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Monday, April 2, 2012

Panesar and Moustakas: Gauthier Gone, Now What?

With the recent dismissal of Pierre Gauthier, your new favorite debate duo, Kamal Panesar and Louis Moustakas, return to dissect the latest move in the ongoing saga known as the 2011-12 Montreal Canadiens' season.

Moustakas: Good morning my friend! The shoe finally dropped last week as Geoff Molson relieved Pierre Gauthier of his managerial duties, while Bob Gainey was also released as special advisor.

While I have defended some of Gauthier's hockey moves, his ineptitude at communicating with the fan base and the poor salary structure he bestowed on the team made his dismissal well deserved.

Although the firing itself is unsurprising, the timing is, at least a little a bit. Why now, with so little time in the season left? One has to wonder — as Francois Gagnon has speculated — if the Canadiens want to have a new General Manager in place for the April 10th Draft Lottery.

And showing that new face of the franchise is of capital importance. Not only has the team plummeted in the standings, but the organization's image is at arguably an all-time low.

Panesar: Yes, yes…your defenses of Gauthier as a GM don’t look so good now do they?

Jokes aside, it was high time the Habs parted ways with Gauthier. The fact that Molson also took it upon himself to have Gainey move aside shows, to me, that he truly understands that it is time for new blood. My fear was that he would fire Gauthier but keep Gainey on as an advisor.

I suppose reaching back into the past for Serge Savard to now advise his decisions, at least when it comes to hiring a new GM, is slightly dubious. Not that Savard isn’t a brilliant businessman and was once a great GM. But the game has changed significantly over the last 20 years and he has not been involved in hockey, on any level, over that time.

Still, he is a trusted figure to the Molson family, so I fully understand the decision.

As for the timing, well, if you watched Molson’s press conference, he said they wanted to wait till the Habs were mathematically eliminated. In addition, he said that now they have 10 extra days to find a GM.

But, to be honest, that is largely window dressing, since it is pretty well known that the search for a new GM was started, in earnest, over a month ago. To that point, there has even been speculation that the “new” GM, is already in place and that they would wait until the end of the season to announce him.

Whether that ends up being true or not, we’ll never know. But, what is clear to me, is that Molson truly does care and does want to bring this organization back to respectability. So the question is, who is the best man for the job?

Moustakas: Pierre Gauthier is a lot of things, but he is not an utterly incapable hockey man. I stand by my defenses. What can I say? Great minds think for themselves.

Geoff Molson's demeanor at the press conference was a welcome sight. After essentially hiding behind releases following the Pacioretty and Cunneyworth incidents, it was refreshing to watch Molson take ownership of the situation. Which is his role since he is, after all, the owner. See how I did that? Owner, ownership.

As for Serge Savard's appointment, it accomplishes a couple of things. It adds credibility to the hiring process and, more importantly, promotes the notion that the team will intensify its focus on Francophone talent, both on and off the ice. After the Randy Cunneyworth PR fiasco, that is key.

If a GM is already in place, though, why add Savard to the process? I would find that mighty curious.

Regardless, I am not sure I have a flat-out favorite for the position. After the combined disaster of the Gainey-Gauthier eras, any of the proposed names sound enticing. Having said that, I am not exactly keen on Patrick Roy. As we discussed last time, his lack of professional experience and fiery, imposing temper are of grave concern to me.

Forced to choose, though, I might opt for someone like Pierre McGuire. Having worked extensively in the media, he would obviously not be afflicted with the communication-related issues that plagued the previous two GMs and could build good relations with the press. Beyond that, he has also demonstrated a deep knowledge of hockey at all levels and has previous NHL experience. One could do worse.

Towards whom are you leaning?

Panesar: I think Roy is more a candidate for coaching rather than the GM position. At least I certainly hope he is! Listening to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, he said that he feeling is that Roy would be interested in a coaching position but not the GM job in Montreal.

Aside from Roy, Pierre McGuire is a name that comes up a lot, as does Tampa Bay Assistant Julien Brisebois and former Colorado GM Francois Giguere, among others. The bottom line is that there will be no shortage of interested parties, especially if they loosen the language requirements a tad.

An interesting, out-of-the-box idea that was espoused by McKenzie, was for the Habs to make a call to the Florida Panthers to find out if they would release GM Dave Tallon from his contract. They likely wouldn’t, but as the guy who built the Stanley Cup winning Blackhawks and the man who has turned the lowly Panthers into a playoff team in one season, he would be a good prospect.

Plus, he is the only bilingual GM currently working in the NHL. A long shot, to be sure, but a damn good idea.

For me, Detroit’s Assistant GM, Jim Nil, is a ridiculously over-qualified Assistant. He would be gold in Montreal, save for his lack of French speaking abilities and the fact that he is paid a king’s ransom to remain with the Wings.

