So, here we are, eighteen years after the Canadiens last won the Stanley Cup. Fans who remember the sixties and seventies must feel as though they're trudging through the desert with no oasis in sight, but, thanks to the Canucks choke job, the Habs remain the most recent Canadian champion.
Reflecting on the great moments of '93, and the players who provided them, one must wonder why that success didn't continue. The Canadiens had some very good players which should have either kept producing well or brought a solid return that would have produced in their stead. Shockingly, however, a series of absolutely disasterous trades let Cup-winning players go for guys who were never able to duplicate any level of their success. In fact, if you break down where each player ended up, and what the Habs got back, it turns out there are only two players affiliated with today's organization with any links at all to that last champion.
Take that year's Conn Smythe winner, for example. Patrick Roy was one of the best goaltenders the NHL had ever seen, and was instrumental in bringing the last two Cups to Montreal. When he and management fell out and Ronald Corey decided he had to go, Roy and heart-and-soul Mike Keane went to Colorado for Andrei Kovalenko, Martin Rucinsky and Jocelyn Thibault. Kovalenko was later traded to Edmonton Oilers for Scott Thornton, who was then traded for Juha Lind (who went back to Europe). Rucinsky was later included in a trade that sent Benoit Brunet to Dallas. Thibault went in the Dave Manson trade to Chicago. Neither the Rucinsky or Thibeault trades returned anything worthwhile to Montreal.
The Cup-winning captain, Guy Carbonneau, was dumped to the St.Louis Blues one year later for Jim Montgomery, who was claimed off of waivers after playing five totally unproductive games for the Canadiens.
The big stars on offense went for little-to-nothing as well. Brian Bellows, who put up 88 points in '93, and 15 more in the playoffs, was traded for Marc Bureau who later left as a free agent.
Vincent Damphousse, led the team in scoring in the Cup-winning season with 98 points, and was traded to Tampa for draft picks that became Marcel Hossa (traded for Garth Murray, who was lost to waivers) and Marc-Andre Thinel (left for Europe).
Kirk Muller was the second-highest scorer on the '93 Habs, and a revered leader in the dressing room. He has a complicated legacy with the Canadiens. Two years after the Cup win he was traded to the Islanders for Vladimir Malakhov (later traded to New Jersey Devils for Sheldon Souray (walked as a free agent), Josh DeWolf (left for Germany) and round 2 pick in the 2001 draft (Andreas Holmqvist, who played out his career in Europe)) and Pierre Turgeon. Turgeon was later traded to St. Louis Blues for Murray Baron, Shayne Corson (left as a free agent) and 5th-rounder in the 1997 draft (Gennady Razin who left for Russia). Baron was traded for Dave Manson the same year. Manson was later traded to the Chicago Blackhawks for Jeff Hackett, Eric Weinrich, Alain Nasreddine and a conditional draft pick (Chris Dyment, traded for a Czech pick who never came over, who, in turn was traded for Michael Lambert who never made the NHL). Hackett was traded to San Jose Sharks for Niklas Sundstrom (left Montreal for Sweden) and a 3rd-round pick in the 2004 draft (Paul Baier, who never made the NHL) who became part of a package to the Kings for Christobal Huet and Radek Bonk.) Huet was traded to Washington for a 2nd round pick (which became Jeremy Morin), which was traded along with the Habs 2010 3rd to Atlanta for Mathieu Schneider (left as a free agent) and a third round pick (Joonas Nattinen). Weinrich was traded to Boston for Patrick Traverse (later traded for Mathieu Biron, who left for Europe). Nasreddine was traded to to Edmonton Oilers for Christian Laflamme (left as a free agent) and Matthieu Descoteaux (left for Europe). So, Nattinen, recently signed to an entry-level deal with the Habs, is one of the two players directly connected to the '93 Cup victory.
Then there's the defence. The Cup-winning defence consisted of, at various times, Eric Desjardins, Mathieu Schneider, Kevin Haller, Patrice Brisebois, J.J.Daigneault, Lyle Odelein, Rob Ramage, Sean Hill and Donald Dufresne. Daigneault was traded to St. Louis Blues for Pat Jablonski, who, in turn, was traded to Phoenix Coyotes for Steve Cheredaryk (left as a minor-league free agent). Schneider was included in the Muller trade to the Islanders. Haller was traded to Philly for Yves Racine, who was then claimed on waivers by San Jose. Breezer left as a free agent. Odelein was traded to Devils for Stephane Richer, who was then traded to Tampa Bay Lightning for Patrick Poulin (demoted and retired), Igor Ulanov (included in Nasreddine trade) and Mick Vukota (went to IHL and then retired). Ramage was traded to the Flyers for cash. Hill was claimed in the expansion draft by the Ducks. Dufresne was a weird one. He actually was traded for Rob Ramage, but as a "future consideration." Because Tampa hadn't settled that part of the trade with Montreal, both Dufresne and Ramage won the Cup.
Then there's Desjardins. He, along with Gilbert Dionne and John LeClair went to Philly in one of the worst trades of the period. They were traded for Mark Recchi and a 3rd-round pick in the 1995 draft (Martin Hohenberger, who left for Europe). Recchi was later traded back to the Flyers for Dainius Zubrus, a 2nd-round pick in the 1999 draft (Matt Carkner, who left as a free agent) and a 6th-round pick in the 2000 draft (Scott Selig, who left hockey in 2006). Zubrus was traded to the Capitals for Jan Bulis, who left as a free agent, Richard Zednik and a first-round pick in the 2001 draft (Alexander Perezhogin, who left for Europe). Zednik was traded for a Capitals 3rd-round pick in 2007. That pick was Olivier Fortier, the only other player in the Canadiens organization with a direct link to the '93 Cup.
If a team is to have long-term success, it needs to make the most of its assets over the years. Some of the players the Canadiens got back for the Cup-winners they traded were useful and helped the team for a time. In the end, however, management's failure to bring back a solid return for star players like Roy, LeClair, Muller, Damphousse and Desjardins, as well as important support players like Carbonneau, resulted in the arid period of stagnation we witnessed through many of the years following that Cup win.
It's kind of sad that the legacy of the last Canadian champion consists of only Olivier Fortier and Joonas Nattinen; a third-line grinder with a big heart and a Finnish centreman who's good on the draw. They may or may not ever make the NHL, but back in '93, you wouldn't have traded both of them for Guy Carbonneau. As it turns out, the Canadiens traded the entire Stanley Cup-winning team for them.