The Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs. One of the greatest rivalries in sport. While some of their battles are legendary, sometimes you just have to question that wisdom considering the talent (or lack thereof) that have come through both organizations.
For fun, lets take a look at what we Habs and Leaf fans are all ashamed about.
The Grossly Overrated
Each of these original 6 rivals had a player whom the fans talked up as if they were future hall of famers or significant players in the NHL.
For Montreal it’s Francis Bouillon. Fans talked him up like he was an elite defender. So much so they had him in every trade rumour going the other way in return for a truly elite front line forward. Oh he’s a heart and soul player, gritty, a warrior, a rock on defence. sorry when i hear those terms used, i think of Adam Foote or Chris Chelios, not Bouillon. He isnt anything more than a 6th-8th defenceman at best. he is a mistake waiting to happen, has no skill and takes bad penalties. sorry i just had to get that out of my system
JP Cote – Despite clearing waivers, being stuck in the minors, being a UFA without any interest and getting older but not better, good ol’ JP was a loosely defined top prospect. either the habs were thin or he was grossly overrated.
For Toronto, the choice is obvious: Nathan Dempsey. Talk to any Leaf fan at the turn of the century and you’d think Dempsey was the second coming of Orr……..but better. WAY BETTER. His skating was effortless. He had vision like we’ve never seen, including that of Gretzky’s. Every shift it so appeared he could go end to end turning the likes of Lidstrom and Pronger into pylons. It was like the Pope dying when Dempsey left the Leafs organization as a free agent. Ok the guy spent 8 seasons in the minors for a reason. He sucked! He’s one of those guys who got a shot because the League expanded to too many teams. Putting up numbers in pre season or in the minors means nothing. Just ask Brandon Bochenski.
Matt Martin – I swear, this guy was a forever prospect until he retired. When he was drafted he was this big blueliner who could skate. When he was on the farm, he was talked up to being this big blueliner who could skate. After a few years of pro, like 5, he was still this big blueliner who could skate. Obviously he couldnt do anything else which resulted in a relatively non existent NHL career. I bet now, he is still a big blueliner who can skate.
The Two Faced Bastards
While there are some highly regarded players who played for both teams, Doug Gilmour and Kirk Muller come to mind, most of the former Habs and Leafs who decided to leave one organization for another can only be considered traitors and deserve no respect from either group of fans. If they were real Habs or real Leafs, they’d fight tooth and nail to never play for the bitter rival. Ok never mind, the real reason they are two faced is because they equally hurt both organizations with their piss poor play.
Jonas Hoglund – “Hogie” was one of the many useless wingers to have the privilege of playing with Sundin. He was ok in his first year, but significantly deteriorated thereafter. He is the face of the Leaf’s inability to get the best player available during Sundin’s prime. He is also the face of the Habs in their not so glory years of the late 90s. Fans are still bitter over losing the pocket Russian Rocket to get his bloke.
Chad Kilger – Fans of both teams liked his speed and big body presence. The fact is, Kilger was horrible. He shot hard but couldnt hit the side of a barn. He had zero hockey sense and took stupid penalties. It didnt say a whole lot when in his days with both Montreal and Toronto he was one of their better players.
Mariusz Czerkawski – When the Habs acquired the polish prince, many felt he would be this elite scorer like his days on the Island. Big mistake. He was nothing more than a glorified floater with a cool name. The Leafs of course, as mismanaged as they were, brought him in as well with the same expectations. Thanks John Ferguson. I’m glad your days as a scout came in so handy.
The best of the rest: John Kordic, Sergei Berezin, Jeff Brubaker, Playboy Bunny Laroque, Scott Thornton, Bill Root, Gilles Thibaudeau, Robert Picard, Yanic Perreault, Sergio Momesso, Gary Leeman, Tom Kurvers, Mike Johnson, Gerald Diduck, Lucien Deblois, Dan Daoust, Paul Dipietro, Serge Boisvert, Jyrki Lumme Ric Natress, Rusty Courtnall, Dave Charlie Manson
The Habs went on that binge of Western Canadians in the early to mid 90s. Wow did that ever set them back.
