Do The Montreal Canadiens Need Quebecers On The Team?

 

Any casual sports fan would think that Montreal's hockey team is named the Canadiens because they are Canada’s team, or that they have fans all across Canada.  To be honest, only the last statement is true.

Les Habitants have always spelled Canadiens with an ‘E’ , so maybe that should give some the idea that the team itself doesn’t represent all of Canada. For now, the team represents all of Quebec, whether it be English or French, Catholic or Jewish.  I say for now, because even the most die hard fan of the Habs cannot wait for the return of the Quebec Nordiques. 

So understanding that the Montreal Canadiens are as part of Quebec’s history just as much as the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, you would think that the roster would be littered with Quebecers.  

I have had this discussion many times with hockey writers, sports fans, colleagues and even my Father when he was alive.  Should the Canadiens roster be made up of mostly  Quebecers?  Do the Habs need Quebecers to be a successful franchise and win the Stanley Cup?

Let’s first look at this question strictly by the numbers, Moneyball Billy Beane style.  Any Habs fan would say that the past 15 years have been a disappointment, a black eye on the framchise's otherwise successful history.  

The 1986 Stanley Cup winning team had ten Quebecers on the team:

  • Guy Carbonneau
  • Lucien DeBlois
  • Serge Boisvert
  • Mario Tremblay
  • Claude Lemieux
  • Sergio Momesso
  • Stephane Richer
  • Gaston Gingras
  • Patrick Roy
  • Steve Penney

The roster for the Stanley Cup winning team of 1993 had fourteen Quebecers on the team:

  • Vincent Damphousse
  • Stephan Lebeau
  • Denis Savard
  • Gilbert Dionne
  • Eric Desjardins
  • Patrice Brisebois
  • Benoit Brunet
  • J.J. Daigneault
  • Guy Carbonneau
  • Mario Roberge
  • Jesse Belanger
  • Donald Dufresne
  • Patrick Roy
  • Andre Racicot

Looking at both sets of players you can easily see the contributions most made to the winning sides.  Quebecers were the heart and soul of the team from Conn Smythe winners to Captains to game winning goalscorers.  

The roster for the Montreal Canadiens as of September 8, 2011, only showing Quebecers:

  • Mathieu Darche
  • David Desharnais

Darche is a fourth line player who has become a fan favourite gritty play and the path he followed to make it into the league.  Desharnais is only now enterting his first full year with the tea.  While important cogs for team, neither of these players will be stars, nor the reason for the team's success.  

Looking at what the Habs have in the developemtn system, you can only count eight Quebecers.  Let us now look at the past ten drafts and see how many Quebecers the Montreal Canadiens brass have selected:

2011 draft

4th round – Oliver Archambault

2010 draft – none

2009 draft
1st round – Louis Leblanc

5th round – Gabriel Dumont

2008 draft – none

2007 draft

3rd round – Olivier Fortier

2006 draft

2nd round – Mathieu Carle

2005 draft
2nd round – Guillaume Latendresse
5th round – Mathieu Aubin

7th round – Phillipe Paquet

2004 draft
6th round – Loic Lacasse

9th round – Alex Dulac-Lemelin

2003 draft
2nd round – Maxim Lapierre

8th round Jimmy Bonneau

2002 Draft
4th round – Michael Lambert
7th round – Jonathan Ferland

 

Only four are still in the organization.  Only one, Louis Leblanc, has a chance to make the team this year and make an impression for years to come.  Only Guillaume Latendresse and Maxim Lapierre made significant contributions to Habs in years past. 

On the other side of the coin, how many Quebecers were on Stanley Cup winning teams in the past ten years?

  • 2011 – Boston Bruins – 2 (excluding Marc Savard)
  • 2010 – Chicago Blackhawks – none
  • 2009 – Pittsburgh Penguins – 6
  • 2008 – Detroit Red Wings – none
  • 2007 – Anaheim Ducks – 2
  • 2006 – Carolina Hurricanes – none
  • 2005 – No cup winner due to lockout
  • 2004 – Tampa Bay Lightning – 3
  • 2003 – New Jersey Devils – 2
  • 2002 – Detroit Red Wings – 1

It doesn’t seem like the teams needed a majority of their roster to be from Quebec, if they needed any.  Yes, the Penguins, Lightning and Devils had Quebecers play important roles.  The teams wouldn’t have won the cup if it wasn’t for Marc-Andre Fleury, Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier or Martin Broduer.  So maybe the way to go is just to try and grab the Quebecers that are stars in the league.

Let’s look at last year statistics and see if there are any star Quebecers:

Points  – only four in the top 30
  • Martin St. Louis ranked 2nd the league
  • Mike Ribeiro 21st
  • Alex Tanguay 25th
  • Danny Briere 27th

Goals – only two in the top 30

  • Danny Briere 9th
  • Martin St. Louis 27th

Goaltenders  - only three in the top half of any statistical category

  • Roberto Luongo
  • Marc-Andre Fleury
  • Corey Crawford

I guess there aren’t that many Quebecers that are stars in the league.  You could probably even count the true all-stars on one hand.

