu: More consistant production, true appreciation for his worth, less doubt and questions, and a team future to believe in.

Chris Higgins: Continued steady progression and maintained intensity without injury, a 30 goal season, more killer PK goals, and a long term contract.

Alex Kovalev: Respect, a 35 goal season, motorcycle safety courses, free Cesna plane rides for fans in the off season, and the absense of Russian journalists.

Tomas Plekanec: Point production worthy of a top line center and increased compatibility with wingers.

Andrei Kostitsyn: A better reading of plays as they break out along the wing, a fifty point season to build upon, and his younger brother for a roommate until the end of the year.

Sergei Kostitsyn: No return trips no Hamilton, steady production, and no fourth line duty.

Michael Ryder: Goalies as solid as Evgeny Mylnikov as targets, in Montreal or elsewhere.

Guillaume Latendresse: No more conspicuous press box trips on the way to a 25 goal season, and a trip to the Future Stars game at the All Star break to make up for last season's oversight.

Kyle Chipchura: Continued cohesion with Latendresse as a wingman for this solid Habs citizen.

Maxim Lapierre: Consistency, a defined role, and better luck in the offensive zone.

Tom Kostopoulos: A fight he can win by KO, distracted officials to his dirty work, and a fairer evaluation from his coach. ( Thanks - Anon )

Patrice Brisebois: A comfortable sunset.

Andrei Markov: Renewed focus, a bruise free season, and Alexander Ovechkin for a roommate to begin the next season.

Mike Komisarek: A slugfest or two to make him even more feared, the ability to perceive every opponant as the Maple Leafs, and a five year contract extension.

Roman Hamrlik: More shots on goal that find net rather than legs, a rookie that continuously progesses alongside him to further provide evidence of his worth, and wingers willing to help him out in his tasks a great deal more.

Francis Bouillon: Consistency that will enable him to remain a Hab as long as he can.

Mark Streit: Regular linemates and refound confidence on the blueline PP.

Josh Gorges: Games and icetime that boost his confidence.

Ryan O'Byrne: Experience at the NHL level and a fighting major or two when the team could use it.

Mathieu Dandeneault: A less chameleon role with a deeper definition of purpose.

Steve Begin: A full and speedy recovery that enables him to block a 100 more shots and throw a 100 more hits this season.

Bryan Smolinski: A trade to somewhere, so that the Habs media doesn't turn this good guy's one year in Montreal into his final hellish season.

Cristobal Huet: Enough games to keep him sharp and focussed while being challenged by Carey Price, a long term contract, and enough votes to reach the 2008 All Star Game.

Carey Price: A string of solid performances that allows to push Huet for all he's worth, an appearance in the Future Stars portion of the All Star Game, and a placing on the All Rookie Team at year's end.

Guy Carbonneau: Moments where he can actually relax and breathe, sprinkled with a few large margin wins.

Bob Gainey: That trade he needs to make that will prime the team and muzzle his critics, some good down time with his family, and well deserved moments of peace of mind.

To the friends made at Eyes On The Prize:

Joe Pelletier: To one of this site's best supporters - nothing less that full time renumeration for doing what he loves best.

Retro Mikey: More encounters with Habs greats and a trip to the next Habs Fan Summit.

Chuck: Lotsa great hockey books under the tree and time to tell me all about them.

Matt G and Matt M at HW: Continued success in their journalistic endeavors.

T.C. Deneault at HW: Increased recognition as one of the better Habs bloggers out there, and employment with the Gazette, which he rightfully deserves.

Topham: Continued growth with his All Habs site.

Ian Cobb: A big supporter of the Habs youth movement, may your prophecies come true...starting now!

PPP: A Leafs - Habs playoff round.

E at Theory Of Ice: May the best kept secret in Habs hockey blogging become better known.

The Boys At FHF: Longevity in their field, in their hobby, and a Wayne's World like pregame show every Saturday to nationally expose their wit and wisdom - hey, four less lawyers is a good start!

Dave Stubbs: May you find a friend on the Habs as fulfilling as Sheldon Souray, continued success at HIO and the Gazette, and a CBC hot stove seat.

Red Fisher: 20 more years on the Habs beat and an apology from the Hockey Hall of Fame that renders him an honoured member and not simply an honouree.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Habs And Leafs: A Jersey Shared - Part 1: The 20's 30's, 40's, and 50's

George Patterson, the first Habs and Leafs player ever

Since 1927, when the Canadiens longest standing rival, the Toronto Maple Leafs, first entered the NHL, very few transactions have taken place between the two teams. Perhaps due to the fact that a blown deal between the teams would be cause for aggravated embarrassment, considering the proportions of the rivalry. Because of the small number of trades involving the teams, the number of players who have donned both jerseys is quite minimal through an 80 year history.

I though it would make an interesting piece, to list all of those who have worn both the bleu, blanc, rouge of the Canadiens, and the blue and white of the Leafs, so I did some research and found 72 players who fit the bill as both one time Habs or Maple Leafs.

One point of view I sought to bring to this post arises from an incident a few years ago in which a Toronto fan, my daughter's hockey coach, termed a former Hab favorite of mine, as a former Maple Leafs player.

