Canadiens’ Top 10 Players of the 2000s

The Montreal Canadiens are probably one of – if not the most – storied franchises in the NHL. With over 100 years of hockey, 24 Stanley Cups and 44 players enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame (HHOF), it can be either easy or difficult to make a list of “top” players just due to the abundance of players the Canadiens have had that can be in the “top”.

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Since it is Christmas and this is 12 days of Hockeymas article, I’ve decided, instead of 10 lords a-leaping, I’ll do 10 Habs a scoring! Or the top 10 Canadiens players from the 2000s, so there will be no HOFers in this list but maybe a couple of future ones. The criteria I used are pretty simple; a player who played for the Canadiens in the 2000s for a significant amount of time and made somewhat of an impact or was a fan-favourite. So as Lords do, let’s leap into it!

10. Sheldon Souray

Sheldon Souray was a member of the Canadiens from 2000 to 2007, and he was acquired from the New Jersey Devils at the trade deadline as a depth defensive defenceman who wasn’t afraid to drop the gloves. His first three seasons with the Canadiens were injury-plagued and nothing special. Souray missed significant time in his second year as a Hab with a wrist injury; when he returned the next season, he was a totally different player.

Sheldon Souray (THW Archives)

The 2006-07 season was Souray’s first full one with the Canadiens, and he didn’t disappoint – after a full recovery from a broken hand, he re-established his game as an offensive defenceman and help propel the Canadiens to the top of the power play (PP) standings in that season. From 2003 to 2007, Souray was known as one of the top-scoring defensemen in the league and having one of the game’s hardest slap shots. In six seasons with the Canadiens, Souray scored 62 goals and 160 points in 324 games.

9. Shea Weber

Shea Weber is the current captain of the Canadiens and was initially more known for being involved in one of the most debated recent trades in recent memory. Weber joined the Canadiens via trade from the Nashville Predators in the summer of 2016. He made an immediate impact in helping the Canadiens win the division and improve their PP while also finishing sixth in Norris Trophy votes that season.

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The next season, Weber had a season-ending foot injury that derailed him for almost a full calendar year, but he was determined to bring his A-game when he returned in the 2018-19 season. What makes Weber a polarising player is his hard-hitting style and has superb leadership qualities. So far as a Canadien, he has 52 goals and 127 points in 227 games.

8. Max Pacioretty

Max Pacioretty played 10 seasons with the Canadiens and was named captain in the 2015-16 season, holding that title until he was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights in 2018-19. Pacioretty was an annual 30-goal, 60-point scorer throughout his tenure with the Canadiens.

Max Pacioretty
Max Pacioretty (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Pacioretty won the Masterton Trophy in 2011-12 after a serious neck injury the season before. He also led the league in plus/minus with a plus-38 and finished sixth in Selke Trophy votes in 2014-15. Pacioretty was a fan-favourite and one of the top offensive players for the Canadiens in the 2000s. He left on a sour note, but his contributions will not be forgotten.

7. P.K Subban

P.K. Subban was one of the most exciting players the Canadiens have had in the 2000s; he could captivate the crowd with his slick skating and high-intensity play. Whether you need a big hit or a goal, Subban gave everything he had on the ice. He became a pillar of the community by pledging to help raise $10 million for the Montreal Children’s Hospital.

Subban was the player that went the other way in the Weber trade mentioned earlier, which caused a huge split in the fan base and media. He was the Norris Trophy winner in 2012-13 as top defencemen and finished third in 2014-15. Love him or hate him, there is no question Subban was one of the most exciting players in recent years for the Canadiens.

6. Brendan Gallagher

Brendan Gallagher has played the past eight seasons with the Canadiens and could easily be called the team’s heart and soul. For a small stature player – 5-foot-9, 184 pounds – he plays bigger than anyone on the team. He’s never afraid to get dirty in front of the net or the corners. Gallagher is always a needle in the side of the opposing teams’ players. Beloved by fans and management Gallagher is the glue that holds the team together.

Related: Brendan Gallagher Means Everything to the Canadiens

Gallagher came on the Canadiens scene in 2012-13, finishing second in Calder Trophy votes and being voted to the All-Rookie Team for the NHL. In the past eight seasons, Gallagher has had four seasons of over 20 goals and two over 30, although injuries plagued some seasons due to his hard-nosed play. Gallagher doesn’t score many pretty goals, but he works hard to get the garbage goals and leads the team with grit and determination.

