Friday, January 23, 2009

Failing hands: The worst Habs since 1979

The form calls to be classy and reverential on the occasion of the Montreal Canadiens centennial, of course.

However, bigger and brighter minds have it covered off so well. CBC is airing a special creatively titled 100 Years, 100 Stars this evening. TSN.ca, playing provacateur to the hilt, has unveiled an Ultimate Canadiens lineup which does not include anyone named Cournoyer, Lafleur or Roy. Venerable Montreal Gazoo scribe Red Fisher has a million stories to tell.

There is not much to add. Others can talk about Big Jean Béliveau, the Chicoutimi Cucumber, the Rocket, the Flower, Big Bird and Newsy Lalonde until they're bleu in the face. Someone needs to take up the cause of the justly neglected Canadiens, the most abject sextet of shinny stumblebums to have (dis)graced the sacred flannel. They won't get a parade, just this post.

LEFT WING: DANIEL GEOFFRION (1979-80, 32GP-0G-6A-6PT-12PIM)

The nicest thing that can be said about Geoffrion's brief NHL career is just by being there, he did his part to create a four-generation hockey family. He came after his Hall of Fame father (Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion) and grandfather (Howie Morenz) are each in the Hall of Fame. His puck-chasing progeny, Blake Geoffrion, is a hotshot Nashville Predators prospect.

It probably wasn't for lack of trying, but Dan Geoffrion went goalless in 32 games in '79-80, which is dismal for a forward on a team which led the NHL with 328 goals. Couldn't someone at least have gifted him with the chance to score an empty-netter, just to break his maiden?

It must have been tough to be in that situation with his bloodlines, especially since the tightly wound Boom Boom was trying to follow Scotty Bowman as coach. (He lasted until Christmas.) Let go after that season, Daniel Geoffrion played only two more NHL seasons, one with the '80-81 Jets, one of the worst teams of all time.

CENTRE: MATT HIGGINS (1997-2000, 57GP-1G-2A-3PT-6PIM)

It would be remiss to not include a first-round draft choice from the era of late-'90s Habs GM Réjean Houle, who's mortal lock for the Hockey Hall of Fame if it ever adds a Destroyers' Wing. It might as well be Higgins, the No. 18 pick in 1996, since he did very well when Habs fans at hfboards.com debated the worst Canadiens in recent history. Judging by the stats, he had a phobia about seeing his name appear in a small type, i.e. on the scoring summary.

Hindsight is 20-20. Higgins was taken ahead of a Québec player who turned out to be a very good centre, Daniel Brière. At the other end of the physical spectrum, Zdeno Chara was a third-rounder in '96, and Habs fans now know him very well.

RIGHT WING: TURNER STEVENSON (1992-2000, 385 GP-45G-66A-111PT-609PIM)


A great rainy-day post would be "Worst Examples of NHL GMs' Power Forward Fetish, 1990-2004." People have milked a doctorate-level thesis from less.

The Canadiens made the 6-foot-3, 220-lb. Stevenson (61 points, 276 PIMs in his draft year) the 12th overall pick in the 1990 draft, perhaps figuring he would be their version of Cam Neely, who had helped Boston knock them out of the playoffs in two of the previous three post-seasons. Sure. They were both B.C. boys. They both shot right-handed. The similarities kind of faded.

Far from being some monster reincarnation of John Ferguson, Stevenson panned out like a John Ferguson Jr. draft pick. He had only 27 points in his best season with the Canadiens. He was the middle of three straight Montreal first-rounders from Seattle of the WHL, and the only one who had a significant NHL career, but the Habs took him over a hometown goalie named Martin Brodeur. After leaving the Habs in 2000, Stevenson, ironically enough, helped the Brodeur and the Devils win the Cup in '03.

DEFENCE: CHRISTIAN LAFLAMME (1999-2001, 50 GP-0 G-5 A-5 PT-42 PIM)

This one is being taken more on faith. The Habs at the dawn of this decade, with ownership turmoil and a 65-cent Canadian dollar, were leaking oil pretty badly. Laflamme might have been the greatest guy in the world, but a seventh defenceman on that team rates a spot here.

DEFENCE: PATRICK TRAVERSE (2000-03, 109 GM-4G-19A-23PT-48PIM)

Time was, the Habs never would picked up a player who had just been with Boston, but they did with Traverse in 2000-01. The Ottawa Senators, who were a pretty smart organization in those days (hard as it's getting to remember), had thought better of keeping Traverse. Still, he ended up in Montreal for parts of three seasons and was a healthy scratch during the '02 playoffs. He's since settled into a nice post with the Sharks' AHL team.

GOAL: DOUG SOETAERT (1984-86, 51 GP, 3.13 GAA, .873 save percentage)

Hey, if TSN doesn't see fit honour Patrick Roy, then one should follow suit and omit his backup, the notorious André "Red Light" Racicot. Racicot probably shouldn't have been there, so he's spared. Soetaert makes it on the basis of the unique double he pulled off in the 1984-85. He faced the fewest shots per game of any goalie in the NHL, 23.2, yet managed to have the worst save percentage. .854, which means this team could not exist without him.

No doubt some of you have some nomimations. This was gleaned from, oh, 45 minutes' research, give or take a half-hour. The fact it took took that long to come with of six players who made people think Montreal's iconic CH chest stood for "Crappy Habs" attests to how good the Canadiens have been. You could have come with four full lines, three sets of D and a goalie tandem for the Leafs in half the time.

Related:
Richard or Lafleur? TSN picks the ultimate Canadiens team (TSN.ca)

3 comments:

Andrew Bucholtz said...

Hilarious and original. Great article.

HabsFan29 said...

Outstanding

Turner Stevenson should have been a star

The Gate To The Groin For Yannick Bertrand said...

I hate you.

I had all these memories buried deep away. I was finally starting to sleep at night. Now it's all back. I was still young in the Racicot, Stevenson, even Traverse days, my mind was easily scarred.

My god, what a nightmare that was. My dad kept saying the Habs had once been great, and I wanted to believe him. I really did. After all, he was my dad. But it was so hard...so hard...