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Carbonneau's versatility made him Hockey Hall of Famer, Gainey says

Former Canadiens teammate praises forward's willingness to become two-way player

by Bob Gainey / Special to NHL.com

Hockey Hall of Fame forward Bob Gainey played all 16 of his seasons, from 1973-74 to 1988-89, for the Montreal Canadiens, and was their captain the last eight of those seasons. He was voted winner of the Selke Trophy as the League's best defensive forward the first four years it was awarded (1978-81).

Gainey would be a teammate, template and mentor for Guy Carbonneau, and later a general manager who traded for him as a player with the Dallas Stars and hired him as Canadiens coach.

Here, in a special testimonial for NHL.com, Gainey shares his thoughts on Carbonneau, who will go into the Hall of Fame on Monday:

 

Guy Carbonneau has earned and deserves the recognition and honor of being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame -- to be among the best who played the game.

My first vivid memory of Guy is from Canadiens training camp in 1981. I am on the practice ice, he is standing in the exit way at the northwest corner of the Montreal Forum, shoulders slumped, dejected. He has been informed he is returning to the American Hockey League's Nova Scotia Voyageurs for another year.

What he does next is the earmark of what he will do over and over again during and after his NHL playing career.

Carbo had come to camp following an impressive 88-point AHL rookie season in 1980-81 (35 goals, 53 assists). Back with Nova Scotia in 1981-82, he has an even better year as an AHL sophomore, refining his skills, resetting his goals and producing more offense, scoring 94 points (27 goals, 67 assists). And Guy matures as a person and a player. In the fall of 1982, he steps right in as a full-time productive player with Montreal.

Carbo possessed an indomitable spirit, a deep belief system, elite hockey intelligence. He was a complete package: skill, smarts, drive, leadership.

Guy had another thing going for him: the ability to adjust to new situations and maximize that new role. I witnessed this twice in his playing career.

Carbo was an elite offensive player for four seasons from 1976-80 with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Chicoutimi Sagueneens, scoring 435 points (171 goals, 264 assists), and the Voyageurs for two seasons from 1980-82, scoring 182 points (62 goals, 120 assists).

In Montreal, under the tutelage of coach Jacques Lemaire, Guy quickly transitioned into a superior two-way player. Over the next 10 years, he would assume the role of Canadiens captain (from 1990-94, after sharing the duties with Chris Chelios in 1989-90), win two Stanley Cup titles (1986, 1993), be voted winner of the Selke Trophy three times (1988, 1989, 1992) as the NHL's best defensive forward, and be remarkably consistent in games played and points produced.

Carbo and a group of teammates like Patrick Roy, Mats Naslund, Chris Chelios and Claude Lemieux would keep the Canadiens at the top of the NHL standings and perennial Stanley Cup contenders.

In 1994, his situation changed again with a trade to the St. Louis Blues, and he was traded to the Dallas Stars a year later. In Dallas under coach Ken Hitchcock, Guy played fewer minutes in a more uniquely defensive role and was a leader and mentor.

Guess what? He adjusted, he found a way to accomplish more with less, he excelled, and so did the Stars, winning the Presidents' Trophy twice (1998, 1999) and the Stanley Cup in 1999. Carbo and teammates like Mike Modano, Joe Nieuwendyk, Sergei Zubov, Brett Hull and Ed Belfour would entrench the Stars in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where they continue to prosper today.

Bravo, Carbo! Tu le merites. Il n'y a personne qui le sait plus que moi. J'ai pu apprecier ton talent sur la glace en jouant a ta gauche et sur la galerie de presse quand j'etais le directeur general des Stars. (Bravo, Carbo! You deserve this honor, and there is no one who knows this better than me, from the ice as your left wing, and from the press box as general manager of the Stars.)

I witnessed, I marveled, I benefited. Your drive to be your best, always, has now placed you deservedly among the best as a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Felicitations a toi, et Line et a toute ta famille. (Congratulations to you and your wife, Line, and your family.)

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