On the occasion of a hockey tournament, Habs current assistant coach Kirk Muller, there to cheer on his daughter and her Kingston Pee Wee team, was brought into our dressing room to give the girls a little pep talk. The coach introduced him to the girls as a recent Leafs player - a devlish grin towards me in jest - and I interjected with "Yeah, and one who won the Stanley Cup with the Montreal Canadiens", to Muller's visible approval and laughter.

In light of that coach's lark, I have always wondered what the perception is when a player stars for two teams. To which team's history does he belong to and why, are questions I ask myself when going over such players.

In my heart, Frank Mahovlich will always be a former Hab to me. Evidence to the contrary, most of his success renders him an all time Leafs great. Although my memories revolve around his great playoffs with Montreal in the early 1970's, he'll be considered a Leaf forever.

Another angle I wanted to shed light on, is how many players were in which city first, through the decades. I though it might be interesting to note if either team sought out these former players due to previous success or Cup glory. I have noted the players on Stanley Cup winning teams with an asterisk ( * ) and broken down the chronological listing by decade, out of that curiosity. Players stats while suiting up for both teams are listed as well.

While not every trade between these teams is listed here - many involved players like Doug Jarvis, who only played for one rival - those that did occurred included here are noted with an equal sign ( = ). The entirety of players (draft choices, futures ) involved in the trades will be noted along with it. If a player was sold from one team to the other, it is noted with a dollar sign ( $ ).

I resisted adding ( well maybe I didn't! ) the names of former Canadiens organizational alumni that have found their way into the Leafs hierarchy, and vice versa. Those names would list people such as Dick Irvin Sr., Frank Selke, Punch Imlach, Cliff Fletcher, Pat Burns, Ken Dryden, Keith Acton, and others. Perhaps that's another piece for another time.

Have fun with this, and enjoy the comparisons, analysis, and surprises.

The 1920's

George Patterson ( $ ) - TOR 1927-28/MON 1928-29

TOR: 12-0-0-0 /
MON: 60-5-6-11 / 3-0-0-0

George Patterson was skating for the Hamilton Tigers of the Can-Pro League when he was traded to a newly named NHL club called the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1927. He suited up in his Blue and White wool and scored the club's first-ever goal. He didn't think much of his feat, but its significance would resonate into the future as the most important accomplishment of his career.

Patterson's stay in Toronto was brief. He was sold to the Montreal Canadiens on February 8, 1928, where he played for a season and a half before being claimed on waivers by the New York Americans.

Not only did Patterson score the Leafs first franchise goal, he was also the first player to don both the Leafs and Habs jerseys - a feat long thought to be shared by George Hainsworth and Lorne Chabot.

Bert McCaffrey - TOR 1926-28/MON 1929-31

TOR: 52-6-6-12 /
MON: 50-3-4-7 / 6-1-1-2

Winger/defenseman Bert "Mac" McCaffery played his seven NHL seasons during the 1920s and 1930s for the Toronto St. Pats, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Montreal Canadiens.

The Sum Of The Parts: No need to analyze 2 meanlingless transactions. It is just curious to note that there were two players, Patterson and McCaffrey, who shared the jerseys much before Hainsworth and Chabot. Hockey historians and Liam Maguire busters take note.

The 1930's

George Hainsworth ( = ) - MON 1926 - 33**/TOR 1933 - 37/MON 1936 - 37

MON: 318-167-97-54 / 31-13-13-5
TOR: 147-79-48-20 / 21-9-12-0

Hall Of Fame goaltender George Hainsworth was traded to the Maple Leafs on October 1, 1933 for goaltender Lorne Chabot, and the players hence became the first goaltenders to suit up for the two teams.

With Montreal, Hainsworth won two Stanley Cups and was the first ever winner of the Vezina Trophy winning it in its first three years of existance. As a Maple Leaf, he started every game for Toronto ( 144 ) over the next three seasons before resigned by Montreal, where he played his final four career games in 1936.

Lorne Chabot ( = ) - TOR 1928 - 33**/MON 1933 - 34

TOR: 214-101-78-35 / 20-11-9-0
MON: 47-21-20-6 / 2-0-1-1

Chabot, like Hainsworth at the time of the trade, was a two time Stanley Cup winner with the Leafs. After one season in Montreal, he was dealt to Chicago along with Howie Morenz and Marty Burke for Lionel Conacher, Roger Jenkins and Leroy Goldsworthy, October 3, 1934. With the Blackhawks, Chabot won the Vezina trophy and was named to the All Star team. He was reaquired by the Canadiens from Chicago for cash on February 8, 1936, and traded 5 days later to the Montreal Maroons for Bill Miller, Toe Blake and the rights to Ken Grivel, February, 1936.

Roger Jenkins - TOR 1930-31/MON 1934-35/MON 1936-37

TOR: 21-0-0-0 /
MON: 55-4-6-10 / 2-1-0-1

Roger Jenkins played right wing and defence for six different NHL teams in the 1930s. He was also an accomplished player in senior hockey and the minor pro leagues. He was best known for his hard-hitting work on the blueline and his ability to handle the puck.

