Geoff Molson had his press conference confirming the news that VP of Hockey Operations and GM Marc Bergevin, Assistant-GM Trevor Timmins and VP of public relations Paul Wilson had been let go, and that Scott Mellanby also wasn’t with the organisation as he resigned from his position. He also announced the hiring of Jeff Gorton as the team’s new VP of Hockey Operations, one of Bergevin’s old roles.
The search for a new GM will be starting shortly as Gorton is expected in Montreal within the next couple of days. He and Molson will be conducting interviews. Molson stated that no teams had been contacted yet to ask permission to speak to their staff, contradicting earlier rumours that they had asked the Tampa Bay Lightning permission to speak to Mathieu Darche.
There was a wind of positivity at the press conference as Molson did a good job at selling reporters his plan for the immediate future, from an organisation point of view. And he had them feed from his hand when he told them that the reason for Wilson’s firing was to create a better relationship with the media… smooth move.
Here are some of the key points from the press conference, at least from my perspective.
There is no doubt that Bergevin was stretched thin and looked exhausted by filling both roles of VP of Hockey Ops and the GM roles. Molson acknowledge that. He states that having two men for those positions will allow for better workload sharing, a necessity in this market.
The team President also stated wanting to revamp and put more focus on drafting and player-development, particularly in the top rounds. That is a huge positive of course. He pointed to the two third overall picks the Canadiens have had since 2012, none of which are with the team today. He mentioned the 45 picks the team has made at the Draft since 2018 with 11 more to come, to ensure the development of those young players was looked after.
I love the announcement made today that the Canadiens are also revamping the medical staff and their procedures, and mostly by adding focus on physical and mental health off-ice, by creating a medical performance team. There have been several injuries in recent years, many of which saw some huge fluctuations and setbacks on the date of return to play. There have also been two recent cases of mental health and dependence issues with Jonathan Drouin and Carey Price.
Molson spoke a few times about adding diversity to the staff. This is another fresh and good news as I’ve been wanting them to hire Kim St-Pierre in a hockey role for a while now. Whether it’s her or someone else remains to be seen, but the newly inducted Hall of Fame would be a great addition to the Canadiens.
Molson says his role hasn’t changed and won’t change as President. Bergevin had full liberty of any hockey operations decisions and those will now fall on Gorton and the new GM. The only difference from the Bergevin era is that two men will be splitting the workload, below Molson.
Quest for new GM
While he’s not opposed to waiting to the off-season to pick the best GM candidate, Molson really seems to want to have his GM in place very soon. He spoke about the upcoming trade deadline and preparing for the Draft as reasons to finding his man sooner rather than later. He stated that there are a lot of good bilingual candidates right now. When asked if he would wait to the off-season to find a suitable GM, he provided the politically correct answer by not shutting that door. But you could tell that he wants this dealt with well before then.
But seriously, what a masterful decision Molson made by splitting the roles. He gets to tip-toe around the need for bilingualism for hockey positions by giving the title of VP of Hockey Ops to an anglophone (in this case the best available man no matter the language), while ensuring that the GM, who will be speaking to fans and media the most, is bilingual. Smart.
It will be interesting to see how Gorton and the new GM will divide their roles. It’s one thing to make decisions when they’re in agreement, but in events when they’re not, who will be making the final decision? Where does the role of one end and the role of the other starts?
Also, how will players react to the news of Bergevin’s firing. Let’s not forget that he’s the one who assembled that team and that he was very close to most of the players on this roster. And what kind of changes, which direction will this new management want to take with the team? So many questions, so few answers.
Either way, it will make for some interesting times for Habs’ fans in the upcoming days and weeks. And that, even if the team isn’t doing so well in the standings.