Lindsay Vallis – Where it all began. When the Habs went on a binge of Western Hockey Leaguers, one of their best (at being the worst) was Vallis. He solidified his mark as perhaps the worst 13th overall pick ever. He finished up his career playing in hockey hotbeds like Bakersfield and Asheville.
The Habs went on to pick 2 more Seattle players in Turner Stevenson and Brett Bilodeau. They stopped with the Westerners so we thought after David Wilkie and ended up with some guy named Koivu. Not bad if you ask me, however you ask another Habs fan and this poor guy should be traded or at the very least stripped of his captaincy. However this good pick didnt deter them from continuing their western ways.
Matt Higgins – Before the Habs picked up the excellent Chris Higgins, they had Matt Higgins, the excellent bust of a 1st rounder. ironically after all those WHL failures, the Habs couldnt resist and picked him over quebec league star and a guy the Habs tried valiantly to sign in Danny Briere. Good thing this pick didnt turn them off all guys named Higgins.
Terry Ryan – As someone who has had to endure the JFJ era in Toronto, i can sympathize whole heartedly with the Habs now when they endured the Houle epidemic. My sincere condolences.
As for the Leafs, it appeared that if your team didnt play along the 401 heading east, than you weren’t seen by any Leaf scouts if they had any (Ballard was pretty cheap).
The Leafs went on their own binge grabbing players with mullets, players from Belleville or players with mullets who played in Belleville. If when all else failed, they grabbed players from the far distant city of Oshawa.
It all began in 1988 with the selection of Scott Pearson. His claim to fame? Having one of the best mullets we’ve seen. The short top along with his flowing locks that whispered in the wind as he chugged around the ice in his choppy horrible skating style were great reminders of how bad the Leafs were in the Ballard years.
Like Montreal the Leafs selected a trifecta of players from the same Junior team in the first round. Only they did so in the same draft. Rob Pearson, Scott Thornton and Steve Bancroft all played for the Bulls, all were picked by the Leaf, all didnt do very well. Ironically that draft, the first overall selection was Mats Sundin. That hurts.
The malaise continued on with Drake Berehowsky, Brandon Convery and finally Jeff Ware. In making these selections the Leafs passed on some really below average players: Keith Tkachuk, Martin Brodeur, Martin Straka, Sergei Gonchar, Martin Biron, Petr Sykora. All i can say is OUCH!!
Jeff Ware takes the award as the worst prospect on either team, ever. It was like Fletcher was making it a point to prove that it really is Draft Schmaft. Screw scouting. We’ll just go down the 401 and watch any team that falls along that highway. Fans will love us for picking the local product even if he couldnt skate, stickhandle, pass, shoot, hit, fight or think.
It was a Good Idea at the Time
At the time, some moves seemed good. When the Montreal Canadiens acquired Denis Savard, they thought they were getting that dynamic forward they were missing since Naslund left. The problem was that they ended up moving
a future hall of famer who is in fact still in the league as we speak in Chelios. As good as Savard was as a player, considering Chelios went on to win Norris Trophies, Stanley Cups and other accolades, this might be one of the most lopsided trades in Habs history.
Another one, Sly Turgeon for Claude Lemieux, didnt turn out quite as expected for the Habs. Turgeon was an often injured dud of a player who’s best days were left in Hartford. Lemieux went on to forge a career as one of the best playoff performers ever. At least Turgeon wasnt from Western Canada…..
For the Leafs, well the ill fated Dmitri Khristich signing will go down as one of the worst by the Leafs. Not only did they have to move a 2nd to acquire his rights, they lost Steve Sullivan off waivers to make room for him. Khristich morphed into an overpaid, overweight, underwhelming 4th liner towards the end of his leaf career. More evidence that shows the the Leafs refused to get the best player available.
Also high on the list was Mike Craig. While the Clark for Sundin trade really took away from the Leaf’s character, losing Peter Zezel for Craig was almost as devastating. Craig was the biggest floater and most ineffective player on the leafs in that time period. He gave no effort whatsoever. The Leafs, after losing Lefebvre on D, lost all their defensive conscienous under coach Pat Burns when Zezel was gone. Lets hope Fletcher doesnt do something this foolish again.
