The days of the great Habs dynasties are long gone, and with the salary cap here to stay, it's unlikely we'll ever see that level of dominance again. So as we ponder who the next Canadiens player might be to see their number raised to the rafters, is it time to lower our standards?
As the Canadiens travel from Carolina to Tampa Bay, continuing their five-game road trip, here's a topic that should provide some diverse opinions.
The Montreal Canadiens have retired 15 numbers in honour of 17 players, the most in the National Hockey League. Incredibly, every one of these players is in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and every one of them has won the Stanley Cup at least once (Henri Richard leads the pack as a player with 11 championships).
But, obviously, other teams aren't capable of, and thus don't, hold their players to such high standards when it comes to jersey retirements. There have been guys like Trevor Linden, who was a hero in Vancouver and a longtime captain but was never a point-per-game player, and Ken Daneyko, who holds the Devils franchise lead for games played and won three Stanley Cups, but lived much of his career in the shadow of Scott Stevens, and the Minnesota Wild's fan base, which apparently deserved to have the no. 1 retired in its honour. Jeez, is that a gimmick or what?
After 95 years, the Leafs have retired the numbers of two guys that most casual hockey fans haven't heard of. But we won't go there.
But back to the Canadiens. No numbers have been retired since the Centennial, and most agree that the club has just about closed the book on potential candidates from the past, so who are the next possible candidates?
Well it depends on your attitude. Some would argue that Saku Koivu is a logical choice. He was captain here for a decade, fought back from cancer, was almost universally liked - we get it, he didn't speak French, get over it - and it's hard to imagine the last 15 years of the club's history without him. But he never won a cup, he wasn't a top player in the league, and he likely won't make the Hall of Fame.
So what should the attitude be? Wait for the next superstar cup-winner (like an Alex Galchenyuk, P.K. Subban, or Carey Price) or honour those that the fans love today in the same way we did those of the past?