Monday, April 30, 2012

Geoff Molson: 12 Steps to Recovery

Hello fellow Hab addicts, my name is Bryan Willey and it has been almost 2 months since my last confession... errrrr blog.

I apologize for the delay. Quite frankly though, this season has been a complete write-off for me.

I am fan through and through just like the rest of you. But my complete and utter lack of confidence in Pierre Gauthier — and especially Bob Gainey — made me nauseous to the point where I found myself hating the game and the team that I grew up loving.

100 years of class and pride was almost completely erased because of a complete mismanagement of assets, a complete lack of respect for the fan base and, especially, a complete lack of respect for the CH itself.

I, like many of you out there, have been preaching for change for many, many years but those wishes often went by the wayside. Ownership simply did not want to hear, nor admit, that there was a problem.

As such, the organization continued to spiral out of control, seeing only occasional periods of success — namely the 2010 playoff run. The arena was full, sweaters were selling and the coffers were full of the hard earned money of the average fan. But then it happened. President and owner Geoff Molson stepped from the shadows and did the unthinkable.

A confession was made. A confession of guilt and wrong doing. A confession that something was in fact wrong with the management of the team and that change was needed.

Shhhhhhhh, be quiet for a second and listen hard. Can you hear that?

“My name is Geoff Molson, and I have a problem.”

And, just like that, Molson begun his much needed 12 step journey to recovery.

I apologize if I offend anyone because addiction is no laughing matter. Frankly, I have nothing but respect towards anyone who takes the leap to battle their demons. However, if you know me well enough, then you certainly know that I try to find humour in everything.

It's my coping mechanism for an otherwise sheltered and difficult life. O.K, not really.

Think about this for a second though. Do you not see the correlation between the 12 steps of enlightenment for AA and the path to enlightenment that Geoff Molson now embarks on?

Right off the top, before one can even begin the journey to recovery one must find a mentor.  A person to serve as a guide through the difficult times. A person who has been there and has succeeded.

Enter Serge Savard.

Once that mentor has been found, it is time to cleanse.

Step 1: Admit to being powerless over the situation. Essentially admitting there is a problem.

Mr. Molson not only acknowledged there was a problem but sought immediate means to part with that problem by firing Pierre Gauthier and Bob Gainey.

Step 2: Come to belief that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Remember the words of Mr. Molson himself who publicly cited that he is not a hockey man and, as such, will leave the hockey decisions in the hands of someone more qualified.

Step 3: Make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of someone who understands.

Although that person has not yet been determined, Mr. Molson vows to have someone in place in the very near future. This person will be a qualified hockey mind who’ll reform the current image of the Bleu Blanc Rouge. I've recently heard that the search has been narrowed to Marc Bergevin, Claude Loiselle, Julien Brisebois and Pierre McGuire.

Step 4: Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of the situation.

Although the moral inventory started with Pierre Gauthier, it is widely admitted that this team is small, the coaching is questionable, the farm team lacks the depth to compete and the organization has gone more than 10 years in search of the proverbial big powerful center. Now it is a matter of ending the discussion and acting.

Step 5: Admit to ourselves, and to another human being, the exact nature of our wrongs.

Exact nature of our wrongs? Are you kidding me? The nature of our wrongs became the entire Gainey Era. If it was not for the superb work of Trevor Timmins to fill this roster with NHL calibre players then we would be a heck of a lot worse off. This organization has continued to be set back by poor personnel and pro scouting errors.

Step 6: We are entirely ready to remove all these defects of character.

Straight from the horses mouth, Mr. Molson is prepared to do whatever it takes. Whether that means burying a $7.4 million per season mistake in the AHL or hiring the most expensive Manager-Coach tandem in the NHL. All errors will be remedied in order to achieve betterment.

Step 7: Humbly asked to remove our shortcomings.

Do you not remember the year in review press conference? A public apology and a formal printed apology in the newspaper for the 2011-12 fiasco ensued.

Step 8: Make a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

To the 21,273 fans in the Bell Centre every game and the millions at home watching. To Mike Cammalleri for parting ways with like a piece of yesterdays trash. Without having the testicular fortitude to treat him with respect when he was traded from this organization. To Saku Koivu who gave all that he could to a city and to a franchise but who in reciprocation did not even get a phone call to tell him his services were no longer required.