5. Tomas Plekanec

Tomas Plekanec played over 1,000 games in the NHL – 1,001 to be exact – and all but 17 of them were with the Canadiens. One of the Habs best shutdown centres, he was a key player to shut down the other teams’ best forwards and play a tight-checking game. He wasn’t just a defensive forward – he was also had seven seasons of 20 goals or more and topped the 70-point plateau once in his career in 2009-10.

Tomas Plekanec (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Plekanec’s signature turtleneck will forever be remembered. He was so well-loved by fans and management for his hard work and consistency that there is even talk of him coming back to the organization in a coaching role or some other capacity. He was recently asked to mentor some of the prospects when they held their virtual training camp. In his 15 years with the Canadiens, Plekanec scored 233 goals 606 points in 984 games.

4. Alexei Kovalev

Alexei Kovalev joined the Canadiens at the 2003-04 trade deadline, and although he only scored 3 points in 12 games regular-season games, he scored 10 points in 11 games in the playoffs. Kovalev played five seasons for the Canadiens, having the second-best season of his career in 2007-08, scoring 84 points in 82 games – the last Canadien to have a point per game season.

Alexei Kovalev, Montreal Canadiens
Alexei Kovalev (THW Archives)

Kovalev was a mesmerizing player; he could control the entire game if he wanted to, it sometimes seemed like he could score at will, and if he wanted to, he could skate around everyone with the puck for as long as he wanted; he was that talented. You might have noticed I said if he wanted to a lot, that’s because Kovalev was also painful to watch. At times, it seemed like he didn’t care or only played when he felt like it, but that was what made fans love and hate him. He was so talented you didn’t want to miss watching him play, whether he did or not.

3. Saku Koivu

Saku Koivu was one of the most loved captains since Guy Carbonneau. A highly skilled player from Finland and one of the last top centres the Canadiens have had, he played a full season in his rookie year, finishing fourth in Calder votes. After his successful debut season, Koivu got hit with the injury bug and got hit hard – it would be six seasons before playing another full one.

The most memorable moment of Koivu’s career came when he returned from cancer. He was diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma in 2001 and was expected to miss the entire season, but Koivu returned with only three games remaining in the season. The ovation still gives Canadiens fans chills and solidified Koivu’s Habs icon status.

2. Andrei Markov

Andrei Markov played 16 seasons and 990 games in the NHL, all with the Montreal Canadiens. A stalwart on defence, he was the best two-way defenceman since the days of Chris Chelios. He wasn’t a huge hitter or big bruiser, but he played a tight defensive game, was well positioned and had a keen eye for the play. He also was an excellent offensive player who could quarterback the PP and provide scoring when needed.

Andrei Markov Montreal Canadiens
Andrei Markov, Montreal Canadiens, 2003 (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

He had his best offensive seasons in 2007-08 and 2008-09, scoring 58 and 64 points, respectively. It looked like he would trend even further up offensively until Achilles and knee injuries derailed his career. He played sparingly for the next three seasons until he recovered from his various injuries. Markov returned to full health in 2012-13 and played until 2016-17 when his contract ended. He finished his career with 119 goals and 572 points.

1. Carey Price

Finally, we reach the top player in the best players of the 2000s, and it should be no surprise that it’s Canadiens current netminder Carey Price. Price has been the team’s driving force for the past 13 seasons, and he has practically put this team on his shoulders and carried them as far as he could. In 2013-14, if it weren’t for an injury in the third round of the playoffs, he could’ve taken them to a Stanley Cup final berth – but we will never know for sure.

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price
Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Ross D. Franklin)

Through the years, Price has been the best goalie since Patrick Roy and arguably one of the world’s best goalies. In 2014-15 he led the league in wins, save percentage, and goals-against average on his way to winning the Vezina, Hart, William Jennings, Ted Lindsay, and Lester B. Person Awards. If you are wondering, that’s pretty much almost every award a goaltender could win. The only thing Price is missing for his mantle is a Stanley Cup. Let’s hope he gets that soon.

Well, there you have it, the top 10 players of the 2000s. Of course, there are some omissions that you, the reader, may want to put in there, and that’s fine; everyone has their own taste. Honourable mentions for me would be Brian Gionta, Mike Cammalleri, Jaroslav Halak, and Micheal Ryder. I hope you like the list and hope you and yours have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

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