Getty Images (Ed. Be aware: Welcome to the Puck Daddy 2013 summer time project, the Nationwide Hockey League of Nations. We’ve recruited 30 writers/blogs to identify the best player of their favourite staff’s history for each main nationality that creates the material of our beloved NHL: Canada, USA, Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden, Finland and The Remainder of The World. It’s their standards, as long as they’ll justify it. Learn, debate and enjoy! If you want to accomplish that on Twitter, it is #NHLoN.)
By Erica Taddeo, Hab It Her Way
Canada: Jean Beliveau
Choosing the best Canadian Canadien is like choosing your favourite pun in a Fozzie Bear routine. You just can’t do it.
But since that’s the level of this challenge, I had no alternative however to choose one. Jean Béliveau has acquired to be the very best Canadian-born player this franchise has ever seen.
It feels awful to skip over the likes of Maurice Richard, Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy, but when there can solely be one, then it needs to be Beliveau. He’s not possible to hate. No, actually: I don’t suppose that even essentially the most idiotic of rival groups’ fans may deny the greatness of Le Gros Bill.
(Pricey commenters: That is NOT an invite to prove me wrong.)
He’s the third-highest scorer in franchise historical past. He gained 10 Stanley Cups as a player. Half of those wins occurred whereas he was crew captain. And since he retired, his involvement with the Canadiens has landed his name on the Cup seven more occasions. Beliveau has spent nearly his complete life concerned with the Habs in some capacity.
When Beliveau was 15 years outdated, then-GM Frank Selke took notice of his talent and immediately started working to make him a Montreal Canadien. He’s been one ever since, racking up the aforementioned Cups, two Hart Trophies, an Artwork Ross, the first-ever Conn Smythe and over 500 career goals.
He helped to shape the Canadiens throughout their greatest dynasty, and since Montreal is pretty keen on its hockey historical past, that is sort of a giant deal.
He continued to offer the staff this similar leadership and spirit even after he retired, taking the title of “goodwill ambassador” very, very severely. Heck, they wanted to call him governor-basic of all the rattling country, and he turned down the job in order to assist his daughter care for her younger youngsters.
Beliveau is now 81 years previous and still accepts fan mail, though he won’t reply it as rapidly as he used to. To at the present time, he has season tickets on the Bell Centre and solely misses games for well being reasons. He set the usual for Canadiens captains, and probably for NHL captains basically.
It’s not possible to think about a player, Canadian or otherwise, who has given as a lot to the franchise and its metropolis as Beliveau has.
Finland : Saku Koivu
Saku Koivu is, certainly, the best Finn to ever put on the ‘CH.’
He’s the most effective captains in Canadiens history, and don’t you dare deliver up the truth that he never received a Cup. It might be stupid to put the blame for that solely on him, when his endurance, perseverance and playmaking skills prove otherwise. I might go on at size about his unbelievable battle with cancer and his work with most cancers sufferers within the city, however you’ve got all seen (and cried at) the eight-minute standing ovation he acquired upon his return to the game in 2002. As an alternative, I’ll deal with the opposite issues that endeared him to his followers.
He consistently confirmed the kind of persistence required of a Montreal Canadiens captain, after which some. (Remember that he was the crew’s first European-born captain, and his first language was neither English nor French.) He was by no means the workforce’s highest goalscorer, however he made every considered one of his linemates higher. He got here via for his group after they wanted him most, like when he scored the successful shootout aim within the Habs’ thrilling 6-5 comeback sport in opposition to the Rangers in February 2008.
Some individuals call that “clutch.” I simply call it Koivu.
His time in Montreal ended on sort of a bitter word, with an expired contract and a GM’s want to shake things up, but fueled principally by whoever it was that whined about not wanting him to wear the ‘C’ anymore. He’d been anticipated to spend ten years learning a 3rd language and speaking it fluently, in order that some members of the local media might have the luxury of interviewing him in their mom tongue. There was not a single mention of the truth that he speaks English completely, and that he’d saved his composure as captain of the league’s craziest market.
But sometimes in Montreal, a part of the city makes its voice heard so loudly that it seems to talk on behalf of everyone, and, like a cranky child, ultimately will get its method.
A 12 months and a half later, when Koivu returned to Montreal as an Anaheim Duck, he was given a hero’s welcome and looked genuinely happy to be skating underneath the rafters from which his No. eleven would possibly hang someday. (To date, only Canadian players have had their jerseys retired by the Canadiens.)
All was forgiven, now that the cranky children had had time to think about what they did. And people of us who never needed him gone were simply glad to have him again.
