The Montreal Canadiens have entered the quietest time on the calendar. While there is little to look forward to in the month of August, we decided to take a look back at some of the greatest players in franchise history. We continue our site countdown of the five best defensemen in Canadiens history with the number three ranked D-Man, Serge Savard.
Serge Savard grew up in Landrienne, a small town of roughly 1000 people in the northern Quebec region of Abitibi. Although his childhood was spent about as far removed from the bright lights and the big city of Montreal as you can get, the Senator, as he would come to be known, has always embraced the spotlight.
Savard spent four years in the Montreal Canadiens farm system, which included stops in places like Omaha and Houston. After a cup of coffee with the big team the previous year, he arrived on the main stage for good at the start of the 1967-68 season.
The impact of his towering 6’3”, 210 lb frame was felt immediately as Savard dressed in 67 regular season games and six playoff games in his rookie season. As the youngest member of the defense corps, his contributions were vital in the Canadiens run to a Stanley Cup title.
The following season, Savard really came into his own. He doubled his regular season point total and had a playoff performance for the ages. In leading the Canadiens to their second consecutive Stanley Cup in 1969, Savard became the first defenseman in NHL history to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs.
As the calendar turned to a new decade, Savard would encounter some of the biggest lows and highs in his hockey career. He suffered catastrophic injuries, breaking his leg twice within a one-year span, causing him to miss large parts of the next three seasons. Despite the injury concerns, he was selected to play for Canada in the iconic 1972 Summit Series. An experience Savard recalls as one of the best of his life.
With Savard on the mend, the Canadiens found reinforcements on the back end in the form of Guy Lapointe and Larry Robinson, and the team had positioned itself for one of the most dominant runs in National Hockey League history. Over the next several years, The Big Three on defense, consisting of Lapointe, Robinson, and Savard, would be instrumental in the success of what many consider to be the greatest team ever assembled. They went on to win the Stanley Cup in 1973 and followed it with a string of four consecutive titles from 1976 to 1979.
While Savard was known less for his offensive prowess and more for his consistent play at both ends of the ice, he did have some flair to his game. He became known for the Savardian Spinorama, as coined by announcer Danny Gallivan, a move he learned watching Doug Harvey. It is a maneuver still used by defensemen today as a quick way to turn up ice and transition from defense to offense. As his best statistical season in 1974-75 illustrates, Savard was undoubtedly capable of putting up numbers, too.
That year he notched 20 goals and 40 assists for 60 points, setting career highs in all three categories. More often than not though, he was happy to leave the offense to his teammates and take care of business in his own end. His perseverance, dedication, and sportsmanship on and off the ice would be rewarded with a Bill Masterton Trophy in 1979. Soon after, the selfless leader was voted captain of the Canadiens by his teammates and wore the “C” proudly for two years, from 1979 to 1981.
Following his retirement as a player, The Senator added to his legacy by successfully transitioning to an executive. As General Manager of the club from 1983 to 1995, he was the architect of the last two Stanley Cup wins in franchise history in 1986 and 1993.
Savard would play 917 regular season games in a Canadiens uniform, scoring 100 goals and 312 assists for 412 points. He also played in 123 playoff games, registering 19 goals and 49 assists for 68 points. A true legend in Habs history, he won seven Stanley Cups in his career as a player and his contributions to the franchise will never be forgotten. Serge Savard was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1986 and had his number 18 retired in Montreal in 2006.