Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Montreal Canadiens Moving Forward - Part 1 - The Front Office Shakeup

Luc Robitaille - Phoenix Coyotes v Los Angeles Kings
Habs Need to Regroup After Disappointing Season

Hello Habs nation, It's been a while since my last appearance and while part of it is because I've been away, it's also partly because I've had trouble coming to terms with the dismal season the Habs delivered.

I've decided to skip my usual recap of their last two weeks of the season, and instead focus on their needs as they move forward.

While it's clear the Canadiens have some work to do in order to find success, I do believe they are closer than this season's results would have many believe.

Over the next few weeks I will be going over some changes that need to be made in order for the Habs to avoid any further embarrassment.

In this first installment, I will focus on the first thing the Canadiens need to do: fill the void left by Pierre Gauthier's departure and appoint a head coach.

Front Office Shake-Up

It's safe to say that whoever comes in to replace Gauthier will be an improvement. While I personally would like to see the job handed to Pierre McGuire, it's reassuring to see Habs owner, Geoff Molson, exploring all of his options before making his choice.

Current assistant GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning Julien Brisebois is an apparent front runner. Chicago Blackhawks' assistant GM Marc Bergevin has also been approached and RDS has reported that while the Canadiens were interested in Red Wings' assistant GM Jim Nill, Nill has no intention of leaving the Detroit organization

Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos reported last week that the Habs have reached out to the Los Angeles Kings with regards to Luc Robitaille, who is currently the Kings' President of Business operations, and Ron Hextall who serves as Vice President and Assistant GM with the team.

Kypreos' report went on to say that the Kings have confirmed the Canadiens interest in certain members of their organization but would prefer if things were dealt with after the playoffs.

Molson will more than likely make his choice before the June 22nd draft, but they would surely like to have their man in place sooner rather than later.

The draft would be a perfect time to bring in somebody like McGuire.

McGuire knows just about everything about anybody who has ever played hockey and his knowledge would be useful when choosing future prospects.

Whether or not it's McGuire who's appointed the team's next GM, there is no question that finding someone to replace Gauthier is the first step to improving this team.

The second step would then be finding a new bench boss.

Head Coach

Generally speaking, it's the GM who brings in his coaching staff, so it's possible Montreal will not have a new man for the job until the GM position is filled.

Although there are reports to the contrary, with rumors swirling that there is already a verbal agreement that would have Patrick Roy behind the bench next year. The idea is loved and hated throughout Montreal, as Roy's fiery temperament and controversial past is viewed as passion by some and immaturity by others.

The language issue does limit the Canadiens when trying to employ a new coach, but it's hard to believe there isn't a bilingual answer for the Habs somewhere in the hockey world. Bob Hartley and Marc Crawford are names that have bounced around along with Roy's.

Another name that will more than likely come up more often than not is Alain Vigneault. With his Vancouver Canucks down 3-0 against the Los Angeles Kings it is widely believed that he could be on his way out.

Vigneault has lead the Canucks to five playoff appearances in his six years in Vancouver, including the Stanley Cup finals last year losing in seven games against the Boston Bruins.

The Canucks have also won two Presidents Trophy's under Vigneault, who claimed the Jack Adams award as the NHL's top coach in 2007.

While language is important—mostly for the media's sake—there are other factors that need to be considered.

In my opinion the team needs somebody who can get the best out of his players, and who has the guts to hold top players accountable when necessary.

Sounds cliche I know, but both qualities are imperative for a coach to be successful.

Once these two positions are filled, the organization can start deciding what they want their team to look like, and start putting the pieces together.

How do you feel about the lack of a GM and coach right now? Do you think filling these voids should be done as soon as possible so progress can be made or do you have trust in Molson's patience?

Sean is a freelance writer currently contributing to HabsAddict.com. He is also a regular blogger and frequent panelist on the Habs post game show at MontrealHockeyTalk.com

Follow Sean on Twitter

(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images North America)


I think you have to have patience, the decision is too important to rush. If you have to wait to interview some serious candidates then you wait.
Even if the GM is hired a few days before the draft. All the prep work is done by others. If the new GM is coming from another organization then he already has a good idea about the players available and he gets to compare notes with what the Habs people develop as a list.
The coach is not necessary for the draft table.
He can have some input in the roster and it's needs but the GM still has the final say.