USA: Chris Chelios
Choosing Chris Chelios as the greatest American Hab was type of a no brainer, since he might be the very best American NHLer of all time. Actually, if I was nearly as good at hockey as Chelios was, I might play until I was 79 years old, too.
Chelios began to play for the Canadiens after the 1984 Olympics. His first NHL objective was a playoff game-winner in Recreation 1 of the first spherical. His first full season as a Montreal Canadien was just as impressive, setting a brand new scoring file for Canadiens rookie defencemen and incomes him a second-place end in voting for the Calder Trophy (which he lost to Mario Lemieux, so that’s okay, I assume).
His greatest season as a Hab, by far, was 1988-89. Holy crap. His career stats are impressive, but that one season speaks for itself. I want to placed on my Habs jersey and get up and cheer every time I learn his stats for that year. (And I did!) Seventy-three regular season factors, 19 playoff factors in 21 video games, and enough fights to prove that he isn’t the kind of d-man you can mess with. He kicked ass and took names, and until you are Ron Hextall, you understand that his Norris Trophy win that year was well-deserved.
Since then, no Canadiens blueliner has been capable of match Chelios’ 1989 tally for normal season or playoff factors. I can not help but marvel what would have happened in Montreal if Chelios had never been traded.
Sweden: Mats Naslund
You’d suppose that after Mats Naslund opened the door for European gamers in Montreal, the Canadiens would chase down every accessible Swede. Or maybe Naslund set the bar too excessive.
Instead of going after Swedes, the Habs have determined to pursue players of similarly small stature, assuming that each one guys under 5-9 would carry out like he did. If that had been true, Montreal can be unstoppable right now.
Naslund burst proper out of the gate and endeared himself to followers by scoring a hat trick in his first-ever game as a Hab, a preseason meeting with the Flyers. He picked up 71 factors in his first yr, and was named to the NHL’s All-Rookie group. He was a fixture on All-Star teams and podiums, despite lacking the World Championships most years as a result of he was within the NHL playoffs, scoring targets like this one:
Seriously, how did that go in? Is he magic or one thing? Have they got leprechauns in Sweden?
His one hundred ten-level season in 1985-86 was unimaginable. It was additionally the final time a Canadiens player scored 100 factors in a season, so think about this my plea to Brendan Gallagher, who hadn’t even been born but when it happened. By the point Naslund left Montreal for Europe in 1990, he was a fixture on the All-Star Sport who’d won a Stanley Cup, a Woman Byng and the approval of fans who liked cheering for him as he tried to fill the very large skates of Habs legend Man Lafleur.
If solely every certainly one of his quick-guy successors might do the identical.
Russia: Alex Kovalev
Alex Kovalev’s career as a Montreal Canadien was, to borrow a phrase from LL Cool J, one thing like a phenomenon.
Case in point: The remainder of the world calls him “Alexei.” Like all good Montrealer, I’ve actually by no means referred to him as “Alexei” Kovalev. I have no idea who that is. Alex Kovalev, then again, was the sort of fast-skating, high-scoring celebrity ahead who may increase the decibel level within the Bell Centre with just a flick of his wrist. He was traded to Montreal at 30 and his first 12 games as a Canadien, on the end of the 2003-04 season, weren’t that spectacular – however as quickly because the playoffs started, he proved that he might carry the identical sort of energy to Montreal that he did to Pittsburgh and New York, scoring 6 targets in 11 games.
His 35-purpose season in 2007-08 helped carry the Canadiens to the highest of the Jap Conferece, and was one of the best season by a Habs player in the fashionable period. It weren’t simply his goals; it was how he scored them. Shifting so fast, so fluidly, dekeing round his opponents and flicking the puck into the net like there was nothing in his method. There isn’t any denying that he fed the terrible cliché of “enigmatic Russian,” but his low factors and his off games were typically missed, as a result of the on games have been simply so on.
Habs fans of all ages worshipped him. Living proof: he released a DVD in March 2008 titled My Hockey Ideas and Training Strategies. Its launch wasn’t as broadly advertised as you’d count on, but it sold itself. I labored at a video store when it was launched. Everyone got here in to the store to buy a copy. (Even fats guys.) We couldn’t restock quick sufficient. I might guess that there are tons of children in hockey packages who still keep in mind watching it, and have a duplicate of it tucked away with a faded Kovalev T-shirt that does not match anymore.
Slovakia: Jaroslav Halak
It’s wonderful to suppose that the Canadiens’ greatest Slovakian participant, Jaroslav Halak, spent only two full seasons with the group, and as a backup. It is pretty rare that a backup goalie would enter the general public consciousness like Halak did, however it’s also fairly uncommon that a backup goalie would possess his incredible talent and composure.