In 1930-31 he was loaned to the Toronto Maple Leafs and suited up for 21 games. He was then traded to Montreal by Chicago with Leroy Goldsworthy and Lionel Conacher for Lorne Chabot, Howie Morenz and Marty Burke, October 3, 1934. Montreal traded him to Boston with Babe Siebert for Leroy Goldsworthy, Sammy McManus and $10,000, September 10, 1936.

Charlie Sands - TOR 1932 - 34/MON 1939 - 43

TOR: 48-8-11-19 / 14-3-2-5
MON: 159-28-58-86 / 7-1-1-2

Perhaps known best as the last Montreal Canadiens to wear the number 9 before Maurice Richard, Sands spent the bulk of his career as a Boston Bruin from 1934 to 1939, where he won his only Stanley Cup. Toronto had sold his rights to the Bruins in May of 1934. When he left Montreal, with Dutch Hillier, for the Rangers on October 27, 1943, the Canadiens received Phil Watson on loan for a season in an arranged deal. A center, Watson would notch 17 goals and 32 assists in a career best season that would end with a Stanley Cup win.

The Sum Of The Parts:

Not an abundance to go over here, with a mere four Habs/Leafs to add up and analyze.
Hainsworth will always be regarded as one of the great Habs goalies and Chabot's position among Leaf goalie greats is assured with two Cup wins. Neither went on to better days after being traded to Montreal and Toronto, but Chabot did excell as a Blackhawk for one year.

Toronto received little for either Hainsworth, Jenkins, or Sands, merely and a handful of cash, while Montreal parlayed two of the three assets into valuable and exchangable dividends. Flipping Chabot not once, but twice, they gained three future Hall Of Famers - Conacher, Goldsworthy, and a keeper in Blake. Sands brought them a valuable commodity in Phil Watson, a Cup experienced veteran from the Rangers, who was an integral part of the Habs 1944 Cup.

Not much to go on here, but I see a trend developing.

The 1940's

Erwin "Murph" Chamberlain ( $ ) - TOR 1937 - 40/MON 1940 - 49**

TOR: 131-19-45-66 / 18-2-5-7
MON: 323-66-97-163 / 42-11-11-22

Chamberlain was a productive forward for the era who topped out with an 15 goal season for the Habs in 1943-44. Montreal aquired him on May 10, 1940 from the Leafs for a sum of cash, which isn't at all bad for a player who would contribute for 8 seasons and win 2 Stanley Cups with the bleu, blanc, rouge.

Robert "Red" Heron - TOR 1938 - 41/MON 1941 - 42

TOR: 83-20-17-37 / 18-2-2-4
MON: 12-1-1-2 / 3-0-0-0

Heron was a much more valuable Leafs left winger than he was for his cup of coffee with the Canadiens. Between playing for both, Heron was a member of the New York/Brooklyn American to whom the Leafs has sold him at the term of the 1941 season. He became a Canadien as a result of loan agreement between Brooklyn and the Habs which saw him and Murph Chamberlain switch uni's for a season. Upon his reaquisition, Chamberlain spent another six seasons in Montreal.

Gord Drillon ( $ ) - TOR 1936 - 42*/MON 1942 - 43

TOR: 362-127-121-248 / 42-22-13-35
MON: 49-28-22-50 / 5-4-2-6

As a Leaf, Drillon was a standout in his era. A constant 20 goal threat in a time where it meant something, he would win a Stanley Cup, and Art Ross Trophy, a Lady Bing, along with three All Star nominations in his six seasons in Toronto.

On October 4, 1942, his rights were inexplicably sold to the Canadiens where he would enjoy a career year with 28 goals. Perhaps the fact that he'd enlisted in the armed forces would explain this Hall Of Famer's rather rash exit from Toronto. Drillon would continue to play hockey with army teams and minor affiliates, but would never return to NHL duty after 1943.

Rhys Thomson - MON 1939-40/TOR 1942-43

MON: 7-0-0-0 /
TOR: 18-0-2-2 /

Rhys Thomson was a big, sturdy defenseman who was signed in 1938 by the Montreal Canadiens and made his debut with 7 games during the 1939-40 season. He was traded to the New York Americans at the end of that season. He returned to Toronto where he had played junior, when his rights were picked up by the hometown Maple Leafs in the Americans dispersal draft. That season, 1942-43, Rhys split the season between the AHL's Providence Reds and the Maple Leafs of the NHL, playing 18 games with the reigning Stanley Cup champions. After being released , Rhys's hockey career continued in the senior hockey ranks, interrupted by military service in 1944.

Paul Bibeault - MON 1940 - 43/TOR 1943 - 44/MON 1945 - 46

MON: 92-37-40-14 / 8-2-6
TOR: 29-13-14-2 / 5-1-4
MON: 10-4-6-0 / 0-0-0

Bibeault may best be remembered as the goalie who gave up 5 goals to Maurice Richard during a game in Toronto in 1944 - a feat which earned the Rocket a rare standing O from the gathered Leafs faithful, on the way to his 50 in 50 season. Oddly, Bibeault was a goalie on loan to the Leafs from Montreal at the time.

