MONTREAL - After winning half a dozen Stanley Cups together as teammates on the Canadiens' dominant teams of the 1970s, it's only fitting that Serge Savard and Ken Dryden will each see their numbers immortalized by the Canadiens in 2006-07.
Savard will see his No. 18 get raised to the rafters just prior to the Canadiens facing the Atlanta Thrashers, while Dryden's No. 29 will get the royal treatment on Jan. 29 when the Habs host the Ottawa Senators.
One was a relentless blue liner and an integral part of the greatest trio of defensemen the league has ever seen. The other was as tall and as dominant a goalie you could find anywhere. With a combined 14 Stanley Cups between them, this pair of Hall of Famers certainly made their mark on the rich history of the Canadiens.
The personification of toughness and determination, Savard's impact on the Habs' blue line was felt immediately. After beginning his 14-year career with the Canadiens in 1967-68, Savard first made his mark during the Habs' Stanley Cup run in the spring of 1969. The then-23-year-old put up 10 points in 14 postseason games, on his way to becoming the first defenseman to ever win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
One of the most courageous players to ever wear the Canadiens' sweater, Savard overcame numerous fractures of his left leg over the span of only two seasons in the early 1970s. Despite undergoing several surgeries, Savard bounced back every time, never missing a beat as he remained one of the game's most dominant defensemen.
Along with fellow Habs defensemen Larry Robinson and Guy Lapointe, Savard formed a defensive force that would aptly be tagged the Big Three, which provided the foundation for a Canadiens juggernaut that would go on to rule the NHL in the 1970s. A four-time NHL All-Star, Savard sits third all-time among Habs blue liners in career goals (100), and fourth in both assists (312) and points (412).
The Montreal native also served as the Canadiens' 19th captain, having worn the "C" from 1979 though 1981. After finishing his NHL playing career with the Winnipeg Jets, Savard returned to the Canadiens family prior to the 1983-84 season as general manager, where he was the architect of Stanley Cup winning teams in 1986 and 1993. Savard was inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1986.
Serge Savard and Ken Dryden routinely made life difficult for NHL stars like Bobby Clarke of the Flyers.
Snatched from the Bruins in exchange for two players who would go on to never play a single NHL game, Dryden's acquisition remains one of the greatest steals in league history. The Cornell graduate burst onto the scene late in the 1970-71 season, winning all six of his starts to secure the starting job for the playoffs.
The unproven rookie went on to carry the Canadiens to an improbable Stanley Cup run that spring, which was capped off with Dryden earning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. With only his six regular season games under his belt, Dryden was then still eligible for the Calder Trophy in 1971-72, which was bad news for that year's rookie class. Dryden earned the honor and remains the only player to ever win the Conn Smythe before being named the league's top rookie.
Dryden would go on to lead the Canadiens to a total of six Stanley Cups, including Montreal's incredible stretch of four straight championships from 1976 through 1979.
His 6-foot-4 frame served him well over the course of his short yet scintillating eight-year career with the six-time Vezina Trophy winner still holding the club record for wins in a season (42), while sitting third in career victories (258), goals against average (2.24) and shutouts (46). The four-time All-Star retired following the 1978-79 season and was inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983.
Savard and Dryden's jerseys will soon be high above the ice at the Bell Centre alongside the 10 other players to have been paid the ultimate tribute by the Canadiens: Howie Morenz (No. 7, on November 2, 1937), Maurice Richard (No. 9, on October 6, 1960), Jean Bliveau (No. 4, on October 9, 1971), Henri Richard (No. 16, on December 10, 1975), Guy Lafleur (No. 10, on February 16 1985), Doug Harvey (No. 2, on October 26, 1985), Jacques Plante (No. 1, on October 7, 1995), as well as, Dickie Moore/Yvan Cournoyer (No. 12 on November 12, 2005) and Bernard Geoffrion (No. 5 on March 11, 2006) who had their numbers retired last season.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com