In this series we look at the top five Canadiens since the year 2000 who made the biggest impact on the team in their only season of play on the team.
#2 Alex Tanguay (2007-2008), 41 points
At the 1998 NHL Entry Draft the Canadiens had four local talents they were heavily scouting, and promised to draft one of them in the first round. Those players were Simon Gagne, Ramzi Abid, Eric Chouinard, and Alex Tanguay. Tanguay was drafted 12th overall by Colorado, ahead of Montreal, so the Canadiens settled on picking Eric Chouinard.
Fast forward ten year to 2008, Chouinard was playing in the German League after an unimpressive NHL career, while Tanguay was around a 20 goal scorer in seven of eight NHL seasons. At the conclusion of the 2007-08 season Tanguay requested a trade from the Calgary Flames, because he was at odds with head coach Mike Keenan regarding his utilization. The Flames granted his request by trading him to the Canadiens at the 2008 Draft in return for the Canadiens’ first-round pick, and their 2009 second-round pick.
Tanguay had one final season left on his $5.25M contract, a pricey contract for the time, but the Canadiens desperately needed the infusion of offence on left wing.
The 28-year old Tanguay was an excellent candidate to do so. “I’m not going to hide it: I am very nervous. I know the kind of pressure Quebecers are put under. But I am confident. The Canadiens fit my style of play perfectly. I know I don’t have to be Mario Lemieux, I just need to do my job. With my no-trade clause, if I didn’t want to come to Montreal, I wouldn’t have.”
And his job he did. In only his second game with the Canadiens Tanguay had a four-point night with one goal and three assists, including three power play points. The points dried out a bit, but by Christmas time he had 10 goals and 16 assists in 33 games.
But just as the Canadiens were riding a wave of momentum leading into the new year, Tanguay separated his shoulder in a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning thanks to a massive hit into the boards from Evgeny Artyukhin. The 6’5” monster hit him so hard that it knocked out the pane of glass at the same time. Tanguay would go on to miss two months of the season as a result.
He would return in early March, he slowly returned to form, but in his eight game bac he blew the floodgates open, putting up five points against the Atlanta Thrashers.
He would finish the season with 16 goals and 25 assists for 41 points in 50 games played, and a team best +13.
The Canadiens played the Bruins in the first round of the playoffs where they were quickly eliminated in four games. Tanguay was a non-factor, missing games three and four due to an injury.
Once the season was over Tanguay was to become an unrestricted free agent. He was willing to sign a new deal, but he needed some clarity on the impending sale of the team, what impact it would have on general manager Bob Gainey, and who would replace Guy Carbonneau as head coach.
Ultimately there were too many questions and not enough answers. Once Gainey traded for Scott Gomez the writing was on the wall for Tanguay.