This Habs netminder was the epitome of the term "journeyman". During the season in which he was lent to Toronto, he posted decent enough numbers to earn a Second All Star Team nod, while tying for the league lead in shutouts. Following that season, the Habs sold Bibeault's rights to the Bruins, before reaquiring them in January 1946 to sub for the injured Bill Durnan for 10 games. The price of his reaquisition from Boston was defenseman Mike McMahon ( 55-7-18-25 / 13-1-2-3 ), and the Habs ably refilled that spare part by obtaining rearguard George Allen ( 49-7-14-21 ) from the Blackhawks nine months later. Bibeault did not return to the NHL after his one season in Chicago.

Bibeault tangles with Chamberlain

Victor Lynn ( = ) - MON 1945 - 46/TOR*** 1946 - 50

MON: 2-0-0-0 / 0-0-0-0
TOR: 213-32-58-90 / 35-6-9-15

Lynn, a defenseman, was less than a spare part on the Habs 1946 Cup machine. He was a fairly good AHL prospect ( 53-26-25-51 wirh AHL Calder Cup winning Buffalo Bisons ) when traded to the Leafs with Dutch Hiller ( 132-53-33-68 / 20-6-3-9* ) for center John Mahaffy ( 9-2-5-7 / 1-0-1-1 ), who had never dressed with Toronto, and Gerry Brown on September 21, 1946. Hiller never suited up for the Leafs, and the same goes for Brown with the Habs. The Leafs maximized the asset Lynn was by packaging him Bill Ezinicky to the Bruins for Fern Flaman, Leo Boivin, Ken Smith, and Phil Maloney.

Lynn takes out the Rocket in fine fashion

The Sum Of The Parts:

Pretty much an even scenario for trades and aquisitions between both teams in the 1940's. Perhaps a slight nod to the Leafs during a decade in which they ruled. The Leafs garnered much more millage out of the Lynn trade than did the Canadiens, although the Chamberlain aquisition by Montreal was a sure steal for less long term dividends. Heron's fate was inconsequential for either team, and considering that the Drillon exchange was for cash versus one great year, I'd call that a draw as well. In the Bibeault swing back and forth, the Habs lost little while gaining two useful defenseman for an additional season. The margin is best laid out by Stanley Cups for the decade in which the Leafs ruled with 4 and the Canadiens with two.

The 1950's

Bob Dawes - TOR 1946 - 50*/MON 1950 - 51

TOR: 17-2-2-4 / 9-0-0-0
MON: 15-0-5-5 / 1-0-0-0

Nothing much to split up here. Dawes was sold off to Cleveland of the AHL, who then sold him to the Buffalo Bisons, who then sold him to the Cincinnati Mohaws, all in a 13 month span. He ended up in a Habs sweater via the loaning of Canadiens Paul Masnick to Cincinnati on February 13, 1951.

John McCormack ( $ ) - TOR 1947 - 51/MON 1951 - 54*

TOR: 84-12-13-25 / 6-1-0-1
MON: 164-8-29-37 / 16-0-1-1

McCormack was a fringe center who was sold to the Habs, who in turn lost him to Chicago in the 1954 waiver draft. He did suit for 9 playoff games with the 1953 Stanley Cup champion Canadiens, though his name was never etched in with the three - peat winning Leaf team of the late 1940's. Not exactly fair!

Gaye Stewart - TOR 1941 - 48**/MON 1952 - 54

TOR: 165-81-52-133 / 16-2-7-9
MON: 5-0-1-1 / 3-0-0-0

Gaye Stewart's NHL career was one that was compromised by WWII. A star with the 1940's Maple Leafs, Stewart would play for all of 5 original 6 teams, save for the Bruins. He won 2 Stanley Cups with Toronto where a mere 5 seasons added up many achievements. He was the NHL Rookie of the Year in 1943, with 48-24-23-47 totals. Aside from leading the NHL in goals with 37 in 1946, Stewart amassed 2 All Star Team nominations during his time as well.

He was involved in one of the decade's biggest maga deals when the Leafs sent him along with Bud Poile, Bob Graham, Gus Bodnar, and Ernie Dickens to Chicago for superstar Max Bently and CyThomas. In 1952, the Canadiens aquired him via waivers from the Rangers, and after appearing in just five games, sent him to their affiliate Quebec Aces, where he posted 29-13-20-33 number. Stewart played the 1953-54 season with the Habs AHL affiliate Buffalo Bisons, where he notched 42 goals and 53 assists in 70 games. After appearing in 3 playoff games with the Cup winning Habs that same season, he was traded outright to the Bisons, with Pete Barbando and Eddie Slowinski for Jackie Leclair and cash. The 1954-55 season in Buffalo would be Stewart's last year in hockey.

