If you remember the most recent Halley’s Comet, you might remember the last time the Montreal Canadiens had a top 10 point leader in the NHL.
Mats Näslund, folks.
The last time the Habs had a top 10 NHL points leader was during the 1985-86 season when ‘Le Petit Viking’ popped in 43 goals and had 67 assists.
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It’s been 34 years since we’ve seen a Canadiens player atop the NHL’s top-shelf talent board. Barring a majestic final push from Tomáš Tatar — the Habs leading point-getter so far this season — it doesn’t seem like a Habs player will be joining the league’s elite scorers this year either.
Amidst all the new analytics and advanced stats in today’s sports, it felt like it was time to get back to the bare bones of hockey: goals and assists.
Perhaps there’s an easier way to access decades-worth of information these days but Hockey Reference has a pretty in depth NHL Skater Statistics site. By going back year by year until a Habs player appeared on the top 10 point leaders, it took 34 seasons to finally find a Canadiens player among the league’s top 10 scorers.
We’ve had our fair share of snipers throughout the past three decades. Max Pacioretty and Alex Kovalev were consistent scorers (Kovalev was 11th in 2007-08 with a 35-49-84 line). Tomáš Plekanec, Saku Koivu, Mike Ribeiro, Yanic Perreault, Pierre Turgeon, Vincent Damphousse, and heck even Martin Ručinský lead the team at separate times but never cracked the league’s top 10.
Are Habs fans going to have to go through another reincarnation of the Winnipeg Jets before we get a good old-fashioned point-getter?
Since a Canadien player made the top 10 scoring list, the NHL lost the other Quebec team, went through the entire Atlanta Thrashers franchise, took away and brought back the Winnipeg Jets, changed the Mighty Ducks to the Anaheim Ducks, swapped Minnesota for Dallas, gave Minnesota another team, expanded into Columbus, Vegas, and (barring a miraculous Tatar point frenzy) Seattle.
(For the record, a top 10 scoring leader did happen in the province when Joe Sakic finished forth for the Quebec Nordiques with a 19-43-62 line during the strike shortened 1994-95 season.)
Understandably, it’s not easy to get goal producers. It’s the most highly-sought product in the NHL and they’re not easy to come by. But surely you should be able to run into at least one top 10 scorer over the past three-plus decades, no?
If the Canadiens front office is scratching their heads as to how to make the playoffs again for the first time since 2017, goal scorers might be a smart place to start.
And until then, thanks for representing the bleu, blanc et rouge, Näslund.