April 20, 2018
Minister of Defense: Serge Savard
Serge Savard was a key component of the Montreal Canadiens dynasty in the 1970s. A consummate professional, Savard sacrificed personal awards and statistics for the success of his team and his teammates. Such selflessness allowed the Guy Lafleurs, Steve Shutts and Larry Robinsons achieve great acclaim, although Savard too received much recognition for his fine play.
Savard, nicknamed "The Senator" and the "Minister of Defense," played 16 seasons with the Habs, including being named captain for 2 of those years. With Savard in the line up, the Canadiens won 8 Stanley Cup championships, including 4 successive Cups from 1976 to 1979.
Savard is best known as a member of The Big Three. Along with Larry Robinson and Guy Lapointe, Savard helped to make what many consider to be the best blue line in NHL history. No other team, say many experts, has ever iced three defenseman of the same quality as The Big Three.
Savard was the elder statesman of The Big Three. A native Montrealer, Savard graduated from the Junior Canadiens to turn pro in 1966. By the 1967-68 season he was on his way to a standout career, winning his first Stanley Cup.
In just his second NHL season, Savard progressed nicely during the regular season, but dominated in the playoffs. He played incredibly through the entire post season, and picked up 4 goals and 10 points in 14 games to earn him the Conn Smythe Trophy as the NHL's Most Valuable Player in the playoffs. Savard became the first defenseman in history to win the award.
Tragedy struck Savard on January 30, 1971. In a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, who had already had a history of knee and leg injuries, broke bones in both of his legs. He would be able to participate in only 60 games over the 1970-71 and 1971-72 seasons.
Despite the major set back, Savard was cleared to play for the the 1971-72 season. Before the season got underway Serge was asked to represent Canada against the Soviets in the now-fabled 1972 Summit Series. It is well documented jus how much trouble he Canadians had with their Soviet counterparts, but Savard had a calming influence on the team and made a significant difference when he played. Savard played in only 5 of the 8 games against the Russians, and Team Canada never lost a match, going 4-0-1. Coincidence? Maybe, but there can be no doubt that Savard was a big part of the games that he did play in.
Savard returned to the NHL and continued his steady and spectacular play. However he was never noted as much of an offensive threat until the 1974-75 season. Coming off of a 4 goal, 18 point season the previous year, Serge exploded with a 20 goal, 60 point season. That season proved to be a bit of a fluke, as Serge never returned to those numbers again, although he was a consistent 5-10 goal and 40+ point threat through the rest of the Canadiens dynasty in the late 1970s.
Savard stayed in Montreal until the conclusion of the 1980-81 season. The Habs were looking to bring in some youth and exposed Savard on the preseason waiver draft. The Winnipeg Jets, the worst team in hockey, eagerly claimed the wily veteran. The Jets, who had never made the playoffs and finished the previous season with an awful 32 points, convinced Savard to play for them as opposed to retiring. In Savard's first year with Winnipeg, the Jets made the playoffs and improved by 48 points!
Despite suffering two broken legs early in his career, Savard has an impressive collection of awards. Savard earned the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player in the Stanley Cup playoffs in 1969, and was also awarded the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. He was also named in 1979 to the NHL Second All-Star Team. Serge likely would have been named to more All Star Teams but he was overshadowed by the offensive likes of Bobby Orr, Brad Park, Denis Potvin and teammates Robinson and Lapointe. Nonetheless, Serge is also an enshrined member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Following his playing career, Savard established himself as a top hockey executive with the Montreal Canadiens, as well as astute and successful business man.