The mainstream media has begun to trip over themselves looking for any fractures in the relationship between Geoff Molson and Marc Bergevin hoping to find a grain of truth to build a story. In recent weeks the hashtag #FireBergevin has trended, spread by voices calling for the Montreal Canadiens to begin a full rebuild or even a retool on the fly lead by fresh leadership.
What those voices forget is their demands mean very little in the grand scheme of things. Molson has the only voice worth listening to in this discussion, and his voice thus far has been abundantly clear, Bergevin will remain. Molson has said, “We’ve got some room on the cap, and you never know what he might do or might not do.” Molson added, “He certainly does have the license to improve the team, and that’s his job. I support him fully.”
“He certainly does have the license to improve the team, and that’s his job. I support him fully.”
However, if Molson were to become convinced to make a change there are no shortage of names available who could fill the role of Canadiens’ General Manager?
Below, I have offered a few names who could be considered broken down into categories. These categories are: current personnel in the Canadiens organization, Canadiens alumni, experienced GM’s who could be available next summer, Assistant GMs who may be ready to step into bigger shoes and other notable names.
In the Canadiens system
The first name that jumps out is Rick Dudley, a smart hockey man with decades of experience. He has been the GM with multiple teams including Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Florida and Atlanta. He has the experience, he has also proven to be willing to make big trades. His downside is that he tends to be relatively short-lived in his tenure so has never seen a team in his image come to fruition. He also lacks a skill that is not needed to be a GM anywhere but Montreal, he lacks the ability to speak French.
Another name in the organization is Larry Carriere. He has spent over two decades working as a scout, assistant GM and even interim GM for Buffalo, Washington and Montreal. He has won multiple Calder Cups as the GM of the AHL affiliates of the Sabres and Capitals during his tenures with their organizations. He has the experience necessary to be able to step immediately into the role and do so in both official languages. His downfall is that he is an unproven commodity as a GM at the NHL level.
The first name in this group is also the most notable and experienced in lower levels, Patrick Roy. Roy was the owner, GM and head coach of the Quebec Rampart where he never won the President’s Trophy as the QMJHL Champions but did win a Memorial Cup in his first season. That said, he never made it past the third round for the remainder of his QMJHL career. His downside is that he has no experience as a GM in the professional ranks and has a reputation as being hot-headed and difficult to deal with as demonstrated by his sudden and surprise departure from the Colorado Avalanche one month prior to the 2016-17 NHL season.
A less exciting, yet more qualified name is that of Larry Pleau. He won Stanley Cups as a player with the Canadiens in 1971. However, his name recognition will come from those who have watched the Blues at all in the last 20 years. He was the GM from 1997 to 2010. He also helped guide the US Olympic team to a Silver Medal in 2002. He has experience with the pressures of the job and the Montreal market, yet, he lacks the language skills to converse in french and at the age of 70 he may not want to remain in a high stress job for the long term.
A GM of Ken Holland’s stature rarely becomes available, and for good reason. He has a reputation as one of the most successful GMs in the game today having led the Red Wings to three Stanley Cups and multiple division titles during an unbroken run of 18 seasons in the playoffs. The Red Wings did finally miss the playoffs in 2017, the first time that had occured since 1990 . The Vernon BC native has more than proven his ability to build and restock his teams to extend the window of contention. His downside is the same as most that would be on this list, he lacks the ability to speak French. Another is that he is under contract with Detroit until the summer of 2018 and there is little indication as to what direction they will take now that the Ilitch family has become more hands off of the franchise after the passing of owner Mike Ilitch.
Tim Murray is another experienced GM, one that is without an NHL job since his termination with the Buffalo Sabres. Murray has several years working for multiple organizations as a scout before spending several seasons as the AGM of the Ottawa Senators. From there he took over the Sabres’ GM role for three seasons, making him the shortest tenured GM in Buffalo history. As with most possible candidates, his downside is a lack of French language skills. He also has not had enough time with any one franchise as a GM to see his decisions lead to a completed vision. Yet little can be argued against his talent evaluation at the draft or in trades.
In a previous article titled Winds of Change Part 2, I discussed AGM’s Kyle Dubas and Julien BriseBois. Both would be very intriguing for different reasons.
Moving onto other names, an intriguing one is that of Dave Nonis. The former Vancouver and Toronto GM has been working as a special advisor to Bob Murray in Anaheim since his dismissal from the Leafs. Nonis has the experience of running a franchise. However, that experience has been three playoff appearances in his seven years as a GM, and only one playoff series victory. Nonis does not speak French.
Other notable names
A rarely heard of name is that of Cameron Hope, the GM of the WHL’s Victoria Royals. Hope has been the GM in Victoria since 2012, prior to that he had been the Assistant GM with the NY Rangers. He has guided the franchise to the playoffs in every season he has been at the helm. He has a degree in law and a background dealing with contracts, which can become a valuable asset in professional recruitment in Montreal. His downside is of course a lack of French language skills as well as never having been a GM at the pro level. However, he is an accomplished executive that could be a solid GM. That being said, the risk is likely too much compared to the reward.
A name that has circulated in NHL circles for some time thanks to his regular radio and TV appearances is that of Pierre McGuire. This despite not working in any capacity in an NHL team office since 1996. So not surprisingly, he had been interviewed for the Canadiens GM job in 2012. Since that time has been highly critical of any and all moves made by the man who was selected for the position. Perhaps it’s his critical stance on all moves that have helped him gain more public support as the ground swell of anger against Bergevin grows.
That being said, his decisions in hindsight do bear scrutiny, especially as the P.K. Subban trade seems to be the turning point for the perception of Bergevin’s tenure. Just prior to the 2012 NHL Entry draft, on TSN, McGuire had himself called for trading Subban along with the 2012 third overall pick (Alex Galchenyuk) for the first overall selection so as to select Nail Yakupov. So if the Subban trade disqualified Bergevin when he was able to land Shea Weber, the palpable anger had the return been a draft bust would have been painful to watch.
As I have demonstrated, the list of candidates is a long one as there are many more that were not mentioned. Yet, there are few Francophones on this or any other list capable of immediately stepping reliably into the role as an NHL GM. So with a segment of the media and fan base demanding front office changes, is it really wise to limit the talent available based on language solely to placate a small segment of the public?
The decision Molson faces is that of whether he wants to continue marketing local names at all levels of management or if he is serious about choosing the right person to take the helm and guide the team to a long awaited championship.