The Worst of the Rest
Ed Ronan – Its truly a shame that a player like Ronan has his name on the cup but greats like Marcel Dionne did not. I guess it does pay to be a black ace to the black aces. I guess Marcel can just borrow his brothers ring to show off with….
Karl Dykhuis – was there another blueliner who was more mistake prone that Dykhuis? I dont recall one. He was the original andy wozniewski. couldnt skate backwards, couldnt hit, couldnt fight, couldnt check, but played way too many games at the NHL level.
Red Light Racicot – Good ol Red Light has to be part of this exclusive group. Maybe Andre Racicot in french stands for Andrew Raycroft?
Honorable mentions: Jason ward, Vladimir Vutjek, Alfie Turcotte, PJ Stock, Todd Simpson, Pierre Sevigny, Yves Sarault, Steve Rooney, Mario Roberge, Mark Pederson, Oleg Petrov, Garth Murray, Jim Montgomery (traded for Carbo yeesh!), Patty lebeau, Scott Lachance, Martii Jarventee, Eric Houde, Ben Gratton, Bryan Fogarty, Rory Fitspatrick, Randy Exelby, Donald Dufresne, Rico Ciccone, Joe Charbonneau, Sebastien Bordeleau, Pat Baby Got Carnback, Donald Audette, Randy Bucyk, Les Kuntar, Pat Jablonski, Fredric Chabot, JC Bergeron, Zarley Zalapski, Patrick Poulin, Brad Brown, Eric Charron, Juha Lind, David Maley, Scott Fraser, Andy Dackell, Eric Chouinard.
Lonny Bohonos – He had that magical playoff as an injury fill in and everyone expected him to be the 2nd coming of Rocket Richard. The fact was, he was the original Kyle Wellwood without the babyface. He was out of shape and had zero dedication.
Andy Wozniewski – Was there any worse defender ever for any team than Woz? I dont think so. He was big and he could skate, but he couldnt skate backwards. He also wouldnt hit anyone, didnt block shots, couldnt pass, shoot or stickhandle. Even the simple chip it off the glass play was beyond his ability.
Sebastien Centomo – He made it to the NHL and suddenly he was this elite goaler because he was French Canadian. Well if anyone remembers his debut he let in 2 goals on the first 4 shots he faced and was basically never heard from again. The fact was, they ran out of goalies. It was him or bringing back Palmateer. Come to think of it…..never mind!
Honorable Mentions: Aki Berg, Matt Martin, Anders Eriksson, Mike Craig, Mark Kolesar, Trevor Kidd, Peter Ing, Harold Druken, Jeff Farkas, Todd Warriner, Clark Wilm, Dmitri Khristich, Patrik Augusta, Jamie Baker, Don Beaupre, Ken Belanger, Tim Bernhardt, Brendan Bell, Allan Bester, Frank Bialowas, Bran Bradley, Jack Capuano, Mike Bullard, Rob Cimetta, Jason Podollan, Sean Haggerty, David Cooper, Rocky Dundas, Dallas Eakins, Len Esau, Kelly Fairchild. Aaron Gavey, Alex Godynyuk, Mark Greig, Bob Halkidis, Ken Hammond, Jamie Heward, Dan Hodgson, Mike Hudson, Ralph Intranuovo, Ric Jackman, Wes Jarvis, Craig Johnson, Ladislav Kohn, Mark Laforest, Paul Lawless, Brad Leeb, Derek Laxdal, Guy Larose, Ken McRae, Zdenek Nedved, Ben Ondrus, Nathan Perrott, John Pohl, Martin Prochazka, Wayne Elvis Presley, Jeff Reeze, Warren Rychel, Joe and David Sacco, Jeff Serowik, DJ Smith, Chris Snell, Rick St Croix, Peter Svoboda, Dave Thomlinson, Garry Valk, Darren Veitch, Dixon Ward, Terry Yake, Marcel Cousineau
As you can see, both teams have a little something to not be proud about. Storied Franchises they are in some ways and they do have passionate fans. However clearly the fans can get carried away with blind favoritism and bias. So there is nothing like poking fun at Habs and Leaf fans (myself included) to break a bit of the tension and let people know, its just all fun and games, especially when my Leafs crush those Montreal Wussies. haha!