Sherbrooke-Montreal: Unified In History

By JD Lagrange – Martin Luther King once said: “Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words.” There comes a time in a hockey player’s life when he looks back at his career and realizes that he shares a special bound with some of his former teammates, more than with the others. It’s bond that needs no words, one that is expressed by a look, by a feeling, even when separated by distance, time or life.


Allow me to take you back to 1985. The Montreal Canadiens’ farm team was playing out of the Palais des Sports, in Sherbrooke. The team had qualified for the playoffs and head coach Pierre Creamer received the news from Serge Savard that two junior aged players would be joining his team to help them in their playoff run that year: a young right-winger coming off a 61 goal season with two junior teams, Stéphane Richer, and a goaltender by the name of Patrick Roy, who finished his junior season with a 5.55 goals against average.

The Sherbrooke Canadiens, captained by Brian Skrudland, had just finished their season with 79 points, good for third place in North division. While scoring goals wasn’t necessarily a problem for the baby Habs having scored 323 goals that year, keeping the puck out of their own net was a different story. The team had allowed 329 goals against, worst among the playoff bound teams. Adding an offensive weapon like Richer was a no-brainer for Creamer, but Roy was far from a sure thing at the time.

Patrick Roy

The team’s number one goaltender, Greg Moffett, was struggling, finishing the season with a 4.11 GAA and an .860 saves percentage. The Canadiens had dressed five goalies throughout the season, but adding a rookie selected in the third round of the 1984 NHL Entry Draft and coming off a pretty bad season didn’t seem to be the solution either. To this day, I don’t know if it was Creamer’s decision or if the idea of using the young goaltender was pushed upon him by the Habs’ brass, but Roy was given the net and we know the rest of the story.

The Calder Cup Finals ended on May 24, 1985 with the Sherbrooke Canadiens defeating the Baltimore Skipjacks four games to two, to win the Calder Cup. Living in Sherbrooke at the time, a friend of mine and I bought tickets for that game and what a game it was!

To this day, I remember Stéphane Richer rushing down the right wing only to let go of a bullet from just outside the faceoff circle, missing the net as the puck came all the way back into the Canadiens’ territory. He came back into his zone, took a pass and flew back down the same side with blazing speed. The defenseman, fearing to be beat by his speed (and his shot), backed up with him but this time, Richer put on the brakes before releasing a bullet, beating the Skipjacks’ goaltender.

I knew then that Richer was the real deal and that he would one day play in the NHL. It was so great to see team captain Brian Skrudland, a blue-collar worker in the true sense, winning the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as AHL playoff MVP, then raising the Calder Cup over his head, skating around the rink with the rest of the team. Richer wasn’t bad either in those playoffs, managing to score nine points in nine games, including six goals, while the young Patrick Roy, then wearing number 30, was making the key saves when the team needed it most.

Sherbrooke had previously defeated Fredericton (4-2) and Maine (4-1) before facing Baltimore in the finals and they were underdogs in every series that year. It is interesting to note that former Habs’ head coach Michel Therrien was also a member of that Calder Cup winning team.


The following season, eight players who were part of the 1985 Sherbrooke Canadiens Calder Cup winning roster ended up playing for Jean Perron and the Montreal Canadiens at the NHL level. Brian Skrudland quickly made his niche as a reliable defensive center, learning from master veteran Guy Carbonneau and adding depth to the second unit of penalty kill. Gaston Gingras brought his best weapon, a powerful shot from the point on the powerplay, while fellow defenseman Mike Lalor was as steady as it gets at the blue line, a stay-at-home defenseman able to take care of his own end and making a nice first pass. Stéphane Richer and Serge Boisvert brought some offensive threat and tons of speed to Perron’s line-up while tough guy John Kordic came in to support veteran Chris Nilan in ensuring that the other teams wouldn’t cross the line.

Mario Tremblay, seeing Kordic for the first time in the dressing room, once said that he was built like a brick wall, a very imposing figure. A certain Patrick Roy also made the jump from the junior ranks straight to the NHL, appearing in 47 games that season, sharing the work load with veterans Steve Penney and Doug Soetaert. Any guess on who the eighth player from the 1985 Calder Cup winning team to play for Perron was that year? It’s none other than forward Randy Bucyk, who took part of 17 regular season’s games and appeared in two playoffs’ games in 1986.

