Guy Carbonneau, acquired in a trade with the St. Louis Blues in 1995, played five seasons for the Dallas Stars, scoring a total of 34 goals and 66 assists over those years. But the former captain of the Montreal Canadians was a huge part of those dominant Stars teams before he retired after the 1999-2000 season, leading the emotional effort from a gritty third line and representing the tough, defense-first hockey that ran roughshod over the NHL.
Why He's On The List:
Watch the YouTube video linked at the top of this post. That was the essence of Carbonneau with the Stars. The three-time Selke Award winner helped set the tone for the gritty, defensive game the Stars imposed upon their opponents, and his defensive play and playoff experience was a huge part of the Stanley Cup victory in 1999 and run back to the Finals in 2000. While his statistics might not sparkle like some others on this list, his real importance to the team came from the things that are hard to measure, things they sorely missed when he retired. His knack for finding the puck along the boards as well as his ability to supremely irritate the players he was defending through sheer persistence of his puck pursuit are among the best in Stars history and help earn him a spot on this list.
More after the jump...
Again, I go back to the video, which tied Game 5 of the 1998 Western Conference Finals series and sent it to overtime.
After the puck is sent around the board in the Dallas zone, Carbonneau makes sure it gets out by being in perfect position for a breakout. He gets it in deep despite the harassment from the Detroit Red Wings player, then goes and gets the puck himself in the far corner, preventing an easy clear with a solid assist from Mike Keane.
Then despite losing and edge and falling along the end boards, he maintains control of the puck and gets it to the front of the net. When that bounces away harmlessly, he once again retrieves the puck and, while falling, puts a pass on the tape of Sergei Zubov at the point. Zubov, being probably the smartest player ever to lace the skates up in Dallas, knows who has the hot hand on the shift, and he waits only a beat before giving the puck right back to Carbonneau for a snap shot that beats Chris Osgood.
Near the end of the clip, the announcer says "Carbonneau, you could see it all over him, he said he's going to do something about it if nobody else will. And he did."
That's the essence of Carbonneau. His incredible work rate and ability to drag the rest of his teammates with him when faced with something like a third-period deficit against the defending Stanley Cup champions in an elimination game is something that is hard to quantify, but it's something fans saw over and over during his tenure with the Stars..
Carbonneau had nothing to prove by the time he came to Dallas at the age of 36, traded by the Blues for Paul Broten. He was the former captain of the Montreal Canadians and had two Stanley Cups and three Selke Awards to his name. He had played nearly 1,000 NHL games with more than 200 goals and a career +/- rating of +169.
But he always played like he was trying to prove people wrong. In the 1999 playoffs, he suffered a knee injury and took a brief leave to mourn the death of his father but still managed to be the engine that drove the Stars third line.
In a fun little tidbit, Jere Lehtinen's rookie year was Carbonneau's first with the Stars, and I don't think it's coincidence that you can trace the "best defensive forward in the game" mantle from Carbonneau, who was mentored by previous title-holder Bob Gainey, directly to Stars fans favorite Finn.
That alone would have gotten him a least an honorable mention on this list. And his status as one of the top defensive forwards to ever play for the Stars as well as his importance to the Stanley Cup champion cements his status as one of the Top 20 Dallas Stars players of all time.