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20 Montreal
Team Page | 2002-2003 Schedule | Roster | 2001-2002 Player Stats | Arrivals and departures

Thanks to José Théodore, the storied franchise has playoff potential again

By Michael Farber

Click for larger image
Richard Zednik.  David E. Klutho
SI Fast Fact
Last season goaltender José Théodore became the12th different Canadien to win the Hart Trophy since it was introduced in 1924.
SI Insider Rankings
Offense: 15
Small, skilled group could wear down by season's end
Defense: 19
Mobile unit; rookies Hainsey, Komisarek will help
Goaltending: 2
Théodore proved he's one of league's best
Special Teams: 17
Dackell, Juneau are penalty-killing gems
Management: 19
Therrien has to make up for postseason gaffe

Sports Illustrated The Canadiens have not won the Stanley Cup in almost a decade, but their 24 championships and nearly unbroken lineage of homegrown greats -- from Maurice Richard to Jean Béliveau to Guy Lafleur to Patrick Roy -- still prompt Montrealers to refer to them as Les Glorieux: The Glorious. Now, six years after Roy's unceremonious exile, the franchise has another bauble on this string of stars, a goaltender with matinee-idol looks and prime-time skill, José Théodore. In 2001-02 Théodore became the third goalie in history to win the Hart and Vezina trophies in the same season. (Dominik Hasek of the Sabres and another Montreal demigod, Jacques Plante, are the others.) With his sparkling .931 save percentage, the 26-year-old Théodore apparently mesmerized even teammates: Montreal was outshot in 58 of the 76 games in which he started (including postseason matches).

Théodore should have more help this time around. After facing so much adversity last season -- captain Saku Koivu's non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, the clothesline that knocked out winger Richard Zednik in the first playoff round and some poor coaching by Michel Therrien that may have cost the Canadiens a shot at an Eastern Conference finals berth -- Montreal enters '02-03 with a cancer-free Koivu and its deepest team since the mid-1990s. More good news: The league's announced crackdown on obstruction should favor a club of smurfs that ranked 15th among last season's 16 playoff qualifiers in regular-season goals. While the Canadiens' squishy defense will suffer with the early-season absence of their most physical blueliner, Sheldon Souray (wrist surgery), it opens a spot for puck-moving rookie Ron Hainsey.

General manager André Savard has rebuilt the infrastructure that crumbled shamefully during the previous regime, but this is still a finesse team that was exposed in the playoffs as being incapable of handling robust forwards or beating big defensemen. Still, if too-small Montreal earns a playoff berth -- which won't come easily because so many other Eastern Conference teams are improved -- a goalie will lead them. Do you know the way, Saint José?

Issue date: October 14, 2002