Canadiens’ 10 Best One-Season Performances

The Montreal Canadiens are a franchise that spans over a century and predates the NHL. Thanks to their long and rich history of championships and character players, there have been some stories of players that spent one season or less in a Habs sweater that have become interesting footnotes but never explored.

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For this exercise, to be known as a one-season wonder, a player must have played in a Canadiens sweater for only parts of, or one full season. Some players may have retired, been traded, signed elsewhere as an unrestricted free agent (UFA), or returned to a minor professional league, and never saw Habs colours again. There are dozens of players who meet the requirements. While some of them are well known, others are obscure names that have an interesting history. With that, here is a list of the top 10 one-season wonders in franchise history.

10. Pete Morin

Pete “Pit” Morin was born and raised in Montreal. He began playing in the Quebec Senior Hockey League (QSHL) in 1936 at age 21. In 1941 he was called up along with both of his linemates, Buddy O’Connor and Gerry Heffernan. This line was known as the “Razzle Dazzle” line. In 31 games, Morin scored 10 goals, two of which were game-winners, and 12 assists for 22 points and that level of production and chemistry with his line showed potential. Unfortunately, an injury in the playoffs essentially ended his NHL career just as it began. He then returned to the QSHL for the remainder of his hockey career, which included an Allen Cup championship in 1947 as well as two seasons playing with the Montreal Royal Canadian Air Force team after enlisting during World War II.

9. Harry Mummery

Harry Mummery is an interesting candidate for this list, as he played only one season with the Canadiens in the NHL, but also one season with the club during the final season of the NHL’s predecessor, the National Hockey Association (NHA). That was in 1917 when the Canadiens won the NHA title and moved onto the Stanley Cup Final only to lose to the Seattle Metropolitans.

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In 1920, the Canadiens acquired Mummery after the Quebec Bulldogs folded. He played 24 games that season, scoring 15 goals and four assists for 20 points. He also added 69 penalty minutes. He was a tough customer who reportedly had one of the oddest NHL fights that has since been all but forgotten, as he reportedly had an opponent remove their skate to strike him in the head. After which, the offender ran out of the arena and down Drummond street, with Mummery in pursuit. He caught up to his assailant and then “gave him a thorough shellacking”. Mummery finished his NHL career with the Hamilton Tigers.

8. Thomas Vanek

Moving to the 21st century, Thomas Vanek enters the list. Acquired in a 2014 Trade Deadline deal with the New York Islanders which saw Canadiens’ prospect Sebastian Colberg and a 2014 second-round pick go to New York, he was seen as the first skill player rental that former general manager (GM) Marc Bergevin traded for.

Thomas Vanek
Thomas Vanek while with the Minnesota Wild (THW Archives)

In Vanek’s 18 regular-season games, he scored six goals and 15 points helping Montreal to a 100-point season and third place in the Atlantic Division. In the playoffs, he helped the Habs reach the Eastern Conference Final, where they fell to the New York Rangers in six games. In his 17 playoff games, he scored five goals and 10 points. He then signed as a UFA with the Minnesota Wild to a three-year $6.5 million per season deal with a full no-movement clause that offseason.

7. Phil Watson

Montreal native Phil Watson began his NHL career with the New York Rangers, playing eight seasons with them, which included their 1940 Stanley Cup Championship. He was then acquired by Montreal for the 1943-44 season, where he played the complete 48-game schedule and scored 17 goals and 49 points. In the playoffs, he had three goals and eight points in nine games as he helped the Canadiens defeat the Chicago Blackhawks for the 1944 Stanley Cup Championship, the Habs’ first Cup since 1931. He then returned to the Rangers to play four more seasons before retiring.

6. Harry Cameron

Harry Cameron began the 1919-20 season as a member of the Toronto St-Pats, participating in one of the most legendary games in Canadiens’ history, which saw the Habs come back from being down 6-0 to win 14-7. Over a century later, it remains the NHL record for most goals scored by both teams in one game. That game also saw Newsy Lalonde set a team record of six goals in one game.

Cameron was then traded to the Canadiens by the St-Pats. He was considered one of the first great rushing and scoring defensemen, as he played 16 games in a Habs sweater, scoring 12 goals and 17 points. He then returned to Toronto where he completed his NHL career. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1962.