Check out the feast of photo's on Stewart's career at

Paul Masnick ( $ ) - MON 1950 - 55*/TOR 1957 - 58

MON: 180-15-32-47 / 33-4-5-9
TOR: 41-2-9-11 / 0-0-0-0

Masnick was a defensive center with the early 50's Habs. Two years after winning a Stanley Cup with Montreal in 1953, he was traded to Chicago for Al Dewsbury, who never suited up for Montreal. The Canadiens reaquired his rights 32 days later and farmed him out to their Montreal Royals affiliate. On June 4, 1955, the Canadiens lent his rights, and those of two other players, to Winnipeg of the WHL. He was transferred to Toronto in a cash deal on September 30, 1957.

Bert Olmstead - MON 1950 - 58****/TOR 1958 - 62*

MON: 508-103-280-383 / 86-8-34-42
TOR: 246-56-109-165 / 29-8-9-17

Olmstead was an unheralded key cog in the Habs 1950's fortunes as a second line centerman behind Jean Beliveau. Aquired from the Red Wings for Leo Gravelle after refusing to report to Detroit from a prior Chicago trade, Olmstead was a diamond in the rough for the Habs through 8 seasons.

Despite never notching 20 goals, he was a Second Team All Star twice, based primarily on his passing merits. After a 1957-58 season in which his production dropped off, the Maple Leafs scooped up Olmstead in an inter league draft. He offered the Leafs four solid seasons, culminating in a 1962 Cup win for Toronto. The Rangers then turned the same trick on the Leafs, claiming Olmstead in the pre-season draft, but the 36 year old chose retirement over hockey in New York.

Gary Edmunson - MON 1951 - 52/TOR 1959 - 60

MON: 1-0-0-0 / 2-0-0-0
TOR: 42-4-6-10 / 9-0-0-0

No story here, as Edmunson was nothing more than a minor leaguer with above average numbers in the AHL and WHL who could never translate that success beyond that level. He was a Hab on paper only, as Montreal had aquired his rights for a whole three games in March of 1952. The Springfield Indians of the AHL dealt his rights to the Leafs in 1959 for a player named Frank Roggeveen.

The Sum Of The Parts:

Six players between the two teams changed hands, with three going each way. Edmunson, Masnick, Dawes, and McCormack were each inconsequential at best. Gaye Stewart was a former Leafs star, who had little to offer the Canadiens by the time of his arrival, while Olmstead had enough gas in the tank left to help the Leafs rebuild into contention. While none of the six aquisitions translated into great dividends either way upon their departures from the Habs and Leafs, this decade is an even draw as far as that goes. In the balance of the decade, however, is the Canadiens edge in Stanley Cup wins, 6-1 that speaks loudest in the 1950's.

The Final Tally:

In total, from the 1920's to the end of the 1950's, there were 7 Montreal Canadiens who became Maple Leafs one way or another. Eleven former Leafs arrived in Montreal via different routes during the same period. As it appears, Montreal were managing the assets much better than Toronto, who apart from a trade or two, received little dividends for departing players, often settling, or perhaps preferring cash.

The players Montreal aquired would win a collective three Stanley Cups. Toronto would do them one better, if one includes the Cup won by Olmstead in 1962.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's: Habs And Leafs: A Jersey Shared - Part 2: The 1960's and 1970's

Habs And Leafs: A Jersey Shared - Part 2: The 1960's and 1970's

For hockey fans in Canada, the decade of the 1960's was the equivalent of hockey heaven, as the country's two teams were perenial Stanley Cup favorites. The Canadiens started off the decade as five time champions, but with Maurice Rocket Richard's retirement, the team was in transition and took some steps back.

In Toronto meanwhile, the Maple Leafs were busy building a claim of their own. After losing out to Chicago in 1961, the Leafs strung three Cup titles together as the Habs subtly retuned and rebuilt.

From 1961 to 1964, the Canadiens were ousted in the first round, never to meet the Leafs in the final until 1967 - likely the last time it would ever happen. The playoff format was different then - first place met third, second met fourth.

The Canadiens were still a strength, finishing 1st overall in 1961 and 1962, only to lose to Chicago both times. The following season, the Habs were a mere three points back of first place Toronto, but finished third and were ousted by the Leafs. In 1964, the teams switched places in the final standings, with the result being the same.

Montreal would meet the Leafs in the first rounds of 1965 and 1966, defeating them both years on their way to winning the Cup. As Montreal would handle Toronto four straight the second year, the 1967 Cup final was set up as a mismatched battle of 1960's titans. It would be the perenial contenders adrift from Montreal versus an aging but wily club from Toronto.

It was Canada's centennial year, and Expo 67 was being held in Montreal. With the Canadiens overly assured at making it three in a row, the Maple Leafs used the Habs overconfidence as motivation. An upset ensued, and a classic one at that, as the Leafs oldtimers shut down the Habs offense in four of six games, winning their 13th Stanley Cup. While Montreal was stunned, they were also stung. The following season, the NHL doubled in size, and the Canadiens were once more back at the podium.

Unfortunately for hockey fans in Canada, that 1967 series would become a landmark of where the two teams started to go in different directions. While Montreal continued to produce winning teams, the Leafs lost sight of the formula that made them winners. The Canadiens reign would last, on and off, with 8 Cups in the next 12 seasons. Toronto spiralled beyond comprehension for twenty five years, not becoming worthy contenders again in 1993.

