Welcome to the second last article in a series spanning 10 (almost 11) decades of the history of the Montreal Canadiens. Throughout this series, we’ll be taking a look at the history of the oldest hockey team in the NHL from their inception to where we are today. This week we’ll be taking a look at the 2000’s, but before we do that, be sure to check out parts one through nine below.
Part One: Birth and Early Years of the Canadiens
Part Two: 1920-1930, Morenz, Hainsworth, Two Cups
Part Three: 1930-1940, Trading Hainsworth, Return of Lalonde, Tragedy Strikes
Part Four: 1940-1950, The Rocket, Two Canadiens Cups, Shakeups
Part Five: 1950-1960, Welcome Beliveau, Six Stanley Cups, Goodbye Rocket
Part Six: 1960-1970, Plante to New York, Captain Beliveau, Reorganization
Part Seven: 1970-1980, Farewell Beliveau, Six More Cups, Four-Storey Goalie
Part Eight: 1980-1990, Carbonneau, Savard, South Shore ‘Alcatraz’
Part Nine: 1990-2000, Trading Roy, Farewell Rocket, Forum, 24th Cup
Without further adieu, let’s jump right into it!
After struggling at the beginning of the 2000-’01 season, Canadiens president Pierre Boivin decided to promote Michel Therrien from the Habs AHL affiliate after firing Alain Vigneault as head coach. Andre Savard was also given a promotion, taking over as the team’s general manager from Rejean Houle. The Canadiens record was 5-13-2 in the first 20 games of the year under Vigneault.
On January 2, 2001, Jose Theodore became the first goalie in the team’s history to score a goal. Theodore registered a shutout in the same game as the Canadiens beat the New York Islanders 3-0. He was also the first goaltender in the NHL to score with a backhanded shot.
The team continued to struggle, finishing out the season with only 70 points. This is the second time in the team’s 92 year history that they have missed the playoffs for three years in a row.
At the start of the 2001-’02 season, the Canadiens announced that team captain Saku Koivu was suffering from intra-abdominal non-Hodgkins lymphoma. They struggle without their leader for the first month of the season.
With Theodore out of action due to an injury, the Habs turned to young goaltenders Olivier Michaud and Mathieu Garon. Thanks to their efforts, the team climbed to sixth place in the Eastern Conference. Savard traded Brian Savage for Sergei Berezin in an attempt to change the team’s fortunes. Although much of the team’s success for the rest of the season can be attributed to Jose Theodore, following his return from injury.
Theodore’s performance earned him the Vezina trophy, the Hart trophy, and the Roger Crozier trophy. Captain Koivu made his return to the ice at the end of the season during the NHL classic to a standing ovation at the Bell Centre. Koivu was awarded the Bill Masterton trophy for qualities of perseverance and sportsmanship. The team eventually fell to the Carolina Hurricanes during the playoffs.
The Canadiens were optimistic at the start of the 2002-’03 season. Rookie Andrei Markov, along with Koivu, Richard Zednik, and Yanic Perreault, headed up the Habs’ offensive line. Mid-season, the team got a major shakeup when Andre Savard fired Michel Therrien, replacing him with Claude Julien. Julien’s addition to the team proved unfruitful and the team failed to secure a spot in the playoffs for the fourth time in five years.
Former star player Bob Gainey returned to the Canadiens organization at the beginning of the 2003-’04 season, replacing Andre Savard as the team’s GM. The Habs’ didn’t really hit their stride until the Heritage Classic, which was also the first game in NHL history to be played outdoors (and in minus 20 weather at the Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton).
The Canadiens beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 after a pre-game played by legends from both teams, such as Guy Lafleur and Wayne Gretzky. Their victory at the Heritage Classic set off a series of wins for the team, who earned 25 points in 20 games. Their continued success garnered them eighth place in the Eastern Conference. However they eventually fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning during the playoffs.
There was no true 2004-’05 season, as no games were played by any team in the NHL. The NHL Players’ Association and the team owners negotiated unsuccessfully for months until the season was officially cancelled on February 16, 2005. The NHL changed the rules leading up to the 2005-’06 season, including the addition of the shootout, with the NHLPA and the owners agreeing to terms on July 13, 2005. With the fifth selection overall at the NHL Entry Draft, the Canadiens selected future star Carey Price, who went on to become one of the best goalies in the NHL.
Many new faces joined the team at the beginning of the 2005-’06 season, including Tomas Plekanec, Mark Streit, Christopher Higgins, and goaltender Cristobal Huet. The team experienced a few ups and downs from October until December when the team fell into eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
Bob Gainey fired Claude Julien in January of 2006, stepping behind the bench himself and hired Guy Carbonneau as associate coach. The plan was for Carbonneau to take over as head coach for the following season.
Huet’s goals-against average of 2.20 earned him the Roger Crozier trophy, awarded to the goalie with the best save percentage. The Canadiens earned a spot in the playoffs, however, they were defeated in the first round by the Carolina Hurricanes in game six.
Bob Gainey made a series of four minor moves at the start of the 2006-’07 season. Carbonneau’s inaugural season as a coach in the NHL started with a bang, as the Canadiens lost only two of their games in the first month of the season. By the middle of the season, they sat in third place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 21-9-5.
The team began to slide in the second half of the season, and eventually the Habs fell to the Toronto Maple Leafs, losing their shot at the playoffs. Saku Koivu was awarded the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for leadership and humanitarian contributions at the end of the season.
At the beginning of the 2007-’08 season, Carey Price joined the Canadiens as the backup to Cristobal Huet, and played 41 games during the regular season, recording three shutouts and a 2.56 goals-against average.
The team made an incredible comeback in a game against the New York Rangers on February 19, coming back from a 5-0 deficit and winning the game thanks to a shootout goal by Saku Koivu. The finished the season with 104 points, claiming first place in the Northeast Division.
The Habs faced off against the Bruins, against former coach Claude Julien. In the first round of the playoffs the Canadiens won the series 4-3. However, the Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Habs 4-1 in their series, ending the team’s best playoff run since the 1992-’93 season.
The 2008-’09 season marked the team’s 100th anniversary as an organization. In November, all-star goalie Patrick Roy‘s number 33 was retired and raised to the rafters at the Bell Centre. Future captain Max Pacioretty got his start with the organization, making multiple trips between Hamilton and Montreal.
After a series of failures, Bob Gainey fired Guy Carbonneau as the team’s coach, once again taking over the mantle himself and eventually leading the team to eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately, the team was swept in the playoffs by the Boston Bruins, who won the series 4-0.
Before the 2009-’10 season began, the Montreal Canadiens were bought by Geoff Molson. The deal was finalized three days before the team’s centennial on December 1, 2009.
In February of 2010, Bob Gainey announced his retirement as GM, being replaced by Pierre Gauthier. The team went into the regular season without any of it’s unrestricted free agents, including team captain Saku Koivu. The Habs also got a new head coach in Jacques Martin, joining Kirk Muller and Perry Pearn behind the bench.
Despite all of these changes, and a team plagued by injuries, the Canadiens performed admirably during the regular season, finishing fourth in the Northeast Division and 19th overall in the NHL with 88 points. The Habs had two incredibly tough series in a row, beating both the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins (and Sidney Crosby) 4-3 in each series. They eventually lost their series against the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1, ending their playoff run.