Leave it to the Toronto hockey media to err and stain Montreal Canadiens history
You just have to love the Toronto hockey media for their always accurate, indiscriminate and perceptive views on anything to do with the Montreal.
Take Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun today, for example.
Now most people who do not own dogs have little use for the paper, and this is just one reason of many.
Get things right for Christsakes!
With the numerous and voluminous statistical hockey data available in books and on the internet, it should take a responsible journalist all of five minutes to fact check numbers.
Additionally, is it too much to ask of a veteran writer to formulate a sensible opinion with a keen historical perspective.
Today, Simmons gets every detail of the current Habs record chase by Mike Cammalleri wrong. He then slags off the 1986 and 1993 Cup champs, choosing not to understand why it is they won, but simply by taking their regular season number as being indicative of their post season worth.
This is a heady and historical place where Mike Cammalleri skates. His 12 playoff goals tie him with Jean Beliveau. That’s one more than Guy Lafleur or Rocket Richard ever scored in the Stanley Cup playoffs. He has two to go to tie Frank Mahovlich for most playoff goals by a Montreal player.
Well at least Simmons is right, one out of four!
Beliveau did get a career high 12 playoff goals in 1956, but he was equalling the Rocket's record of 12 set in 1944. Lafleur equally that make of 12 in 1975, but by then it had been broken by Mahovlich with 14 in 1971 and surprassed by Yvan Cournoyer with 15 in 1973.
Now 15 is the modern day Canadiens mark as I noted here a few days back. The all-time remains Newsy Lalonde's 17 goals in 10 games in 1919.
So it's established that Simmons ain't too handy quoting numbers from Habs' lore, so further down in his column, he throws out this bone.
Truth: The 1986 and 1993 Canadiens were about the weakest Stanley Cup winning teams ever: And this year’s team, despite the remarkable run, is worse.
The fact is, it's only "truth" if one choose not to go back in time more than 25 years. Simmons did say "ever."
The real truth is that the weakest Stanley Cup winning team on record is the 1938 Chicago Black Hawks who finished sixth in an eight team NHL. There record that season was a dismal 14-25-9 in 48 games. Next up would be the 1949 Maple Leafs, but only on surface assessments.
First, let's take a hindsight view on those 1986 and 1993 Habs teams.
The 1986 Canadiens team team were seventh overall in the NHL, but played in the Adams Division where the weakest team was the Buffalo Sabres with 80 points. It was a very competitive divison that season. The Nordiques lead the Adams with 92 points, but the five teams higher in the standings than Montreal all had three teams in their division with less points than the Sabres. That notion alone kind of skewers who is stronger and weaker straight off.
Furthermore, the season numbers speak little of the team's composition. Patrick Roy would of course go on to greatness. Claude Lemieux as well. It had a future Norris Trophy winner in Chris Chelios, and Hall of Famers Bob Gainey and Larry Robinson. They were indeed underdogs as a seventh place team at the team, but after the mighty Edmonton Oilers tripped up, the '86 Habs were Cup worthy.
The 1993 Canadiens' team were sixth overall with 102 points, third in their again very tough division behind the Bruins (109) and the Nordiques (104).
They still had Roy, as well as 13 players (Vincent Damphousse, Kirk Muller, Brian Bellows Stephan Lebeau, Mike Keane, Denis Savard, Gilbert Dionne, Eric Desjardins, John Leclair, Mathieu Schneider, Patrice Brisebois, Kevin Haller and Benoit Brunet) who had scored in double digits, including three defensemen. Throw in former Selke winner Guy Carbonneau and playoff sensation Paul DiPietro, and consider the players that Leclair, Desjardins and Schneider became in the years to follow, and that meagre 102 point means pretty much squat.
But hey, surface assessments are everything, right?
The two teams vying to meet the Habs in that 1993 final were the Maple Leafs with 99 points, and the Los Angeles Kings with 88 points.
So Simmons is wrong is assessment, and wrong on pure fact.
The Toronto Maple Leafs 10 Stanley Cup wins during the Original Six era are proof enough. They finished first in the NHL just twice in those winning years, second five times, third twice, and fourth once.
The 1949 Maple Leafs finished fourth of six teams, with a record of 22-25-13. Back in the day, it was a first versus third, second versus fourth playoff format. Toronto took care of the Bruins while first place Detroit handled Montreal. The Leafs then miraculously swept the league leading Wings in four.
Now without any historical appreciation, a case could be made that the '49 Leafs were one of the worst teams ever to win the Stanley Cup, but that would diminish their true accomplishment.
The 1949 Leafs were a dynasty. It was their third Cup in a row.
So why, judge them, or any team, merely on a regular season when it is the playoffs that has historically best demonstrated a team's worth?
Simmons should have known better, but then again this is a guy that once signed off his column with a "Hey, whatever happened to....", and then named a dead athlete!