See, there's a little theme going on this summer. We've taken a look at some terrible trades, and then some great ones. Now, it is time to look at some draft picks, starting with where the Canadiens went wrong. I'll focus on first-round picks for the purpose of this exercise, since that is where a team stands to make the biggest mistakes.
The Canadiens have typically drafted very well throughout their history, but they have put up some real stinkers too.
1. Doug Wickenheiser, first-overall in 1980
Career stats in Montreal: 202GP, 49G, 66A, 115P
Ah, Doug Wickenheiser. He is one that most Habs fans would prefer to forget about. As a player, Wickenheiser was not at all terrible. That is why he was considered worthy of a high draft pick. The reason this is now remembered as such a terrible pick is because of what could have been. Because of who came after him that year.
The 1980 draft produced four current Hall of Famers; Denis Savard, Larry Murphy, Paul Coffey, and Jari Kurri. The first three were all drafted in the first-round, but they were all chosen after Doug Wickenheiser. He unfortunately just doesn't stack up to his peers from that year.
I still believe that a lot of the thinking for the trade that sent Chris Chelios to Chicago for Denis Savard was based around the idea of rectifying the mistake that was taking Wickenheiser in that draft. Maybe if they had just a little more foresight, Chelios could have spent a little longer with the Habs. Alas, we will never know.
I don't want to influence the vote too much, but this is easily my frontrunner.
2. Terry Ryan, eighth-overall in 1995
Career stats in Montreal: 8GP, 0G, 0A, 0P
Yeah, this was a pretty bad one. 1995 was not a banner year for the NHL draft, but to take a guy in the top-10 who only equaled his draft rank in games played, and never scored a single point, is pretty terrible. Again, not the best year for prospects, but they could have done much better.
Radek Dvorak went two picks after Ryan. Jarome Iginla went at 11th overall. Petr Sykora went 18th overall. Before you even get out of the top-20, there are just three much better options that could have been taken. Hindsight is 20/20, and it dictates that the Canadiens goofed up pretty badly with Terry Ryan in 1995.
3. Lindsay Vallis, 13th-overall in 1989
Career stats in Montreal: 1GP, 0G, 0A, 0P
Here's another real stinker. For the record, that one game that Vallis played with the Canadiens was his only NHL game ever. Notable names selected after Vallis in 1989 were the following; Olaf Kolzig, Adam Foote, Nicklas Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov, Pavel Bure, and Donald Audette. Yeesh.
The Canadiens got Patrice Brisebois and Andre Racicot in the second and fourth rounds respectively. Those picks were better than the Vallis pick. Arturs Irbe, who went at 196th overall, would have been a better pick at 13. this one definitely falls into the category of epic draft fails.
4. David Fischer, 20th-overall in 2006
Career stats in Montreal: LOL, NOPE!
In fairness, when drafting 20th, you can't always expect to hit a home run. That said, you generally expect to get a decent prospect out of the selection. David Fischer, however, has never played a game in the NHL. The closest he got was a two-game stint with the Houston Aeros in 2011-12.
Notable names selected after Fischer in 2006; Claude Giroux, Semyon Varlamov, Patrik Berglund, Nick Foligno, Jeff Petry, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, and many, many more players who have actually at least played in the NHL. It was a pretty sorry draft year for the Habs overall, as their best selection ended up being Ryan White at 66th overall.
Fischer has spent his last three seasons in the German league. Again, it is tough to expect much from a late first-round pick, but they did pretty well with the 22nd-overall pick the very next year. If you don't know who they took in 2007, I'll give you a hint... His name rhymes with Flax Badspaghetti. Well, sort of.
5. Matt Higgins, 18th-overall in 1996
Career stats in Montreal: 57GP, 1G, 2A, 3P
Ah, the big centre that never was. Matt Higgins was a pretty good scorer at the Junior level in the WHL, but it really did not translate to the pros. He was given every opportunity to succeed within the Canadiens organization, but it took going to Europe for him to regain even some of the scoring touch he had in the dub. He would not return from Europe to play hockey again.
1996 was another mediocre year for prospects, but the Canadiens still had some preferable options that went later. Names such as Marco Sturm, Daniel Briere, Zdeno Chara, and Tom Poti would all have made better picks. Heck, Jan Bulis went 43rd-overall, and I would settle for him easily in hindsight.
Higgins actually did end his hockey career with a bit of a bang, scoring 21 goals in 2010-11 for... Wait for it... Slovenian club Hokejsko Drsalno Društvo Olimpija Ljubljana. Say that five times fast.
So there you have it folks, five options from which to select the worst draft pick ever. Like our two-part series on trades, we also understand that you may have some better ideas in mind, so please feel free to share them in the comment section!