Ultimately, for me, I have Pierre McGuire as my top choice after Nil. He is a Montrealer, born and raised, is a Habs fan deep down and wants nothing more than for this team to win. In addition, his encyclopedic knowledge of teams, leagues and players around the world is staggering. He has also spent the last 15 or so years very close to NHL organizations, GMs, coaches and the like, in an analyst role. I think that experience would be invaluable in learning how to build a successful program.

On the McGuire front though, I am amazed at how many people, mostly on Twitter, are so adamantly against him as a candidate. Chatting with a few of them, their explanation is largely due to his seeming anti-Hab slant as an analyst.

I’m not exactly sure what the has to do with his qualification level as a potential GM, but maybe that’s just me.

Moustakas: You are right about the level of popular opposition to McGuire. He seems to rub some people the wrong way and others will certainly object to his non-francophone roots. You know, if you are an Anglophone Quebecois, you are not really Quebecois, right? But I digress.

His passion and knowledge would make him a boon to the struggling franchise. Hopefully, he gets his due consideration.

Wow. Look at us agreeing. Clearly, we have all the solutions. Geoff Molson should hire us. On parle français en plus!

Until next time my friend!


---Kamal is a freelance writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of HabsAddict.com, Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Hockeybuzz.com and featured columnist on PowerScoutHockey.com. Kamal is also a regular contributor to the Sunday Shinny segment of The Franchise weekend morning show, on TSN Radio 990 (AM 990) every Sunday from 9 - 10 AM. Listen live at http://www.tsn.ca/montreal/

Follow Kamal on Facebook and Twitter

Louis is an Associate Editor at HabsAddict.com. Born in Chicago, Louis grew up in Quebec City where he earned Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration from Université Laval. Find him on twitter @LouisMoustakas


(Photo by The Canadian Press/Ryan Remiorz)

7 comments:

If McGuire is hired I will not watch the Habs, I would rather have Gauthier back. The only people who want McGuire on blogs are Leafs fans and they are laughingat us.

@Anon

Thanks for reading.

Naturally, for the reasons expressed above (hockey knowledge, media saavy, passion), I think McGuire could be a good fit.

Whats makes you disagree?

I would like to see McGuire as part of the front office but not as GM. I think Director of Scouting would be a great fit for him. The complaint you hear about McGuire from knowledgeable insiders is mostly lack of experience. If he doesn't work out you will get loads of "I told you so's" This way he gets his experience and we get all that knowledge.
Dale Tallon would be great but ain't gonna happen.
If they are sincere in getting the best candidate then Jim Nil is a clear cut front runner, if not then Marc Bergevin would probably be the next best thing.
Someone who has been directly involved in building a recent Championship team should be a highly valued criteria.
I am not a fan of non Hockey people as GM's, lawyers should be retained for negotiating contracts and cap analysis but not Hockey decisions.

@Hockeyhype

McGuire in a scouting position would not be a horrible idea, but I do not think his lack of front office experience is the hugest detriment. He worked as an assistant coach, head coach and scout at the NCAA, ECHL and NHL levels. In addition, he was part of championship organizations in Pittsburgh in the early 90s. In short, its not like he is clueless about the requirements of such a leadership role.

Tallon and Nil are both clearly longshots.

Finally, not sure I agree with your assessment that 'non-hockey people' should not be GMs. Having played hockey and managing a team are two different things. It is a business and having the appropriate background in that area is equally, if not more, important.

Louis, I agree McGuire is not clueless, just that he has not been involved in the inner workings of a pro team for a very long time. When he was, it was at a lower level. His strength seems to be evaluating talent and he may very well be a good GM.
I would prefer to see someone who has worked at a higher level and is currently employed by a very successful organization where they can bring a solid working plan.

Regarding the non Hockey people, that is my personal preference as I believe they are better accepted, at least initially and understand what it takes to win.

I would agree Tallon is a long shot, but if Molson is being honest about finding the best man, then Nil has to be near the top or they are not looking for the best man. At the very least, they would need to ask for permission to interview him.
I heard Darren Dregger say that Savard had misspoke when he said the new GM must speak French. I tend to think he would have verified this before saying it on National TV, we are not talking L'Antichambre here.

Pierre McGuire said on tsn 990 that he would trade for Vinny if he were gm of the habs. That should disqualify him from the GM position. Just because he has a great knowledge of players doesn't mean he'll make smart decisions.

ZAK

@Hockeyhype

You make a good point that they are probably more easily accepted. The sports world can be a closed one at times. Having said that, I never bought in to the notion that playing experience makes you qualified to be a GM. Playing and managing are two wildly different things. That is why someone like Julie BriseBois, a lawyer by trade, will get a serious look.

@Anon (last one)

Trading for Vinny Lecavalier is not the worst notion on the planet. Depends what the deal was?

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