Step 9: Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

What can be done to remedy all the wrongs that have been made. We have been stripped of Blue Chip prospects like Ryan McDonaugh and of strong players like Matt D’Agostini, Guillaume Latendresse, Mike Ribeiro, Michael Ryder, Sheldon Souray, Jaroslav Halak, Matt Carkner, Sergei Kostitsyn, Mikhail Grabovski, Mark Streit, Maxim Lapierre, Chris Higgins and Ron Hainsey.

So much wrong. So much pain.

Step 10: Continued to take inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

Yes, Mr. Gainey and Mr. Gauthier, you were wrong in trading for Scott Gomez and Tomas Kaberle. Yes you were wrong signing Mike Cammalleri and a bunch of other “more durable” players. Yes you were wrong in drafting David Fischer ahead of, say, Claude Giroux. You were wrong in letting Alex Kovalev, Saku Koivu and the remainder of that team depart via Free Agency without getting any assets in return.

Step 11: Sought through a long withstanding search under every rock and cranny to improve our conscious contact with the hockey world, praying only for knowledge of whom to hire with the power and ability to make us succeed.

No, a replacement to Gauthier has not been found, but there have been close to ten phone interviews and at least four face-to-face interviews to date. Geoff Molson and Serge Savard, at least in the public forum, appear to be searching for the most qualified individual to fill the void. Every rock and cranny — you know, with French speaking ability — will be analysed.

Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to Habs fans, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

The wheels are in motion, the promises have been made. It is now time to turn all Habs fans into believers.

Bryan is a Marketer by day, writer for by night and full time fan of the game. Follow me on twitter @BryanWilley78 but don't bother looking for me on Facebook, I'm just too old for that now!

(Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz)


being a recovering alcoholic and a die-hard Habs fan, i really appreciate this article, as it incorporates two of my favorite things; recovery and hockey.

Brilliant. Thanks you!!



Thanks for hitting me back but I gotta be honest. I can't tell if you are being sarcastic.

If you are a recovering Alcoholic then all the power to you. I know someone who is more than 20 years sober and still fighting. Nothing but respect man.

On a side note, I have no idea what I was thinking. I was lying in bed one day and it just kind of dawned on me of how bad this situation is with the team.

I just hope Molson stays on track and keeps fighting otherwise we are doomed once again

Sorry bud, dont agree with you and all the doom and gloom and negativity you place at Bob and Pierre's feet
but i am sure you will strike a cord with the majority.
Also, screw Cammalleri; he got what he asked for and deserved, good riddence.

I would agree with Anon, it is not all doom and gloom.
Some costly errors, absolutely. Gomez and Kaberle were not good moves but at least there was an attempt to make things better. I think pro scouting has been our biggest issue and needs to be addressed by the new GM.
Patience with young players is also an area we can improve but there are loads of examples league wide in this area.
We have a solid young core that many teams would love to have (Price, Subban, Pacioretty, Desharnais, Eller,
Emelin, Diaz, White and Leblanc.
I still like the Cammalleri trade, I think it's a safe bet Bourque will have a better season next year and we picked up a good prospect, a 2nd round pick, saved 3M on the cap and gained 5" and 30 lbs. Cammy was a big disappointment at 6M per year, with 1 great playoff performance saving any credibility he had in Mtl over a 3 year period.

What? How dare you disagree with me.

Ok I am over it. Dude tha is the joy of sports, we have opinions and disagree over issues. Personally I hated Gainey. Hate is probably too easy a word. I despised what he did as a GM. Firing Gauthier was a blessing but parting ways with Gainey too testicular fortitude and I am glad it is done.

As for Cammalleri. He did not perform here. I thought it was a bad move from the beginning but the way he was traded by Gauthier was just Mickey Mouse.

Oh well, thanks for the read and keep on disagreeing. I love it

Good musings in general but I have to say that hating Gainey is a bit of a strong emotion. I do not like what he did to the organization but he had the guts to admit that he failed and stepped down. As for Timmins, you were being ironic weren't you? This guy failed miserably as he hit 2 home runs in 9 years. He has to take the main responsibility for the shambles in Hamilton as well as the lack of high-end talent in Montreal. He was too fixated on bringing in players from inferior US minor leagues and ignored talent from under his nose. I don't expect Kristo, Cichy, Didier, Quailer, Bennett or Stejskal to lead this team out of the wilderness. Do you?

Good article Bryan, but you lost me a little on step 9. In my opinion, and obviously not including McDonough half of those guys had to go from the room & the ice. Takes me back though to the crappy pro-scouting, and terrible return on trades. Didn't mind losing some of these guys, but would've liked more than a bag of pucks in return.