Sure, this 1985-86 Habs’ team had its ups and downs during the regular season, as any team adding so many rookies should be expected to. Still, the Habs managed to finish the season with 87 points, good for second in the Adams Division, five points behind the Quebec Nordiques and a single point ahead of the Boston Bruins. The youth and the winning experience from those rookies added some much needed enthusiasm, a fresh desire to conquer to this championship team. Many of them had some impact on the storied franchise’s 23rd Stanley Cup, none bigger than Roy who received the first of his three career Conn Smythe trophies as playoffs’ most valuable player, two of which he won wearing the CH on his chest.

Roy, Richer, Skrudland, Gingras, Boisvert, Lalor, Bucyk and the late John Kordic share a very special bond: winning consecutive titles in two different leagues, including one as a rookie in the NHL.

More reading…

Need For Tanking – Debunked!

By JD Lagrange – Sometimes, we as human being have a pre-conceived idea about something and we’re so sure that we don’t fact check because it’s too obvious in our mind. Further, sometimes what was true a while ago simple isn’t anymore, but we remain stuck with the concept that we’ve had in the past.

They are many who feel like the Montreal Canadiens absolutely must tank and get at least one more high pick in order to compete and become a Stanley Cup contender. Failing to do so this season, according to them, would be returning to mediocrity and they are cemented in that mindset.

So I’ve decided to do some research and see the trend for the past five years of Stanley Cup finalists. I looked at their own picks, which helps determine where they selected (as few get traded) and which ones actually went to the Stanley Cup finals, and how long it took them to do so. Without further ado, here are my findings.


Colorado defeats runner-up Tampa Bay

Gabriel Landeskog2011#2Alexander Killorn2007#77
Nathan MacKinnon2013#1Steven Stamkos2008#1
Mikko Rantanen2015#10Victor Hedman2009#2
Cale Makar2017#4Nikita Kucherov2011#58
Martin Kaut2018#16Ondrej Palat2011#208
Bowen Byram2019#4Andrei Vasilevskiy2012#19
Alex Newhook2019#16Brayden Point2014#79
Anthony Cirelli2015#72
Mathieu Joseph2015#120
Boris Katchouk2016#44
Taylor Raddysh2016#58
Ross Colton2016#118
Cal Foote2017#14

ANALYSIS: The Avalanche won the Stanley Cup. They “tanked” 11 years prior to winning the Cup, drafting Gabriel Landeskog at number two, then MacKinnon first overall the following year. The following season (2013-14), they won their division. They suffered a couple of hiccups a couple of years apart after that. Let’s touch on the Lightning below.


Tampa Bay defeats runner-up Montreal

Alexander Killorn2007#77Carey Price2005#5
Steven Stamkos2008#1Brendan Gallagher2010#147
Victor Hedman2009#2Artturi Lehkonen2013#55
Nikita Kucherov2011#58Jake Evans2014#207
Ondrej Palat2011#208Jesperi Kotkaniemi2018#3
Andrei Vasilevskiy2012#19Alexander Romanov2018#38
Brayden Point2014#79Cole Caufield2019#15
Anthony Cirelli2015#72
Mathieu Joseph2015#120
Ross Colton2016#118

ANALYSIS: They only had two top-5 picks and it took Stamkos 13 long years, and Hedman 12 before winning the Cup. They came nowhere close to a top-5 pick since then. The Canadiens selected Price at number five 16 years prior to reaching the finals for the first time since then.


Tampa Bay defeats runner-up Dallas

Alexander Killorn2007#77Jamie Benn2007#129
Steven Stamkos2008#1John Klingberg2010#131
Victor Hedman2009#2Jamie Oleksiak2011#14
Nikita Kucherov2011#58Radek Faksa2012#13
Ondrej Palat2011#208Esa Lindell2012#74
Andrei Vasilevskiy2012#19Jason Dickinson2013#29
Cedric Paquette2012#101Denis Gurianov2015#12
Brayden Point2014#79Roope Hintz2015#49
Anthony Cirelli2015#72Miro Heiskanen2017#3

ANALYSIS: Again, only Stamkos and Hedman were top-5 picks. For the Stars, they got one top-5 pick two years earlier, selecting Heiskanen at number three, and were in the finals.


