Top Ten All-Time Canadiens Captains

The Montreal Canadiens are the oldest and most storied franchise in hockey history. With so much history and tradition behind this great organization, the person who is chosen as captain of the team must take on more responsibility than any other captain in the league.

Not only do they have to lead in the dressing room, but they have to be an ambassador to the city and the community, and must exemplify the kind of character and intestinal fortitude that blends them seamlessly into the fabric of Canadiens lore.

Over the 100 years that this organization has been in existence, there have been 27 different individuals to wear the C, and the captaincy has changed hands on 31 separate occasions–if you include the year that Guy Carbonneau and Chris Chelios shared the captaincy in 1989/90, as one occurrence.

With the announcement that Canadiens head coach Jacques Martin will announce the team’s next captain this fall, I thought it was a good time to take a look at the top 10 Montreal Canadiens captains of all-time.

The following is not my top ten list, however, as I conducted a survey of readers on Hockeybuzz.com and HabsAddict.com to find out who their consensus top 10 picks were. Once the comments were in, I summed up the number of votes–per first through tenth position–for each player, and assigned a point value to each–ten points for number one overall and one point for number ten overall.

The following is the list of winners in descending order.

10. Saku Koivu – Captain Courageous
Captain from 1999 – 2009
Number of seasons with the Canadiens: 13
Regular season games played: 792
Regular season points: 641
Playoff games played: 54
Playoff points: 48

Despite his smallish stature, Koivu was never one to shy away from a battle on or off the ice. The man whose heart was as big as the city lifted the torch and carried to through the dark years of the 90’s and early 2000’s. Unlike most of the other Canadiens’ captains, Koivu did not have the fortune to be working for a team of competent managers and, instead, played for too many squads that were average at best.

Despite the team’s lack of success during his years, Koivu maintained the link to the organization’s rich history by playing with a winner’s determination year in and year out. But nothing exemplified his character more than his battle with cancer in 2001.

Known as Captain Courageous, Koivu inspired those around him by his sheer will, determination, and unwillingness to quit. Koivu won the Masterton trophy–for the player who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey–in 2002 and the Clancy trophy–for the player who best exemplifies leadership on and off the ice–in 2007.

9. Serge Savard – The Senator
Captain from 1979 – 1981
Number of seasons with the Canadiens: 15
Regular season games played: 917
Regular season points: 412
Playoff games played: 123
Playoff points: 68

One of the key members of “The Big Three”–including Guy Lapointe and Larry Robinson–Savard displayed on-ice poise and vision. Known for his spin-o-rama move as much as for his strength of character, Savard was a natural choice to succeed Yvan Cournoyer as the team’s captain in 1979. Whereas Savard’s offensive prowess was on during his first few seasons, a series of leg injuries caused him to become more of a defensive-defenseman only a few years into his playing career.

Savard won eight Stanley Cups, including four-straight from 1976 to 1979, one Conn Smythe trophy in 1969, and the Masterton trophy in 1979.

8. Guy Carbonneau – Guy, Guy, Guy!
Captain from 1989 – 1994
Number of seasons with the Canadiens: 13
Regular season games played: 912
Regular season points: 547
Playoff games played: 161
Playoff points: 73

Crafted in the mold of his NHL mentor, Bob Gainey, Carbonneau picked up the mantle of defensive specialist and ran with it. Learning from and winning the Stanley Cup alongside Gainey, Carbonneau learned how to lead while shutting down the opposition’s best offensive players. Much more outspoken than Gainey, Carbo did not hesitate to let a teammate know how he felt and used that fiery style on the ice to help the Canadiens with their 23rd and 24th Stanley Cups in 1986 and 1993, respectively.

Carbonneau has two Stanley Cup rings and three Selke Trophies (1988, 1989, 1992).

7. Henri Richard – The Pocket Rocket
Captain from 1971 – 1975
Number of seasons with the Canadiens: 20
Regular season games played: 1256
Regular season points: 1046
Playoff games played: 180
Playoff points: 129

Fearless. That is the best word to describe Henri Richard. Originally known as just Maurice Richard’s younger brother, the diminutive 5’7″ “Pocket Rocket” had to fight most of the enforcers around the league to show what he was made of. Even though he was smaller, Richard gave just as good as he got and earned the respect of players around the league. It was Richard’s fearless attitude that made him a key contributor in his 11 Stanley Cup victories, as he crashed the net and won battles in the corners.