I guess i appreciate Cammalleri as much as you do Bob and Pierre and i am being a bit unserious about his departure and Habs could of treated him as a pro (even when he acts like a baby, dont need to sink to his level).
Molson makes me a bit nervous, with his submarining of the Randy's a couple days into their new jobs and Molson not (seemingly) to have the balls to not say anything and cave to public/political pressure. And then he goes and hires a staunch Francophone promoter to select the new GM. Who should be only concerned with finding someone who is best for the team's success and not have a french hiring priority.
I hope i am off base and hope for the best, time will tell.

Do we really need to go back and look at where the Habs, as an organization, stood before Gainey arrived? And you despise him for that? The under-achievement we've seen this year isn't even a fraction as bad as the state of affairs in the early 2000s, not by a long shot.

Are we that small now? Is our cupboard that bare in the minors? We have like 7 REALLY good prospects, probably some of the most promising we have seen in a long time, coming to the farm this year.

So much of this is rife with hyperbole and revisionist history. Agreed, some of this may be attributed to your sarcasm, but seriously...there's a lot of pick apart here.

Strong players like D'Agostini? And his 18 points this year? Granted, he's coming off a concussion, but he's played like 1 playoff game so far. Latendresse? Let's see if he plays a full season in the near future or if he conquers his weight problem. Matt Carkner, eh? I think he played his first full season in the NHL at age 29 or 30. Not really the big fish that go away. Lapierre? What did he ever do other than provide a token French name onto a jersey? Higgins the party boy. It took him like 4 teams just to re-discover himself as a 3rd liner. And Sergei and Mikhail. Oh boy. Obviously the two couldn't play for the same team, both were team ditchers who failed to report to the minors. Tell me Grabovski is worth more than Plekanec, even if he can do a spinorama. Kostistyn, who i used to really root for is one of the most arrogant, petulant shits I've never met. Hearing this guy talk for 5 mins tells me there isn't an ounce of class in his Belorussian body. Let's see is Ron Hainsey passes the 200 career point mark before he retires. He's been on the down swing for 3 years now.

So we're going to raise David Fisher's name here? Isn't that on Timmins? I mean he's the guy giving Gainey advice here, but i guess we can blame Gainey for the executive decision anyways. How many first round flubs is Serge Savard responsible for during his tenure? How many has Gainey flubbed? You can maybe add Chipchura there too (although one could say the Achilles tendon injury made that a flub for us after the fact). Raymond Bertrand's the type of idiot who would say "we could have got Frano-Ontarian Giroux instead". That's what we call low-hanging fruit, hindsight is 20/20, etc. I guess the entire league of scouts outside of Detroit should be fired because they nabbed Datsyuk and Zetterberg in the last rounds. Seriously.

Are you hoping for McGuire too? Maybe we can still get Vinny for Price, Subban and Plekanec.


thanks for the feedback.

I stick by my guns when it comes to Gainey.

1st round exit after first round exit is not what I would call progress. People seem to always point to the Halak run but come on. We were outplayed in every single playoff game that season but had a goalie play possessed and way over his head. Remove that one year and it has been mediocrity at best.

Secondly yes we are small. Our centers are Gonmez, Plekanec, Desharnais, Eller and White. 4 of them are 6'0 or smaller. Our D-core consists of Diaz, Weber, Markov, Kaberle, Gorges, Subban and Emelin. How many D-cores in this league have 7 players 4 of which are 6'0 or smaller?

Did Gainey make us smaller? Without a doubt. When he took over the team we had a D-core of Quintal, Rivet, Komisarek, Dykhuis, Traverse, Markov and Souray.

As for players who have left the organization I think you missed my point. Ron Hainsey, Francois Beaucehnmin, Ribeiro, Latendresse, Grabovski, Sergei Kostitsyn, D'Agostini, Higgins, McDonaugh, Lapierre are all no longer in the organization and from all of these players what do we have right now for them? The answer is Scott Gomez and Aaron Palushaj.

But don't stop there, add: Koivu, Ryder, Kovalev, Tanguay, Komsiarek, Chipchura who were all parted with and again the answer to the return on all of these players in Scott Gomez and AARon Palushaj, on of which is again an acknowledged mistake who will be discarded for nothing.

Are you happy with that return? Personally I am not.