During the competitive 1960's, only 11 players suited up for both the Habs and Leafs, neither team daring the repercussions of a major trade between the two. The players who donned both jerseys were a collection one time prospects who didn't fit in with strong teams, journeymen who made for roster extra's, and players seemingly having seen better days.

The 1960's

Al McNeil ( = ) - TOR 1955-60/MON 1960-61

TOR: 71-4-8-12 / MON: 41-1-7-8 / 5-0-0-0 Defenseman Al MacNeil played over 500 NHL games in the 50s and 60s. He was capable of taking the body in his own end and was fairly effective at passing the puck ahead to his forwards.

Born in Sydney, Nova Scotia, MacNeil was a Toronto Maple Leafs prospect and played three years with the junior Marlboros. During his first four pro seasons he was mostly used as a injury replacement while seeing full time duty with the Rochester Americans of the AHL. The one exception was his 53 game tenure on the Toronto blueline in 1953-54.

In June, 1960, MacNeil was traded to the Montreal Canadiens who assigned him to the EPHL's Hull-Ottawa Canadiens for the entire 1960-61 schedule. The next season he played 61 games and provided grit and steady play in his own end for the Habs. With youngsters like Jacques Laperriere waiting in the wings, Montreal opted to send MacNeil to the Chicago Black Hawks in May, 1962. He went on to enjoy the finest stretch of his career as a regular for the next four years on one of the top clubs in the league.

After retiring as a player, MacNeil succeeded Claude Ruel as coach of the Montreal Canadiens 23 games into the 1970-71. He led them to a strong finish and an upset of the Boston Bruins in the quarterfinals on the way to the Stanley Cup. Unrest in the dressing room cost MacNeil a chance to return in 1971-72.

Eddie Litzenberger - MON 1952 - 55/TOR 1961 - 64***

MON: 34-8-2-12 /
TOR: 114-17-23-40 / 20-1-4-5

In the seven seasons between stops in Montreal and Toronto, Litzenberger was a much better Blackhawk than he ever was a Hab or Leaf, offensively speaking. He was lost among many good Habs prospects in the mid fifties, and was traded to Chicago for Paul Masnick on December 10, 1954. He a key componant of the Hawks 1961 Cup run but was dealt to Detroit in the offseason. Midway through the 1961-62 season, the Leafs scooped Litzenberger off waivers, and he became a part of Toronto's three Cup dynasty of the early sixties. It's hard to say if he would have ever fit in with the Canadiens, who certainly didn't miss him from 1955 to 1960.

Bronco Horvath - MON 1956 - 57/TOR 1962 - 63

MON: 1-0-0-0 /
TOR: 10-0-4-4 /

Horvath's tale is similar to that of Litzenberger in that there was no room for him in Montreal in the late 1950's. The Canadiens aquired Horvath in a cash deal with Rangers and he appeared in only one game in 1957. Claimed in the inter-league draft the hapless Bruins, Horvath became a player in Beantown, leading the NHL in goals with 39 in 1960. He would pass through Chicago and New York a second time before the Leafs would pick him off waivers in January of 1963. Horvath would go on to tear up the AHL with the Rochester Americans where he'd win 3 Calder Cups.

Cesare Maniago - TOR 1960 - 61/MON 1962 - 63

TOR: 7-4-2-1 / 2-1-1
MON:14-5-5-4 /

Cesare Maniago would become best known as the franchise goalie for the expansion Minnesota North Stars in 1967. Maniago was a highly thought of hot prospect, due to his large frame and size, who toiled in the Leafs system for a few years in the early 1960's.

The Habs Maniago claimed him off waivers from Toronto and after a dazzling season with the Hull Ottawa Canadiens, Maniago made it to Montreal as Jacques Plante's backup in 1962-63. Two years later, with Gump Worsley and Charlie Hodge ahead of him on the depth chart, the Habs swung a six player deal with the Rangers that brought Noel Price, Earl Ingarfield, Dave McComb, and Gord Labossierre into the Canadiens organization.

Marc Reaume - TOR 1954 - 60/MON 1963 - 64

TOR: 266-8-39-47 / 19-0-2-2
MON: 3-0-0-0/

Reaume was a very sound defenseman with the Leafs in the latter half of the 1950's. Groomed as a solid stay at home type with the St. Mike Majors, Reaume would fetch the Leafs a jewel upon his trade to Detroit - one on one for Red Kelly during the 1960 season. The Habs paid double price for Reaume in 1963, sending two decent minor leaguers, Ralph Keller and Chuck Hamilton, to Hershey (AHL) for what amounted to a three game stint with Montreal. After the 1964 season, he was reclaimed by the Leafs organization where he remained a solid minor league defenseman in their system for a half dozen seasons.

Dick Duff - TOR 1954 - 64**/MON 1964 - 70****

TOR: 582-174-168-342 / 54-14-23-37
MON: 305-87-85-172 / 60-16-26-42

For a decade, Hall Of Famer Dick Duff was a constant 20 goal threat for the Maple Leafs, and was a key player in their early 1960's Cup wins. Duff's production was tailing off some during the regular season in 1963-64 and he was traded to the Rangers in a mega deal with Bob Nevin, Arnie Brown, Bill Collins and Rod Seilling for Andy Bathgate and Don McKenny.