5. Alex Tanguay

There was an effort to become a Cup contender during the Bob Gainey era as GM, which coincided with the Canadiens’ centennial season. Alex Tanguay joined Montreal in a 2008 NHL Draft day trade with the Calgary Flames, as Gainey exchanged a first-round pick to the Flames in return for the offensively gifted left-winger.

Alex Tanguay Calgary Flames
Alex Tanguay, Calgary Flames (Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE)

In his one season in a Canadiens uniform, Tanguay played an injury-riddled 50 games, scoring 15 goals and 42 points. In the playoffs, he played two games recording only one assist as the Habs were swept by the Boston Bruins. Tanguay, who was a UFA that offseason, was not offered a contract by the Canadiens, as he signed with the Calgary Flames.

4. Alexander Radulov

Alexander Radulov became well known to hockey fans in Quebec as he and Angelo Esposito formed one of the most lethal duos in Junior hockey during the 2005-06 season, helping Patrick Roy’s Quebec Remparts to a Memorial Cup title. After leaving the Nashville Predators to play in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) for eight years, Radulov signed with the Canadiens as a UFA in 2016. In his only season in la Sainte Flanelle, he played 76 games, scoring 18 goals and 54 points.

Radulov’s offensive skills and undeniable work ethic made him an instant fan favorite in Montreal. His performance in the playoffs further cemented that reverence. In the six-game first-round loss to the Rangers, he scored seven points and was arguably the most dynamic player on the ice all series. Unfortunately for Habs fans, he signed as a UFA with the Dallas Stars in the offseason. For many seasons after his departure, the fan base was upset due to the negotiations by then-GM Marc Bergevin being seen as his way or the highway.

3. Corey Perry

Late in the 2020 offseason, as the NHL dealt with the restrictions placed on it by the COVID-19 pandemic, Corey Perry, coming off of the 2020 playoff bubble as a Cup finalist with the Stars, signed a one-year league minimum contract ($750, 000) with the Habs. Early in the season, he was placed on waivers to see if anyone would make him a regular in their lineup, the good news for the Habs and their fans is that he ended up clearing.

Corey Perry Montreal Canadiens
Corey Perry, Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

Soon after, Perry wormed his way into the lineup, playing 49 games, scoring nine goals and 21 points. He became an integral part of the leadership group, wearing an assistant captain “A”, and helping to lead the Canadiens to their first appearance in the Cup Final since 1993, where they lost to the repeating champions, Tampa Bay Lightning. In the shortened offseason, Perry signed as a UFA with the Lightning in hopes of winning the Cup one more time.

2. Gordie Drillon

Moncton, New Brunswick native, Gordie Drillon started his NHL career playing right-wing on the rival Toronto Maple Leafs and was a member of the only team in Stanley Cup Final history to come back from a 0-3 deficit, the 1942 Maple Leafs. Following that win, he was traded to the Canadiens for $30,000. In his only season wearing the Canadiens logo, he played 49 games, finishing second in team scoring with 28 goals and 50 points. He also continued that production in the playoffs with seven points in five games played.

Immediately following the 1942-43 season, Drillon stepped away from his hockey career to join the Royal Canadian Air Force where he remained until the end of the war. He was later named to Sportsnet’s list of all-time Maple Leafs, but for one season, he wore the bleu, blanc et rouge and we can look back at that and wonder, what might have been if not for a World War.

1. Alex Smart

Reaching back nearly a century, we find the story of Alex Smart, a left-winger from Brandon, Manitoba. Smart played several seasons in the Canadiens system, playing for teams in the QSHL and the Montreal City Hockey League (MCHL). Then in the middle of the 1942-43 season, he received the call up to the Canadiens. He only played eight games in the NHL, all with the Habs that season, but he left his mark on history becoming the first-ever player to score a hat trick in his first NHL game. At the end of his call-up, he played a total of eight games where he scored five goals and two assists for seven points. After that, he returned to the minor leagues where he finished his career and became a footnote in NHL history.

With a franchise that has spanned more than a century like the Canadiens has, there will be dozens of players that played only one season, maybe even only one game. However, those players helped the team in their own way and also have interesting stories of their own that are worth learning about.

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