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Worst trades in Canadiens history: Leadership lost as Carbonneau exits

This week, we’re taking a look back at the five worst trades in Canadiens history. Today, No. 3

Guy Carbonneau was not traded in 1994 because he gave a one-fingered salute to a photographer from the Journal de Montréal.

While the image conscious Canadiens couldn’t have been happy to see the gesture on the front of the tabloid, general manager Serge Savard viewed the incident as frustration on the part of Carbonneau, who was entitled to privacy as he tried to erase the pain of a first-round playoff loss to the Bruins with the time-honoured balm of golf.

Savard said he traded his captain to the St. Louis Blues two months later on Aug. 19 because the future Hall of Famer was 34 and had lost a step. These decisions are common in professional sports, but there might have been another factor in the deal — a rift between Carbonneau and goaltender Patrick Roy.

With the Eastern Conference quarter-final series against the Bruins tied 1-1, a shock wave hit Montreal when Roy came down with appendicitis. There was a consensus that Roy was the major reason the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup in 1986 and 1993 and there was no way Montreal could beat Boston without him.

Roy was treated with antibiotics and returned for Game 4, but not before Carbonneau voiced a complaint that was shared by many of his teammates.

“Patrick is my friend and I like him a lot, but we have been told so many times that we are worthless without him that we may have started to believe it,” Carbonneau told reporters the day after Montreal lost Game 3. “Obviously, in hockey, certain players play a major role on a team. But no one is irreplaceable. Personally, I believe in teamwork. It annoys me when people question our ability if Patrick isn’t on the ice.”

The problem was that Roy and head coach Jacques Demers did think he was irreplaceable and that made Carbonneau’s position untenable.

This deal ranks among the Canadiens’ worst for two reasons.

The first concerned leadership. A year removed from their 24th Stanley Cup victory, the Canadiens were in a state of flux with players coming and going. Carbonneau provided a sense of stability in the dressing room and on the ice and his absence was felt.

The second concerned the return. The Canadiens received Jim Montgomery, who grew up in Rosemont. He finished his four-year career at the University of Maine as the fourth-leading scorer in NCAA history. He racked up 301 points, including 95 in his senior year when freshman linemate Paul Kariya had 100.

But Montgomery’s flashy college numbers never translated into success in the NHL. The Canadiens released him after only five games.


The Carbonneau trade was a part of a 30-month process that dismantled the 1993 Stanley Cup winners. There was every reason to think 1993 was the start of another dynasty because the Canadiens were a very young team. Roy was 26 and there were only four players on the playoff roster who were older — Carbonneau, Gary Leeman, Brian Bellows and Denis Savard.

After Roy and Mike Keane were traded to Colorado in December 1995, the only holdovers from the Stanley Cup team were Vinnie Damphousse, Patrice Brisebois, Lyle Odelein and Benoit Brunet.

The Canadiens gave up John LeClair, Gilbert Dionne and Éric Desjardins for Hall of Famer Mark Recchi and a third-round draft pick, which tipped slightly in Philadelphia’s favour when LeClair teamed with Eric Lindros. Then Kirk Muller, Mathieu Schneider and Craig Darby went to the Islanders for No. 1 overall draft pick Pierre Turgeon and Vladimir Malakhov.

Turgeon was around for less than two years before Réjean Houle traded him along with Craig Conroy and Rory Fitzpatrick to St. Louis for Murray Baron and Shayne Corson 2.0 in a deal that just missed making our worst trades list.

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Five worst trades in Canadiens history

Saturday: No. 2

Sunday: No. 1

No. 4: Damphousse deal a disaster for CH

No. 5: McDonagh and Sergachev slip away

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