Last Word On Hockey brings our Team of the Decade series. We will dive into the best player at each position this decade for every organization. The biggest and best at each position, with the most memorable moments of the decade. Here is the Montreal Canadiens Team of the Decade lineup.
Montreal Canadiens Decade Team
It’s been an up and down decade for the Montreal Canadiens. The first half of the decade featured two division titles and two Eastern Conference Finals appearances. The second half started well with yet another Division Title. However, the Habs failed to make the playoffs the next three seasons. Potentially a fourth in this paused season due to COVID-19.
While the Habs have not had what you call a game-breaker outside of goaltender Carey Price, they have had some high-quality players come through the lineup. Here are the top players that made the Montreal Canadiens decade team.
Left-Wing: Max Pacioretty
We start off the Montreal Canadiens decade team with the former captain and leading scorer of the decade Max Pacioretty. Pacioretty leads the Canadiens over the past decade in goals (220) and points (423). On September 18th, 2015, Pacioretty became the 29th team captain in franchise history. He was voted to be captain by his teammates. Pacioretty served as captain until he was traded three years later to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki and a second-round pick.
The decade didn’t start off all that well for Pacioretty. Pacioretty was recalled by the Canadiens in the 2010-11 season where he was putting up some decent numbers. Pacioretty scored 14 goals and 10 assists in 37 games. However, on March 8th, 2011, Pacioretty suffered a broken vertebra after being driven into the stanchion by Boston Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara. The hit ended Pacioretty’s season.
Despite the brutal injury, Pacioretty bounced back the next season and set then-career highs in goals (33) assists (32) and points (65).
Pacioretty managed to light the lamp at an unbelievable pace despite never playing with a legitimate number one centre. He spent most of his time in Montreal on the left side of David Desharnais. However, the pair had excellent chemistry dating back to their days in the AHL for the Hamilton Bulldogs. It also translated at the NHL level. From January 1st, 2010 until the end of the 2017-18 season, Pacioretty’s last as a Canadien, Pacioretty found himself sitting in 19th in the entire league in goals for. This despite playing the fourth least amount of games amongst those players. He also ranked ninth in game-winning goals with 45.
Although things might not have ended the way Pacioretty envisioned for himself in Montreal, he certainly left his mark on the team this past decade.
Centre: Tomas Plekanec
Outside of a short stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tomas Plekanec played his entire career with the Montreal Canadiens. He managed to 1001 total NHL games over his career and accumulate 608 points. During this decade, Plekanec was the second-leading scorer on the Canadiens roster. He scored 145 goals and 376 points in 630 games.
Plekanec wasn’t what you call your true bonafide number one centre. However, he was an excellent two-way player who played both special teams and matched up against the opposing team’s top lines every single night.
Plekanec’s best days were in the decade prior when he hit career-highs in goals with 29 and points with 70 playing alongside Russian superstar Alex Kovalev, Plekanec still put up some solid years for the Canadiens in the 2010s. In 2014-15 Plekanec managed to hit the 60 point mark for the third time in his career. He helped get the Canadiens into the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs before getting bounced by the Tampa Bay Lightning. His production started to drop off after that season, however, he was still an effective shutdown centre. This made the Toronto Maple Leafs pursue him for their Cup run in the 2017-18 season.
After being misused to start his time in Toronto, Mike Babcock finally put him in the top six and faced him off against the perfection line for the Bruins. Plekanec did exactly what he was known for and did an excellent job getting under the skin of players like Brad Marchand and shutting down the Bruins top dogs. Plekanec was arguably the Leafs best player in the series, after Mitch Marner.
The Canadiens elected to bring Plekanec back the following season allowing him to play his 1000th game in a Habs uniform before the two parties mutually parted ways and Plekanec retired a member of the Montreal Canadiens.
Right-Wing: Brendan Gallagher
As the saying goes, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog.” This could not be any more true when speaking of Brendan Gallagher. Standing at just 5’9” and weighing 184 lbs, Gallagher still always finds himself in the rough areas of the ice and playing as if he was 6’5”, 230 lbs. Gallagher is not afraid of anyone and this is why he is so effective. He is the train that just keeps on chugging for the Canadiens and he brings that consistency each and every night. Gallagher does not take a shift off and because of that, he has managed to put up back to back 30 goal seasons for the Canadiens. He also had over 20 goals this season before the season was put on pause due to COVID-19.
The fight that Gallagher brings exemplifies his leader on the ice. The Canadiens elected to name one of the Alternate Captains back in 2015. A title he still holds to this day. Many believed he had a chance to be named Captain. However, how could you not give it to Shea Weber? A player who has already won the Mark Messier Leadership Award. Either player would have been a great choice for the Canadiens.
While there were maybe some more skilled players that could have been chosen such as Alexander Radulov, the work ethic and consistency of Brendan Gallagher gave him the upper hand in this one. This is why he was selected for the right-wing position on the Montreal Canadiens decade team.
Left Defence: Andrei Markov
The General. Is there really anything else that needs to be said about Andrei Markov? This pick was extremely easy. There has not been a left defenceman to play for the Canadiens better than Andrei Markov since Mathieu Schneider played in 1994-95.
Markov made his Habs debut in the 2000-2001 season where he registered six goals and 23 points in 63 games as a rookie. Markov would go on to play his entire career with the Canadiens. In 990 games, Markov scored 119 goals and added 453 assists for 572 points. This ties him for second all-time with Guy Lapointe in points by a defenceman for the Canadiens. His 232 points this past decade puts him in seventh in Habs scoring since 2010.
