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 managers in franchise history. We continue up our site countdown of the five best general managers in Canadiens history with number two, Frank J. Selke.
The Montreal Canadiens have won many Stanley Cups over the years, but two eras of the team stand out above the rest. The team’s built in the late 1970’s are widely regarded as the best NHL team ever assembled, but even they did not win as many Stanley Cups in a row as the Canadiens dynasty of the late 1950’s and into 1960.
Frank J. Selke was the architect of those teams, and he arrived after a successful stint with the rival Toronto Maple Leafs. Selke was the assistant to Conn Smythe who was running the Maple Leafs in the 1930’s and into the 1940’s, and Selke took over when Smythe went off to serve in World War II.
Upon Smythe’s return, the two clashed over a big trade the Maple Leafs pulled off while Smythe was away. Smythe was upset with Selke for trading away Frank Eddolls, though he landed Ted Kennedy in the deal. In the long run, it would prove to be one of the best trades the Leafs ever made, but Selke saw the writing on the wall and resigned from the Maple Leafs in 1946.
Shortly thereafter he would be named the general manager of the Montreal Canadiens ahead of the 1946-47 season. The Canadiens were not exactly in need of a makeover as they had just won the Stanley Cup and featured one of the greatest lines of all time as the Punch line of Rocket Richard, Elmer Lach and Toe Blake was at the height of its powers.
However, no one could have expected the level of complete dominance that was about to occur in Montreal.
While a rebuild was not necessary, Selke knew the importance of building from within and constantly adding new, young pieces to make the team better for the long term. He created an extensive farm system for the Canadiens, giving young players top quality competition to help develop their games before joining the Canadiens.
Shortly after taking over as general manager, Selke had added Doug Harvey and Jacques Plante to the farm system and they would develop into two of the best players to ever play in Montreal.
It took seven years for Selke to win his first Stanley Cup with the Canadiens, but he did so in 1953 with Harvey and other Selke finds like Boom Boom Geoffrion playing huge roles. Plante also made his debut that season and allowed just four goals in three games, but did not take over as the starter for a couple more years.
After winning that first Stanley Cup, Selke had already set the foundation for a dynasty, especially when a young lad named Jean Beliveau showed up the following season. However, the Canadiens would lose in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 1954 and 1955. Then, another Selke signing, Henri Richard joined the team, Plante was the unqiestioned number one in net and the team could no longer be stopped.
The Canadiens won five consecutive Stanley Cups, and their power play, run by Harvey, Geoffrion, Beliveau and Dickie Moore, all Selke finds, as well as The Rocket, was so good that minor penalties had to end after one goal was scored.
The team went 202-91-57 in the regular season in those five years and an astounding 40-9 in the postseason in that five year period.
The Canadiens did not win another Stanley Cup under Selke, and he retired in 1964 with six Stanley Cup titles in 18 seasons. Selke also set the table quite well as the organization won four of the next five Stanley Cups after he left, mostly with players that Selke acquired like Beliveau, Pockey Rocket and Yvan Cournoyer.
Adding Beliveau alone makes Selke among the best general managers in franchise history. But also brining in Plante, Harvey, Geoffrion, and Cournoyer makes him the second best general manager in Montreal Canadiens history.
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