Richard’s 11 Stanley Cup rings give him more championships than any other athlete in North American team sports history.

6. Bob Gainey – The Defensive Specialist
Captain from 1981 – 1989
Number of seasons with the Canadiens: 16
Regular season games played: 1160
Regular season points: 501
Playoff games played: 182
Playoff points: 73

Known as being one of the best defensive forwards to ever play the game, Gainey created a new role within the forward ranks of the NHL. Gainey’s style was so revolutionary that the NHL created a new end-of-season trophy to honor it–the Selke Trophy–that he won the first four years it was awarded (1978, 1979, 1980, 1981).

Gainey’s warrior mentality inspired those around him, and they fed off of his “never quit” attitude exemplified by his insistence on playing through pain and injuries. Gainey delivered an inspirational speech during the 1986 season that teammates credit for turning the team around. The result was the team’s 23rd Stanley Cup victory at season’s end.

5. Yvan Cournoyer – The Roadrunner
Captain from 1975 – 1979
Number of seasons with the Canadiens: 16
Regular season games played: 968
Regular season points: 863
Playoff games played: 147
Playoff points: 127

Speed, speed, speed: That is what Yvan Cournoyer was all about.

Nicknamed “The Roadrunner”, Cournoyer played a mostly limited role in his first few years with the Canadiens as they were winning the cup in ’65 and ’66. However, “The Roadrunner” would become a key cog in the Canadiens lineup, as he won 10 Stanley Cups in 16 seasons.

Named as captain of the Canadiens in 1975-76, Cournoyer led the team to four straight Stanley Cup victories from 1976 through 1979. Cournoyer also won the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP, in 1973.

4. Maurice Richard – The Rocket
Captain from 1956 – 1960
Number of seasons with the Canadiens: 18
Regular season games played: 978
Regular season points: 965
Playoff games played: 133
Playoff points: 126

Known as much for the fiery look in his eyes as his prolific goal-scoring abilities, Richard’s career with the Canadiens anchored a period where the team won eight Stanley Cups spanning three decades.

Elected as captain of the Habs in 1956, Richard used his considerable abilities to lead the team to four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1956 to 1960. Richard won a total of eight Stanley Cups over the course of his playing career (1944, 1946, 1953, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960), as well as the Hart Trophy in 1947.

3. Émile Bouchard – Butch
Captain from 1948 – 1956
Number of seasons with the Canadiens: 15
Regular season games played: 785
Regular season points: 193
Playoff games played: 113
Playoff points: 32

One of the best defensive defensemen to play the game during the 40’s and 50’s, Bouchard was as imposing on the ice–he was 6’2″ and 205 lbs–as he was calm and jovial off of it. Bouchard wore the ‘C’ for eight seasons and helped lead the Canadiens four Stanley cup wins (1944, 1946, 1953, and 1956) over 12 years.

2. Hector Blake – Toe
Captain from 1940 – 1948
Number of seasons with the Canadiens: 13
Regular season games played: 569
Regular season points: 527
Playoff games played: 57
Playoff points: 62

While many know Blake as the coach who led the Canadiens to eight Stanley cups in 13 years, Hector “Toe” Blake was a key component of “The Punch Line” with Elmer Lach and Maurice Richard, and helped lead the Canadiens to Stanley Cup wins in 1944 and 1946. Blake was known for his gritty character and fiery determination and always led by example on the ice scoring the Stanley Cup winning goals in both ’44 and ’46. Blake won the 1939 Hart Trophy and the 1946 Lady Bing Trophy.

1. Jean Beliveau – Le Gros Bill
Captain from 1961 – 1971
Number of seasons with the Canadiens: 20
Regular season games played: 1125
Regular season points: 1219
Playoff games played: 162
Playoff points: 176

Winner of the Art Ross Trophy (1956), two Hart Memorial Trophies (1956, 1964), one Conn Smythe Trophy (1965), and ten Stanley Cups, “Le Gros Bill” embodies the class and character that has always graced the Montreal Canadiens organization. A true gentlemen, Beliveau always carried himself with dignity on and off the ice and has become the standard that all captains since him are held to.

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