Canadiens boasted 10 future Hall of Famers

Updated: November 17, 2004, 4:23 PM ET
The Hockey News

GREAT DEBATES
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What was the best dynasty of all time?
Writers' choice
A panel of 41 writers were asked their opinions on various great debates in hockey. Multiple choices were not provided so as not to color the outcome.
Dynasty Votes
Montreal (1970s) 18
Edmonton 9
Montreal (1950s) 8
N.Y. Islanders 6
Fans' choice
The Oilers of the 1980s won four Stanley Cups and featured a cast that included Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Grant Fuhr, Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri and Kevin Lowe.
Dynasty Votes
Edmonton 40.8%
Montreal (1970s) 29.0%
Montreal (1950s) 15.7%
N.Y. Islanders (1980s) 10.1%
Toronto (1940s) 3.4%
Somehow, the term "dynasty" in hockey has come to mean a club that has won the Stanley Cup at least three times in succession. It's a serviceable definition, although it eliminates from consideration the Canadiens of the 1960s and the Oilers of the 1980s, who both won the Cup four times in five years, and the Red Wings of the 1950s, which had seven consecutive first-place regular season finishes, and won the Cup four times in six years. They were all great, as were the Leafs of the late 1940s and early 1960s.

But let's look at the best of the best: The 1956-60 Canadiens, winners of the Cup five straight times, and the late 1970s Canadiens and early 1980s Islanders, each Cup winners four straight years.

Are the 1950s Habs the top dynasty? Well, yes and no. Yes because, apart from their many legendary names who skated circles around the league -- ­Maurice and Henri Richard, Jean Beliveau, Doug Harvey, Jacques Plante, Dickie Moore, Bernie Geoffrion --Toe Blake's crew held the Cup longer than anyone.

But remember: Winning the Cup, as hard as it always has been, was easier in the Original Six era. Win two rounds, and you claim the mug. These Habs were probably talented and deep enough to annually have won three or four playoff rounds, but the fact is, we'll never know for sure.

On the other hand, the Islanders' standard may never be surpassed: They won 19 consecutive playoff series. By comparison, when the 1970s Habs won their four straight championships, they earned a first round bye each year and had to play only three rounds.

The Isles' monumental achievement, along with the many times they rallied from the brink of elimination to win a series, renders them as probably the greatest playoff team.

With a cast including Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy, Clark Gillies, Denis Potvin, Billy Smith and some of the best two-way players the game has ever seen, the only blemish one can find is that they were a very good, but not great, regular season team. They only won their division twice in their four-year reign.

And that's what separates Scotty Bowman's Habs from the others. No NHL team ever combined such lengthy domination of both the regular season and postseason.

COUNTERPOINT:
EDMONTON OILERS
After three expansions in the early 1970s, the NHL was dreadfully weak when the Canadiens won those four straight Cups.

Six teams were added in the 1970s. It's true four more were added in 1979, but they were established WHA franchises, including the Oilers themselves. By 1983-84, when the Oilers won their first of five Cups, there was far more parity in the NHL.

More Europeans were arriving, adding to its strength in the 1980s. No Canadiens club ever had a player as good as Wayne Gretzky. Nor did it ever score 446 goals, as Edmonton did in 1983-84. And even without Gretzky, the Oilers had enough depth to win again in 1990.
In their four championship campaigns, they finished first each time, with an astounding regular season mark of 229-46-45. In the middle two years, they lost only 18 of 160 games, eight one season, 10 the next. Factoring in their playoff record in those years, they lost a mere 23 of 189.

Of the 12 series the Habs won, they swept six. Only once in those four years did they need seven games to subdue a playoff foe, when the 1978-79 Bruins took them beyond the limit before losing a semifinal Game 7 in overtime. Remember that, Don Cherry?

Only once did they trail in a series, after losing Game 1 to the Rangers in the 1978-79 final. During those middle two playoff years, six of their 24 victories were shutouts, in an offensive era when shutouts were not common.

And what a lineup.

Ten future Hall of Famers -- Ken Dryden in goal; the "Big Three" of Larry Robinson, Serge Savard and Guy Lapointe on defense; the brilliant line of Guy Lafleur, Jacques Lemaire and Steve Shutt; Bob Gainey, the game's premier shut-down forward; captain Yvan Cournoyer; and a young Rod Langway who joined them for the final year -- helped Montreal celebrate four Stanley Cups.

Add that core group a great supporting cast of role players and one of the best minds to stand behind the bench and it's not hard to see how they gobbled up post-season awards in the same manner as they devoured regular season silverware.

They were a dynasty like no other.

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