The Canadiens aquired Duff within a year after he disappointed in New York, and he refound his 20 goal scoring touch with the Habs. He would go on to win four Stanley Cups with Montreal from 1965 to 1969. The following season, he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings for Dennis Hextall.

Dickie Moore - MON 1951 - 63******/TOR 1964 - 65

MON: 654-254-340-594 / 112-38-56-94
TOR: 38-2-4-6 / 5-1-1-2

Moore's worth to the Habs cannot be summed up in a mere paragragh. He is the Canadiens all time best left winger, who prospered during the team's most glorious reign. Winner of two Art Ross Trophies, he once held the NHL record for points in a season.

Having left the game in 1963 while still productive, he was tempted out of retirement by Toronto after they had claimed him in the June inter-league draft. His season in a Leafs jersey left much to be desired and Moore called it quits again. Three years later, at age 37, he was back at it once more, this time with the St. Louis Blues. A fair regular season ensued and Moore found his old touch in 1968 playoffs, with 7 goals and 7 assists in 18 games.

Dick Gamble - MON 1950 - 56/TOR 1965 - 67

MON: 178-38-41-79 / 14-1-2-3
TOR: 3-1-0-1 /

The Maple Leafs initially held Gamble's NHL rights, but felt he was too small to be of use. Instead, Punch Imlach brought Gamble to the Quebec Aces where in 1950-51 he notched 94 points in 77 games.

Canadiens coach Dick Irvin Sr. took notice, bringing the young ace to Montreal in 1951. During his first full season, Gamble potted 42 points and a chance to skate with Rocket Richard and Elmer Lach. But injuries and illness took their toll, taking the steam out of his scoring touch. By 1953, after an All-Star game appearance, Gamble was traded to the Blackhawks, returned to the Canadiens and then sent back to Imlach and his Aces.

By 1957, Gamble joined the AHL, where thirteen seasons with the Buffalo Bisons and the Rochester Americans established him as one of the most prolific and durable scorers in league history. He nailed down eleven 30-goal plus seasons and is ranked fifth among all-time point scorers and fourth in all-time goals. In 1965, the Leafs apparently had a change of heart somewhat and made a trade with the Bisons. Gamble would only suit up for three games with Toronto.

Noel Price - TOR 1958 - 59/MON 1965 - 67

TOR: 29-0-0-0 / 5-0-0-0
MON: 39-0-9-9 / 3-0-1-1

Noel Price was a journeyman fringe defenseman, a solid stay at homer, perhaps too good for the AHL, but yet not quite rounded enough to be a full time NHL'er. After short stints in Toronto, Detroit, New York, and Montreal, the 1967 expansion altered his worth. Despite his shortcomings, Price was an astute observer of the position, and was twice later reaquired by Montreal to tutor young prospects on the Nova Scotia Voyageurs roster - namely Larry Robinson. Both Montreal and Toronto gained little upon trading for or aquiring Price, as he always seemed to be packaged in multi-player deals.

Bill Sutherland - MON 1962 - 63/TOR 1968 - 69

MON: 0-0-0-0 / 2-0-0-0
TOR: 44-7-5-12 /

Sutherland toiled in the Habs farm system for a decade by the time he saw action for the Canadiens in the 1963 playoffs. The 1967 expansion was his savior and he became a Philadelphia Flyer for a year. Toronto claimed him in the inter-league draft of 1968, and dealt him back to Philly in a package that gained the Leafs future Calder Cup winner Brit Selby.

Larry Hillman - TOR 1960 - 68/MON 1968 - 69

TOR: 260-13-75-88 / 32-2-3-5
MON:25-0-5-5 / 1-0-0-0

Larry Hillman was one of the most traveled professional hockey players to ever sit aboard a train, a bus and eventually, an airplane. During his 22-year pro career, he played for 15 different teams. All the while, no one confused him with Bobby Orr. His most settled times were the eight seasons he shuffled back and forth between Toronto and its AHL counterparts, the Rochester Americans. Rarely traded, but often waivered, Hillman landed in Montreal for the 1969 playoff stretch run, punching the clock for 25 games.

Larry Mickey - TOR 1968 - 69/MON 1969 - 70

TOR: 55-8-9-17 / 3-0-0-0
MON: 21-4-4-8 / 0-0-0-0

In June of 1969 the Toronto Maple Leafs chose Larry Mickey in the intra-league draft and he went on to score 27 points, playing on an effective line with Forbes Kennedy and Brit Selby. He then toiled briefly with the Montreal Canadiens, Los Angeles Kings, and Philadelphia Flyers before finishing off his NHL tenure by spending parts of four seasons with the Buffalo Sabres.