When the Montreal Canadiens won the cup, the majority of their players were home grown.  Those players played a major hand in winning these cups.  Since 1993, the Habs have not had the success that the organization, the city, or the fans expect.  Since 2002, the Habs have moved away from Quebec-born players, but the teams that did win the cup did not need Quebecers to win the cup either.  The teams that did have Quebecers only had stars, game changers or goaltenders.  Last year, Quebecers did not make a significant dent in any of the major statistical categories.

After viewing these facts one would conclude that you do not need Quebecers on your team to be successful. Those in the Canadiens' organization should be able to understand this.

But looking at the past two Hab cup victories, as well as the victories of the past, it was Quebecers that made the difference, that formed the heart and soul of the team.  It was Quebecers that made the Habs who they are.

So, what do I think after going throught with the research for this article and looking at the facts?  The Montreal Canadiens need Quebecers on the team to win the Stanley Cup, plain and simple.  I need and want the team to be full of Quebecers and only that way will I feel that they have a legitimate chance of winning the Cup. 

Shahab Khan the Schoolboy

Follow me on Twitter:  SchoolboyShebe

 

4 Comments

George Prax's picture

I don`t think it`s fair to take these stats at fair value and make the assumption that they need Quebecers to succeed. For starters, there`s the reality that there simply aren`t as many good Quebec-born players as there used to be. Also, that the times have changed and that these players have only problem they cannot stand the pressure of playing in this market. And that even if there were many valuable Quebecers on those cup-winning teams, there were also non-Quebec players that were crucial to those victories. Kirk Muller? Mike Keane? John Leclair? Mat Schneider? Bob Gainey? Bobby Smith? Rick Green? Larry Robinson? Petr Svoboda? Chris Chelios?

If two players are equal in talent, equal in price, and only different in that one of them is from Quebec, then go for the Quebec-born player. But if my choice is a team of Tomas Plekanecs, Mike Cammalleris, Brian Giontas and Andrei Markovs, versus 20 Max Lapierres, Guillaume Latendresses and Steve Begins, I'll gladly take the former. Local players are nothing more than distractions. In fact, I'd argue that the reason this team has had 20 years of failure isn't because of the lack of Quebecers, but the team's obsession with chasing those Quebec-born players instead of actual good players. Remember Eric Chouinard? Or all the years of chasing after Lecavalier?

I don't think there's any actual proof that Quebecers would win this team a cup in 2011. Like you said yourself there are barely enough in the league to even form a proper team, yet alone win the cup. Even in 1993 the team that won the cup was largely considered to have pulled off a miracle. Quite frankly I'd be happy if there were ZERO Quebecers on the team if that meant that the media would stop making such a big deal about it.

Rambling Johnny's picture

I wrote something really similar about a year ago. My conclusion was that whatever teams that have a good core of local talent are more motivated when the going get tough. It is all about shame and pride. Back in the golden era local Habs players use to live all summer long with either being asked by everybody they meet in Québec "What the Hell went wrong?" or being treated like royalty everywhere they go if they won the Cup. Add to that a few jokes by Nordiques fans if god forbid it was the hated Nordiques who did the eliminating.

You can bet that back then local players worked a lot harder after a bad season and a Long Summer! Now most of the team roll into town two weeks before camp and they can't wait to get the hell out of Québec a few days after they get eliminated. They don't follow the local media they don't mingle with the local population so it no wonder that they care a bit less.

George Prax's picture

How do you come to the conclusion that Quebec players work harder and care more? Do we need to go down the list of Quebec players that played here these last few years? It's one thing to be a grinder like Darche or Begin, but nearly every local player who's been through here lately, and who's received a certain level of "superstar" treatment has failed miserably. Latendresse, Lapierre, before his comeback Brisebois. I refuse to believe that players like Markov, Cammalleri, Gionta, Gill, Subban, Plekanec, Gorges don't care about this team, and that's the core. You're trying to tell me that those players can't wait to get out of town because they're not originally from here? I don't buy that. Why do they need to follow local media? That's the worst thing a hockey player could do during a season, no matter where he's from.

habbykins's picture

There have been many times over the years when I have rolled my eyes at their pursuit of players who are from the province on Quebec. They have had a few that just cannot perform in the fish bowl and in Montreal there is no place to hide. They hear about every loss going to the grocery store, playground with the kids - the whole year round. Some players do not want or need that added pressure. Some players do embrace it and do very well with this pressure, others figure can get the same money live in a warmer climate and be more able to relax and can forget about it after a bad game. Great place to play when the team is winning - french or not - very sucky when not.