The Montreal Canadiens, or the “Habs” as they are traditionally referred to, have one of the richest histories of any team in all major North American sports. It’s truly not an overstatement. Imagine this fact: the Canadiens have not won a Stanley Cup in 27 years, yet they still hold the distinction of winning the highest percentage of championships in any of the 4 major sports. Since the NHL was established in 1926, the Habs have won almost 25% of the titles, which puts them just ahead of the Celtics in the NBA and the Yankees in Major League Baseball.
Founded in 1909, the Canadiens actually pre-date the establishment of the NHL. With that, the team is also one of the “original 6,” a designation given to the first 6 teams that competed in the NHL from 1942 to 1967, when the league expanded. The Canadiens own 24 Stanley Cup titles overall, but it was in the 1950’s that their most impressive run of dominance took place. They won 6 titles in 8 seasons from 1953 to 1960. That’s not to say they weren’t the best team in the 60’s and 70’s as well, because they were. The Habs registered 5 titles in the 60’s and 6 more in the 70’s.
The Cup Heads South
In the modern era, the Canadiens have remained competitive, winning division titles in 2013, 2015, & 2017, but the postseason success has not continued. In fact, the entire nation of Canada has been slumping since the early 1990’s. Montreal won their 24th cup in 1993, but no Canadian team has hoisted the cup since. In the most recent 2020 season, the Habs made the postseason and defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round, but fell to the Philadelphia Flyers in 6 games in round 2. The Tampa Bay Lightning were crowed as the eventual champions.
A Long List
As you might expect with all the success the Canadiens franchise had in the middle of the last century, many of their most treasured players are from that era as well. Right wing Maurice Richard is probably considered the top player in franchise history as he was a statistical trailblazer. He was the first to score 50 goals in a season and the first to score 500 goals in his career. His 544 career goals stood as a league record until Gordie Howe passed the mark in 1963. His name is now used on the trophy that goes to the league’s top goal scorer each year. Center Jean Beliveau won two Hart trophies and the first ever Conn Smythe trophy in a career that included 10 Stanley Cup victories. Doug Harvey is considered one of the top defensemen in the history of the league and goalie Jacques Plante was the best net minder in Habs history with 6 Stanley Cup victories. The current team is led by Tomas Tatar, who paced the squad with 61 points in the 2020 season. The expectations for the franchise are consistently high, which is why recent comments by owner Geoff Molson were somewhat controversial. He announced after the 2020 season that he would stick with General Manager Marc Bergevin after many had been calling for the establishment of another executive role to help build a winner.
Roy Would You do That?
In what is the most famous trade in franchise history and one of the biggest landmark deals in league history, the Canadiens traded star goalie Patrick Roy and right wing Mike Keane to the Colorado Avalanche for Jocelyn Thibault, Andrei Kovalenko and Martin Rucinsky in 1996. Roy would become a staple between the pipes for the Avalanche and Keane a solid contributor right away as Colorado won the Stanley Cup that year.