He first made his mark when he stepped in for an injured Cristobal Huet in 2006-07, earlier than Carey Value ever started a recreation for the Canadiens. Halak was reliable, cool below stress, earning his first shutout against the Bruins a month after he began within the NHL. He kept Montreal, a city well-known for its goaltending, within the running for a playoff spot till the very last recreation of the season.
The following season marked the start of Value’s NHL profession. Halak spent many of the first half of the season within the AHL, solely earning the official slot of backup goaltender when Huet was traded. Price was proficient, but somewhat uneven in his rookie season, and Halak proved to be reliable every time he was referred to as on. The Habs’ playoff run that 12 months was thrilling and fun and brought town together.
Interestingly sufficient, the postseason two years later would be simply as thrilling, but much more divisive. Halak had simply come off a strong performance on the Vancouver Olympics. Carey Worth was inconsistent, which frustrated everyone who believed that he was the second coming of St. Patrick Roy.
Now, Montreal is a hockey metropolis if there ever was one. In 2010, it was like there was no different sport in town. Significantly. No one celebrated the Alouettes’ Gray Cup win as much as they celebrated any given Habs playoff win in 2010. The rise of Jaroslav Halak was enormous, even by Montreal requirements. Even the honest-weather hockey fans, the individuals who do not know what hockey is till April rolls round, have been picking sides. (It was not in contrast to the whole “vampire vs. werewolf” thing that teenaged Twilight fans have been preventing over at the time.)
People purchased Halak shirts. They put his name on cease signs. Everyone knew his name. He was important in getting the eighth-place Habs by two rounds of playoff upsets, to the Jap Convention Last. Nobody was nervous about these playoff games, just excited. Halak stopped every thing that got here at him. He set a new franchise file by pulling off a 53-save shutout. He was unbelievable.
So, naturally, he was traded, as a result of Montreal had two insanely proficient goalies, and one cannot reside while the other survives. His play in St. Louis hasn’t quite been the identical as it was in Montreal, and on a clear day, when you look closely enough, you may nonetheless find souvenir retailers on Ste. Catherine road selling the remnants of their Halak merchandise.
Czech Republic: Petr Svoboda
Petr Svoboda set a pretty high customary for Czech hockey gamers in Montreal, and it has nothing to do with his scoring skill.
When he was draft-eligible in 1984, he wasn’t expected to be drafted within the first round as a result of he wouldn’t have been in a position to depart Czechoslovakia for many years. Why use a draft choose on a player who will not have the ability to provide you with his finest seasons? Should you’re Serge Savard, you use that prime draft choose as a result of you know that Svoboda has simply defected from Czechoslovakia in order that he might play hockey at a higher professional degree. So, with the fifth overall pick on the draft in Montreal, Savard took to the mic and introduced the selection of Petr Svoboda, who is then ushered out of the shadows to put on his jersey. Nobody knew that he had defected apart from the Canadiens, who arranged his journey from Munich (the place he had been hiding out) and put him up in a resort room till they known as his title.
The Canadiens pulled off the ultimate draft shock (no offense to Marty Brodeur’s recent seventh-round nepotism).
He started his profession fairly strongly, with two assists in his first game, and would proceed to be a reliable two-way defenseman. Some people doubted him, saying he wasn’t big enough, however he proved them fallacious by playing through damage and delivering clean passes, most notably in his career-excessive 45-point 1988-89 season. T
he Habs’ first Czech player came in with a bang, and gave his team a couple of solid seasons, although he by no means made headlines with fairly as many exclamation marks as he did on draft day.
REST OF THE WORLD CATEGORY
Rather than profile one participant, I’d just like to level out the following former Canadiens are also known as “Russian,” however are in actual fact from different nations that border Russia:
Alexander Perezhogin, who up and left Montreal to play in the KHL, is actually from Kazakhstan.
Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn, brothers whose legacy in Montreal will sadly at all times include their ties to an alleged member of the Mafia, are from Belarus.
Mikhail Grabovski is also from Belarus, but his affect in Montreal was minimal in comparison with his career in Toronto. I’d enterprise to say that Sergei Kostitsyn’s impulsiveness, velocity, and raw expertise would have made him the Canadiens’ best Belarusian player. Sadly, his impulsiveness, pace, and raw expertise are part of what in the end drove him out of city. He was inconsistent, stubborn, and lacked focus, and all of that expertise and flashiness ended up going to waste instead of making history in the NHL’s best city.