As for drafting I think it has been our strong suit. Timmins has been superb at selecting guys. Fisher was a mistake but it is likely the only one that he has made. I love TT and hope he sticks with this team for a long time.

The Gorges and a 1st (Pacioretty) trade and the hiring of TT are only things preventing the Gainey era from being a complete and utter disaster.

Great piece, Bry! Truth be told, Gainey was on a pretty good path until the centennial year implosion. That year, and subsequent offseason, sent this team into the toilet...starting with the departure of Koivu and the acquistion of Gomez.

That said, you have to think back to what a shamble this organization was in when Gainey took over. He brought a certain level of organizational standards back. He also started to restock an AHL cupboard that was laid bare by the previous eight or so years of pillaging and poor drafting.

That said, to me, the biggest crimes Gainey committed were to, year after year, loose free agents for nothing. This is NOT the pre-cap days and, as a Manager, you MUST get something in return.

Moreover, you MUST know 1 month before the trade deadline whether you will/can sign impending free agents in the offseason. And, for the most part, if the answer is NO, they MUST be traded before the deadline.

Another big mistake he made was leaning heavily on Gauthier for his pro scouting decisions. Gauthier had a reputation, before coming to Montreal, as being a terrible evaluator of talent and a horrible pro scout.

Yet Gainey put him in charge of that critical department. Gauthier led him to Laraque, Gomez and others. He told him that Streit was a one-hit wonder and that Beauchemin would never play in the NHL.

Good job there, PG!

I would echo the comments that while Gainey as GM was not great, it was not horrible either.
I believe his biggest mistake was wrongly assuming the league would stick to their new rules and the game would be dominated by speed and the small player would flourish like never before.
The pro scouting would be the 2nd worst element of his era.
This organization is in much better shape than most locals/lunatics would have us believe.
Our young core is something most of the 30 teams in the NHL would love to have: Price, Subban, Pacioretty,
Desharnais, Eller, Leblanc, White, Diaz & Emelin.
We just need to continue to build around these players, be patient with our other prospects and continue to stockpile more of them.
The key to success in the cap world NHL is always having some cheap talent on the roster and the best way to do that is consistently draft and develop well.

Bryan, you are right about the lack of returns from that Koivu era. But i think we were a play-off team in that last year despite the goal tending issues. I'm sure mgmt at the time decided that they weren't going to be sellers and to see how things went. I mean how many times did we knock off them 1st place Bruins in the previous years, eh? :)

I think when we went down in 4 games like a bunch of chumps, it was then that Gainey made the decision to let it all go. But i don't think you can just trade UFA Koivu at the end of the season. I think out of respect, they let him choose the destination of his choice. Bad asset mgmt, maybe - but i think it was a classy move in the VERY least to not send him to some place like the Islanders if they were offering the best crop of picks. I agree it would have been classier to keep him along, but i think that was the scope of what Gainey wanted changed.

Kovy held out on us for an extra 500k, and unfortunately for us (unless you think he's a great C), our plan B was 7 inches shorter.

Traditionally with UFA's in the off-season, you don't get much of a return for them. We could have stocked up on 7th round picks for sure, but i'm sure the options were weighed. What do we think we could have received in return? If anything, many of those players were at their lowest value. Some were coming off of injuries and what not. I think Tanguay re-signed to Tampa for peanuts (meaning there were barely any takers, and this was a day before Sept started) and Komisarek was another hold-out, which i still believe was political and to be closer to the core of the US Olympic squad. Karma took care of that for us.

Chipchura we did end up trading, no? I think we got little for little. Fair trade. Ryder...well...i never liked Ryder, and it was clear he was regressing in many ways since that breakout year with his buddy the coke head, Ribeiro. Something tells me the locker room and coaching staff played a role in his quick jettison. But yeah the return was absolutely garbage. He signed with Julien's team at 4mil after a 31 pt season. Quite the agent that guy has!

I guess i'll always play devil's advocate and assume that mgmt was responsible and AT LEAST priced these UFAs out before letting them walk. I just don't see a professional organization blindly letting people walk for nothing if they could have gotten something.

Beauchemin and Hainsey...yes, horrible waiver calls. Gotta love those Blue Jackets and their steals. You've got me there, dude.

Crap, poor editing on my Ryder/Ribeiro paragraph there. Was referring to Ribeiro about the quick jettison and Ryder about signing with Julien's team. Sorry, that section looks confusing!

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