Kyle Dubas (Photo courtesy Toronto Maple Leafs)

by Blain Potvin, Staff Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

We began with part one of Winds of Change where I mentioned Max Pacioretty could be the key to a retool for the Canadiens.

This now leads us to those who would be charged with completing this retool, team management. Are the current leaders the right people to take this step and complete this retool?

We begin with team president Geoff Molson. Some have suggested that Molson should step down and allow a proven hockey mind to take over. That is a valid argument, one that was tackled on an episode of the Habs Unfiltered podcast. However, that all depends on if Molson is mentally and emotionally capable of relinquishing that control. So far, it would seem he is not as he places a higher value on the marketing of his asset versus building a winning atmosphere.

That leads us to the highest positioned experienced hockey mind in the organization, Marc Bergevin. He has done a good job up to this point in filling the prospect pool with serviceable assets and adding depth to a roster that was, in my opinion, threadbare when he came into his job.

That being said, whatever Bergevin’s plan was supposed to be has obviously taken longer to come to fruition than expected. Despite the multiple 100+ point seasons and division titles, the true test in Montreal is playoff success, and one Eastern Conference Finals appearance in that time is simply not enough. It would seem Bergevin has the full support from Mr. Molson. Yet, is Marc Bergevin the man capable of moving on from here?

If Bergevin is not, and there is a vocal group in the fan base that says he is not, than who can step into the job?

One name that has been mentioned is Tampa Bay assistant GM Julien BriseBois. He does have some pedigree as an assistant General Manager and as an AHL GM with a Calder Cup to his name. In addition, BriseBois has several years of experience working specifically on managing the cap for both Tampa and the Hamilton Bulldogs.

BriseBois lacks any experience as an NHL general manager. Instead, he is well known as a numbers man. If he can surround himself with a staff known to evaluate talent, it’s  possible that he could do an admirable job. But it should noted with caution that this is precisely what was said of Bergevin when he was hired in 2012.

Another name that is seemingly coming from left field is that of Pierre McGuire. Due to his weekly appearances on local radio and his between the boards segment on NBC, McGuire has a vocal contingent of supporters in Montreal. His name is may also be mentioned also because he consistently takes a critical stance on any move made by  Bergevin.

McGuire was named the Assistant General Manager of the Hartford Whalers prior to the 1993-94 season. In November of that year, McGuire took over behind the bench after head coach Paul Holmgren was fired. In 67 games as head coach, McGuire had a record of 23-37-7, that is, a .396 win percentage.

In my opinion, McGuire lacks the experience necessary to be considered capable of filling the role of NHL GM.

It has been some time since the Canadiens, one of the premiere teams in the league, hired a candidate with an established record as a GM in the NHL. That would take luring them from their current team or waiting until the off-season for the candidate pool to fill. In this week’s 31 Thoughts, Elliotte Friedman noted the following NHL general managers without a contract for next season: “Doug Armstrong (St. Louis), Jim Benning (Vancouver), Chuck Fletcher (Minnesota), Ken Holland (Detroit) and Lou Lamoriello (Toronto).”

However, if the Canadiens are looking to move ahead in a different direction in today’s NHL, perhaps a more modern hockey mind would be the way ahead. It would mean ignoring traditional hockey names and the ever pervasive language issue in the Montreal market. A manager such as Kyle Dubas would be able to build to that new direction.

Dubas, the former General Manager of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the OHL is perceived by many in the industry to be one of the brightest young minds in hockey and has been long presumed to be the heir apparent as General Manager of the Maple Leafs whenever Lou Lamoriello retires. So it may take some creative work to poach him out of the backrooms of the Habs’ long standing rivals.

This is not an exhaustive list of candidates with potential to lead the Canadiens into the future by any means. The gentlemen presented above are simply to acknowledge names already being mentioned and can be used to start the discussion about the right person to lead the reshaping of the Montreal Canadiens.

At the end of the day, this is a results-oriented business. You are what your record says you are. So, everything rests on the Habs results over the next month of the NHL schedule. 

Will it be a dramatic trade that sparks the team? Or perhaps a dramatic and unforeseen change in the front office? Will it be a proven hockey mind to oversee the current management group? Regardless of the decisions made, the Canadiens and their fans are now living in a full retool situation.

The question that must be answered at that stage will not only be about the style and structure of the team. The question is, will language and culture trump hockey decisions? Is the culture and style of the team leading to wins the focus or is the focus on marketing of the local culture and language?

The days of being able to have both lie in the past. Until ownership decides that winning, specifically winning a Stanley Cup, matters more, fans will live in a perpetually incomplete retool cycle.

  • GuySmilee

    I disagree that a team should base decisions on how they do in a course of a month. Bergevin’s strategy has been to free up cap space to sign the #1 center the habs haven’t had since Kirk Muller. That’s probably not going to happen until the trade deadline or the summer. You are not going to build a winner be making decisions based on one month of play.