A three-time Stanley Cup champion, for two decades, Guy Carbonneau reinvented himself from a high-scoring junior into one of the National Hockey League’s premier defensive forwards of his era.
Carbonneau was born March 18, 1960. He was a scoring sensation during his four seasons of junior, playing with the Chicoutimi Saugeneens of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). By his third season, in 1978-79, he had scored 62 times and contributed 141 points. The following season, he earned a spot on the QMJHL Second All-Star Team after scoring 72 goals and 182 points. That season, he also served just six minutes in penalties. Carbonneau’s number 21 was later retired by the Chicoutimi franchise.
Curiously, Carbonneau was not chosen by an NHL team in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft in 1979 after collecting 435 regular points in four QMJHL seasons. Instead, he was drafted in the second round, 44th overall by the Montreal Canadiens. Carbonneau was quickly instructed that if he was going to make hockey a career, he had to learn to play in both ends of the rink. He spent two seasons with the American Hockey League affiliate, the Nova Scotia Voyageurs, although he did get into two NHL games with the parent Canadiens during the 1980-81 season. He made his fulltime NHL debut during the 1982-83 season.
Carbonneau had learned his lessons well. Although he had been an offensive threat every time he stepped onto the ice in junior, his strong defensive work really established him as an NHL star. He helped the Canadiens win the Stanley Cup in 1986, Guy’s first championship. His diligent work as a defensive forward drew the accolades of the Canadiens faithful, who chanted, “Guy! Guy!” every time he was on the ice. In 1987-88, Carbonneau earned the first of his three Frank Selke Memorial Trophies as the league’s top defensive forward. He earned a second consecutive Selke Trophy in 1988-89. By 1989-90, he was named captain of the Montreal Canadiens.
A third Selke Trophy came Carbonneau’s way following the 1991-92 season. In the spring of 1993, newly appointed NHL commissioner Gary Bettman handed the Stanley Cup to Guy Carbonneau after his Montreal Canadiens toppled the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final.
Don’t be deceived – while Carbonneau excelled in a defensive role, he hadn’t lost the hands that made him a scoring star in junior. In ten of his 12 seasons with the Montreal Canadiens, Carbonneau scored 15 or more goals. He enjoyed a career-best 26 goals in 1988-89 while his career-best point total of 57 was collected during the 1984-85 season.
After four seasons serving as captain of the Canadiens, prior to the 1994-95 season, Carbonneau was dealt to the St. Louis Blues, but it was his only season in Missouri. Before the following season, he was traded to the Dallas Stars where Guy spent the final five seasons of his NHL career. The Stars won and finished first overall in back-to-back seasons (1997-98 and 1998-99), earning the Presidents’ Trophy. In 1999, Carbonneau was part of a third Stanley Cup championship when the Stars won that franchise’s first championship. They almost made it a second, going to the Stanley Cup Final again in 1999-2000, but Dallas was defeated by the New Jersey Devils this time.
Guy Carbonneau concluded his 18-season playing career following the 1999-2000 season, having played 1,318 regular season NHL games and scoring 260 goals and adding 403 assists for 663 points. In playoff action, Carbonneau scored 38 goals and 55 assists for 93 points in 234 post-season contests.
While the NHL had recognized Guy Carbonneau’s defensive prowess three times as winner of the Frank J. Selke Memorial Trophy, in 2005, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League created the Guy Carbonneau Trophy (Trophee Guy Carbonneau) to be awarded annually to the QMJHL player judged to be the best defensive forward.