Markov could do it all. He played both special teams and was the quarterback of the Habs powerplay. He was an outstanding puck mover with great vision and hockey sense. Markov also possessed an excellent shot. However, it was his playmaking ability which really stood out when watching Markov. Markov posted over 30 assists eight times over his career. Three times he hit over 40 and once managed to reach the 50 assist plateau. He had back to back career years posting 58 points and then 64 before going down with a knee injury the following year. This injury limited Markov to only 65 games over three seasons. However, after a lockout-shortened season, Markov played all but two games in four straight seasons. He posted at least 40 points in all but one season, which was the shortened season.
Markov played his last game with the Canadiens in 2016-17 after representing himself in negotiations with Marc Bergevin and not being able to come to terms on a deal. It’s a shame really as the Canadiens have not been able to replace what Markov brought to the team and have not made the playoffs since his departure.
Right Defence: Shea Weber
This one was definitely the hardest one to pick. It’s a toss-up between Shea Weber and the player who the Habs traded for him, P.K. Subban. However, Weber comes out on top. Despite missing essentially a full season due to a foot injury, Weber has returned to the Habs lineup this season and never missed a beat. At 34 years old, Weber was putting together a remarkable season despite the Habs struggles. Weber registered 15 goals and 21 assists for 36 points in 65 games. He also ranks 13th on the Habs in points this decade. Weber has scored 52 goals and 127 points in 227 games.
Despite what Subban was able to accomplish in his time with the Canadiens, winning a Norris Trophy, scoring some absolutely electrifying goals especially in the playoffs and the work he was able to do off the ice, the fact of the matter is Weber is and always has been the better player. When the Habs made the move, the consensus was that the move would hurt the Habs in the long run. However, thus far, it is just as good for the Habs now as it was four years ago. While Subban seems to be regressing already, Weber is still playing at an elite level.
It’s not only his play that makes Weber such a valuable asset for the Canadiens, but it’s also his ability to lead and his presence in the locker room. Weber is one of the most respected players in the game. Players want to go to battle with Weber leading the well and he changed the whole culture of the Canadiens locker room. In his first season with the Canadiens, they captured another Division title. Their Playoff run was cut short, however, after they were eliminated by the New York Rangers in six games. Weber was arguably the Canadiens’ best player in that series, along with Radulov and Artturi Lehkonen. The Canadiens haven’t made the playoffs since, however, they are an extremely young team and behind the leadership of Weber, should be back there in the very near future.
Set to turn 35 in August, Weber’s career is starting to wind down. However, even though he might slow down, Weber possesses the rest of the tools to still be an elite defenceman. Much like Zdeno Chara, who is still playing at 42, Weber has that same ability to continue to play even after this contract expires. He’s the most valuable asset to the Canadiens outside of Carey Price and because of these reasons, he was chosen as the top right defenceman of the decade.
Goaltender: Carey Price
The easiest choice for this team had to be Carey Price. One, because he has been the only starting goalie to play for the Habs during this decade, other than the short stint to end out 2010 by Jaroslav Halak. And two, if you picked a decade team for the entire NHL, Price would be the goalie on that team as well.
After a magnificent run by former Habs goalie Jaroslav Halak, who brought the team to the Eastern Conference Finals, the Canadiens decided to put all their eggs in Price’s basket. Knowing they had to pick a goalie to run with, the Habs elected to trade Halak to the St. Louis Blues. Clearly it was the right choice. Price has managed to carry his team to multiple Division Titles as well as another Eastern Conference Finals appearance before getting injured by New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider and ending his Stanley Cup run. Price also won the Ted Lindsay Award, the William M. Jennings Trophy, the Vezina Trophy and the Hart Memorial Trophy all in 2014-15 after putting together an outstanding season. Price posted a record of 44-16-6 with a 1.96 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage. He also recorded nine shutouts.
Price returned the following year and picked up right where he left off. The Canadiens got off to their best start in franchise history winning 10 straight games. However, they lost Carey Price to a season-ending injury and the team took a complete nosedive. Price looked like he was going to be off to yet another trophy filled year. Prior to the injury, Price posted a 10-2 record. He had a 2.06 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage with two shutouts. The way the team faltered after the injury just proved how important he is to this club.
Since then its been up and down for Price. He hasn’t been “god-like” like he was those two seasons. However, he’s shown flashes of still being able to be that goalie. He was nominated for another Vezina Trophy is 2016-17. However, they haven’t been able to make the Playoffs since that year and Price’s number have not been as strong.
Despite this, he still has the respect of his peers. Price was recently voted as the best goaltender in the league in a poll completed by his peers. This alone tells the story for Carey Price, however, the rest of his resume just backs it up. He’s a franchise netminder who has conquered a lot of feats over his career. From World Junior Gold.To the Calder Trophy with the Hamilton Bulldogs in the AHL. To Olympic gold for Canada in 2014 to multiple personal awards. The next goal to achieve, the Stanley Cup.
P.K. Subban certainly deserves an honourable mention. As mentioned, he is a Norris Trophy winner and was such an electrifying player for the Canadiens. Subban loved playing in the mecca of hockey. He thrived being under the spotlight. Subban ranks fourth on the Canadiens in point during the decade with 278 in 434 games. He was narrowly beat out by Shea Weber on the Montreal Canadiens decade team. Other players who are worth mentioning are Alexander Radulov, Mike Cammalleri and former Habs captain Brian Gionta. All three played a pivotal role during their time with the Habs and were all worthy of selections for the team.