St. Louis defeats runner-up Boston

David Perron2007#26Patrice Bergeron2003#45
Alex Pietrangelo2008#4David Krejci2004#63
Jake Allen2008#34Brad Marchand2006#71
Jaden Schwartz2010#14Matt Grzelcyk2012#85
Vladimir Tarasenko2010#16David Pastrkak2014#25
Joel Edmundson2011#46Danton Heinen2014#116
Jordan Binnington2011#88Jake DeBrusk2015#14
Colton Parayko2012#86Brandon Carlo2015#37
Robby Fabbri2014#21Charlie McAvoy2016#14
Ivan Barbashev2014#33
Sammy Blais2014#176
Vince Dunn2015#56
Robert Thomas2017#20

ANALYSIS: It took Pietrangelo, a fourth overall pick, 11 years after being drafted before winning his first Stanley Cup. That was the only time St. Louis picked in the top-5. The Bruins’ best overall pick was in the middle of the pack at number 14, twice.


Washington defeats runner-up Las Vegas

Alex Ovechkin2004#1
Nicklas Backstrom2006#4
John Carlson2008#27
Braden Holtby2008#93
Dmitri Orlov2009#55
Evgeny Kuznetsov2010#26
Philipp Grubauer2010#112
Tom Wilson2012#16
Chandler Stephenson2012#77
Christian Djoos2012#195
Andre Burakovsky2013#23
Jakub Vrana2014#13

ANALYSIS: It took 14 years to Ovechkin and 12 to Backstrom to reach the Stanley Cup finals. They never came close to a top-5 after them. I don’t think I need to explain Vegas, right?

Current Canadiens

Here is the draft selection on the current Canadiens, trades included:

Evgenii Dadonov200771FLA
Jake Allen200834STL
David Savard200994CBJ
Chris Wideman2009100OTT
Mike Hoffman2009130OTT
Brendan Gallagher2010147MTL
Joel Armia201116BUF
Joel Edmundson201146STL
Mike Matheson201223FLA
Josh Anderson201295CBJ
Jonathan Drouin20133TBL
Sean Monahan20136CGY
Christian Dvorak201458ARI
Jake Evans2014207MTL
Sam Montembeault201577FLA
Michael Pezzetta2016160MTL
Nick Suzuki201713VEG
Johnathan Kovacevic201774WIN
Jesse Ylönen201835MTL
Jordan Harris201871MTL
Kirby Dach20193CHI
Cole Caufield201915MTL
Kaiden Guhle202016MTL
Justin Barron202025COL
Juraj Slafkovsky20221MTL
Arber XhekajN/AN/AN/A
TOP-5: 3


People in favour of tanking keep bringing up Tampa (which we’ve debunked here), Pittsburgh, Chicago as examples to try to support their claim that a team MUST tank for several years in order to win a Stanley Cup. The NHL is not the same as it was before. Teams can turn things around in a hurry today, unlike the past trends.

Of course, I won’t come here telling you that adding another top-5 pick would hurt the Canadiens. But there’s a fine balance between instating a winning culture and tanking. Further, the clear conclusion here is that those claiming that the Canadiens absolutely MUST tank and get another top-5 pick are clearly out of touch with the latest trend in the NHL. Even those selected in the top-5 take years before reaching their goals, as proven above.

Dahlin, Svechnikov, Kotkaniemi, Tkachuk, Hischier, Patrick, Pettersson, Matthews, Laine, Dubois, Puljujarvi, McDavid, Eichel, Strome, Marner, Ekblad, Reinhart, Draisaitl, Bennett, Barkov, Jones, Yakupov, Murray, Galchenyuk, Reinhart, Rielly, Nugent-Hopkins, Huberdeau, Larsson, Hall, Seguin, Johansen… they were all top-5 picks in recent years and never have they raised the Stanley Cup over their head as winners. 

So let’s stop with the narrative. It would be nice if the Canadiens get another high pick. But to claim that it’s a MUST is a smoke screen at best. If our beloved Habs don’t select in the top-5 this year, it’s not the end of the world folks. They are on the right track regardless of the “tank nation” is falsely claiming.

More reading…