The Sum Of The Parts:

Six one-time Leafs became Habs, and five former Leafs suited up for the Canadiens. The Leafs won 3 Cups with Lizenberger, and Montreal won 4 with Duff. Of the remaining players, it could be said that both Toronto and Montreal likely never envisioned Maniago as a goalie of prominance, but neither suffered greatly for losing him. The Leafs turned Marc Reaume over for great returns. While the Habs might have been premature in letting both Litzenberger and Horvath depart, it can be argued that neither had a future in Montreal - at least none that would have altered a Stanley Cup landscape.

I'd give a slight edge to Toronto in turning over assets for short lived successes in the decade, though Montreal equalled that edge by getting more out of Duff that the Leafs did out of Moore. Still, without any deals between the teams, the decade is an absolute draw as far as which former players of either team gave whichever team an advantage.

The 1970's

Jacques Plante - MON 1947 - 63******/TOR 1970 - 73

MON: 556-314-133-107 / 90-59-28
TOR: 106-48-38-15 / 6-0-4

One of the most legendary figures in the history of goaltending, Jacques Plante not only dominated the position, he helped reinvented it. Plante was the backbone of the Canadiens 1950's dynasty before his personal antics and sideshow behavior earned him a ticket to the Rangers.

After a successful run with the Blues, including a pair of Stanley Cup final appearances, Plante became a Maple Leaf and refound his form. Both the Habs and Leafs did well in exchanges when Plante departed them. The Habs gained Gump Worsley - who helped them to four more Stanley Cups - and a handfull of role players. Toronro shipped him along with a minor leaguer to Boston for a first round pick that became Ian Turnbull.

Garry Monahan - MON 1967 - 69/TOR 1970 - 75

MON: 14-0-0-0 /
TOR: 313-51-73-124 / 15-2-1-3

The first player ever drafted in an amateur draft in 1963, Monahan barely slugged it out in Montreal's system for six seasons. His game had some attraction, and when Detroit offered Peter Mahovlich for him, Sam Pollock could not refuse. In the early 1970's, Monahan found himself a Leaf, becoming a reliable forward who did not miss a game for four seasons. Toronto shipped him to Los Angeles for some fringe returns, reaquiring 4 years later for cash.

Frank Mahovlich - TOR 1956 - 68****/MON 1970 - 74**

TOR: 720-296-301-597/ 76-24-36-60
MON: 263-129-181-310 / 49-27-31-58

Frank Mahovlich is simply one of the greatest left wingers to play the game. Some hockey experts have even suggested that had he ended up elsewhere than Toronto, his numbers would have been even greater. With the Leafs, Mahovlich was a superstar, but a depressed and seemingly underachieving one.

Regardless of the 4 Cup wins in Toronto, Mahovlich was often miserable, for his treatment from the Leafs staff left much to be desired. After Toronto refused a million dollar offer for him from Chicago, things really staled, and his relationship with coach Punch Imlach caused Mahovlich to take medical leaves more than once.

The Leafs pulled off one of the biggest trades ever, sending Mahovlich in a package to Detroit that made Norm Ullman and Paul Henderson Maple Leafs. Mahovlich refound his enthusiam in Motown, notching a 49 goal campaign in his first full season there. Joy, in Detroit was brief however, as Wings management seemed directionless during the Big M's time there.

Needing a boost, the Canadiens sent three players, including future 50 goal man Mickey Redmond to the Wings in hopes of stimulating the Habs playoff hopes. It worked to extremes, and Mahovlich was peerless in leading all playoff scorers while Montreal confounded hockey experts on the way to an unlikely 1971 Stanley Cup. Mahovlich remained a Hab for three further excellent seasons, some of his most productive and consistant ones. Another Cup followed in 1973. The Big M jumped to the WHA in 1974, when Montreal's contract offer fell way short of his demands.

Wayne Thomas - MON 1972 - 74/TOR 1975 - 77

MON: 52-31-13-8 / 0-0-0
TOR: 97-38-37-25 / 15-6-8

In Montreal, Wayne Thomas may best be remembered as a goalie who stepped in when Ken Dryden stepped out in 1974. Originally a Maple Leafs prospect, the Habs aquired Thomas from the L.A. Kings four years earlier.

As Dryden returned, Thomas sat out the entire 1974-75 season before being bargained off to Toronto for their first round pick in the 1976 draft (Peter Lee). Upon arriving in Toronto, Thomas was stellar, and earned an invite to the mid-season All Star game. Halfway through the next year, Thomas lost his role to the up and coming Mike Palmateer, and was placed on waivers. He finished his career as a New York Rangers to little success.

The Sum Of The Parts:

It's quite cut and dried here. In the 1970's, Montreal added one former cast off Leaf, who played a major role in two Cup wins. The Leafs picked up three former Habs who offered them temporary success at best, but hardly represented building blocks.

The Final Tally:

If so few players from each organization changed hands as the 1960's became the 1970's, it is completely explained by the different directions the teams were headed in. Montreal added players who would put them over the top, or at least help maintain their status there. Toronto sought to remain competitive by bringing in players who would make them better at the time, regardless of the long term or the big picture. Montreal's building from within philosophy made adding such players sensible. Toronto's view of maintaining respectability blinded them to the values of building from within. Some suggest that continues to this day.