Saturday

Benoit Brunet

Following their Stanley Cup victory in 1993, the Montreal Canadiens fell on hard times for a good decade. Fans were unaccustomed to such poor results and the missing of playoffs.

To make matters worse, there seemed to be a mass exodus of Francophone players from Montreal. After Patrick Roy's departure, was there a top player in Montreal who also happened to be from Quebec?

He may not have been a front line player, but I always had great respect for one Quebecois player who was always proud to pull on the famous red, white and blue sweater: Benoit Brunet.

Brunet's career closely mirrored that of Guy Carbonneau's, Brunet's one time linemate. Both were explosive scorers in junior and in the minor leagues but both were turned into defensive specialists in the NHL.

Brunet possessed a strong work ethic and came to play each and every night, thus making him a dressing room leader. He was probably one of the NHL's best kept secrets in the 1990s, even quite anonymous in Montreal. He was one of the top defensive forwards in the league, quiet and efficient in his role, all too often unappreciated, too.

Brunet retired in 2002 and later became an analyst on French broadcasts of Montreal games.

Brunet was strong on his skates with a nice burst of speed. He forechecked tenaciously. At 5'11" and 195lbs and not the strongest athlete on the ice he was overmatched at times. But through a strong understanding of positioning he was able to smother opponents and dart in and out of high traffic areas. He tried to play bigger than he was, but he would end up spending a lot of time in the infirmary nursing his wounds. Only once did he play over 70 games in a NHL season.

Offensively Brunet had some ability. He did not have the greatest set of hands by any stretch, but with his speed he often would cut to the net with a great deal of confidence. He would only score 101 goals in his career, never more than 14 in a single season, yet it seemed as though every time he did score it was an important goal.

Brunet was a great utility player. Ideally he was on the checking line playing his low risk, all hustle game plan. When injuries occurred or when indifferent team play warranted it, the coach was quick to upgrade Brunet to one of the top lines to infuse some life. He was able to play on top lines, at least for short periods of time, and provide hustle, defense and some offense.

Brunet, who ended his career with quick stops in Dallas and Ottawa, played 539 games in the NHL, scoring 101 goals and 262 points. He added 5 goals and 25 points in 54 career playoff games. 10 of those playoff points came in 1993 when he helped the Canadiens win the Stanley Cup.

2 comments:

eHabs 1:35 PM  

Unfortunately Brunet was a better player than a TV hockey analyst.

Alain Jolicoeur 6:32 PM  

That 's for sure

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