I have not heard any comments in the media about McGuire even being in the mix. Has anyone reputable reported his name in connection with being seriously considered?

Patience is definitely important. Whoever will be chosen will likely be there for years and do its better to take time and weigh all of the options rather than jump in and hire the first person spoke to.

As you said, the coach doesn't need to be at the draft table an so there is less of a rush there. Most GM's like to bring their own guys in too which makes me wonder about these rumors about Roy already being chosen. While its no rush, it is still incredibly important for this squad to be given somebody who can do the job.
As for McGuire, I have heard tons of support for him on 990 but I have yet to hear that he has been seriously considered for the job.

Pierre Mcguire said on tsn 990 radio that he would trade for Vincent Lecavalier. That should disqualify him from the GM position.He may be know all the players etc but can he make a smart decision. With the Vinny comment I wonder.


@Zak: Ummm...what? He said that?

Ersh...that makes me shudder a little bit more than a little bit.

Eight more seasons with a $7.7 million cap hit for a player who hasn't scored more than 29 goals in the last four years?

Yikes. Count me out on that one.

There is no question that Lecavalier is a MUCH better player than Gomez, but do the Habs really want to go down that road again?

Lecavalier has four more seasons making $10 million per, then $8.5, $4, $1.5 and $1.5.

Not to mention that at 31, he is on the wrong side of 30 and has largely seen his best years behind him.

That said, he is, without a doubt, an instant upgrade over any center currently playing for Montreal.

Man...I don't know, personally, I stay the hell away from Lecavalier.

The problem with McGuire is that Timmins is the Director of Player Scouting (or whatever the official title is), and not him. Like everyone else, I've seen him gushing praise on just about every body that goes through the draft. So where would those wild ideas in his head go when he's supposed to listen to the professional who's team of scouts are supposed to provide the real insight?


Have you read that article? Granted we're talking almost 20 years ago, and people will mature and learn from their mistakes over time, but it's an eye-opener. Certainly makes you think about how know-it-all-analyst skills translate in a leadership and management role.

Holy crap!

Someone should send this one to Mitch Melnyk et all.
It actually sounds like he hasn't changed.
Maybe add Geoff Molson on Twitter as well.
This sounds like it would be a huge mistake if this is really a legit article from that era.

@mineral: Good post! And yep, I've read that article before. It's funny, because Melnick asked McGuire about it on-air and McGuire had a different take on it.

He said that he basically "took one for the team". He took the poison arrow, and went down as the scapegoat in that whole situation, knowingly. He said there was no animosity between him and anyone else on the team.

That being said, as you pointed out, this was 20 years ago.

I just think about myself 20 years ago, and shake my head at some of the things I did. I, personally, don't think this article has much bearing on whether McGuire is qualified or not/would be a good GM.

For me, however, IF McGuire does want to get Lecavalier, I would be fearful. He could surely help Montreal, but why would they want to go down that road after being saddled with Gomez the past few seasons?

IF that story is true, then I would be slightly less interested in McGuire.

But that's just me.


I would like to see Cunneyworth stay as coach.

Didn't Jacques Martin win a President's Trophy with Ottawa, too (2002-03)? I don't think the coach makes a big difference, but a strong GM is a must.

I don't think Cunny will stay in Montréal, but I do hope he gets a good gig elsewhere. He did a great job!

Cunneyworth did a great job?? How do you figure that? Ok granted most would have probably tanked just as bad and it wasn`t an easy situation for him. Managemant then set him up to fail when they announced publicly that he was there on an interim basis...players were practicly dictating around there rather than the other way around. As for Pierre's comment I would love to here that whole clip because he was the analyst who was the hardest on Gainey when they handcuffed the team with a bad contract like Gomez, just saying I need to hear it to believe it.

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