As the most storied organization in NHL history with 24 Stanley Cups, the Montreal Canadiens have had some amazing teams that could be included among the top teams of all time. There may be no greater team than the 1972-73 Montreal Canadiens, though. That team consisted of the winningest player in NHL history, a rookie goaltender who broke records, a Hall of Fame goaltender, and a team loaded with more Hall of Famers than any in history.
The Most Decorated of All Time
The Montreal Canadiens were home to Henri “The Pocket Rocket” Richard for 20 years. (from ‘Henri Richard, Montreal’s ‘Pocket Rocket’ of hockey, dies as 84,’ Washington Post, 03/06/2020) During Richard’s time in Montreal, he became the winningest player in NHL history, netting 11 Stanley Cups during his 20-year stint with the Canadiens organization. Most people often think of his brother’s elite goal scoring traits when hearing the last name Richard and the coveted “Rocket Richard” Trophy, but most often forget that Henri’s career surpassed his brother’s storied time in Montreal.
Another feat that Maurice was never able to crack that his brother did, was leading the NHL in assists. Henri managed to do this twice in his career with the Canadiens. Maurice may have been a better goal scorer but the 1972-73 Montreal Canadiens had the winningest captain in NHL history.
Between the Pipes
Furthermore, something that often gets looked past when diving into the 1972-73 Canadiens, was they had a rookie goaltender by the name of Wayne Thomas. Thomas is a name that not many know but he became the second netminder in over 50 seasons to earn a shutout in his NHL debut. During that time frame, goalscoring was much more frequent and the league was filled with players that could put the puck in the net. Luckily for Montreal, they were still home to Hall of Famer Ken Dryden who anchored the 1972-73 season.
Dryden led the way for the Canadiens that year, with a remarkable 33-7 record in the regular season. In the playoffs, Dryden carried that momentum that helped lead the club to a first-place regular-season finish by playing all 17 games and earning a record of 12-5. This incredible netminding by the Hall of Famer aided the Canadiens in notching their 18th Stanley Cup in the club’s 64-year history.
The History of Hall of Famers
When thinking of the depth of some of the best rosters in NHL history you have to think of the 1984-85 Edmonton Oilers, the 1991-92 Pittsburgh Penguins, and numerous others. One thing is for sure though, none of those teams had the amount of Hall of Fame players on their roster that the 1972-73 Montreal Canadiens roster had. Whether it was Jacques Lemaire tallying 95 points in 77 games in the regular season or the six-time Stanley Cup Champion Frank Mahovlich, this roster was loaded with some of the greatest and most talented Hall of Famers of all time.
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Looking further down the roster at some other Hall of Famers that contributed to the Canadiens 18th Stanley Cup, you could find Yvan “The Roadrunner” Cournoyer who was notably the fastest player to play in the NHL during the early 1970s. Another player who put his mark on this 1972-73 Canadiens roster was Guy Lafleur who most recently was named in 2017, to the NHL’s Top 100 Greatest players of all-time list.
It doesn’t stop there for players who made the Top 100 players list of all time, another bruising name who inked himself on this list was Canadiens defenseman Serge Savard. Savard was most known for his “Savardian spin-o-rama” and helping the Canadiens earn eight Stanley Cups during his tenure with the club. When talking about Hall of Fame defensemen who not only made the Top 100 players list, but also was a member of this storied team, it would be cruelly unfair not to mention arguably the greatest defenseman in Canadiens in history in Larry “Big Bird ” Robinson. Robinson stood at about 6-foot-4 225-pounds making for a grueling opponent on the Montreal blue line.
Outside of Ken Dryden, who was almost mentioned as a Hall of Famer, this proves the pure dominance that instilled into this 1972-73 Habs roster. Another name that can not be looked past, though is the most famous player to don the No. 22 in the Montreal Canadiens reign of terror in the NHL, was none other than Steve Shutt. Shutt played his rookie year in 1972-73, while capturing a 16-point season in 50 games. This was a true indicator of what was to come in the future for Shutt and is a reminder why he is still one of the greatest players ever to play for the Canadiens organization to this day.
The 1972-73 Montreal Canadiens featured the most-star studded lineup in NHL history from top to bottom. Whether it was multiple Hall of Fame forwards who could put the puck in the back of the net, or Hall of Fame defenseman who could bring physicality to the ice like no other while turning defense into offense like no other, or just having a Hall of Fame goaltender who could lock it down between the pipes on demand.
The 1972-73 roster consisted of all time veterans who could get it done from top to bottom as well as rookies who would eventually break records and make their own names in the league but regardless there was no team like it. Whether you were a fan of the red white and blue past or present, there should be no argument that the 1972-1973 Canadiens are the greatest team to ever touch the ice in the existence of the NHL.
Carson MacRae is a member of The Hockey Writers, covering the Seattle Kraken expansion team. MacRae played just about every level of hockey including signing a minor pro deal. Unfortunately, he was not able to have a long professional career as he suffered an injury to his knee. Luckily, MacRae found a new love in writing about sports and used his education at the University of Guelph to further advance his skills. MacRae currently also writes for Ohio State’s football program apart of Rivals Sports and BuckeyeGrove.com providing insight to the programs current and future recruiting.