GM Announcement Coming Soon, But Narrative Won’t Die

Montreal is a special hockey market, there’s no doubt about it. And when Chantal Machabée accepted the job of VP of Communications, she knew it too well. Still, after multiple discussions with the Montreal Canadiens’ senior management, she accepted the role she had been offered and not many people think that she cannot do the job well. She will be of great help for Geoff Molson, Jeff Gorton, the soon to be announced new GM and the head coach, whether they retain Dominique Ducharme or not.

GM to be announced soon!

Speaking of the GM search, the process is showing, once again, how “special” the Montreal market truly is. While most good reporters stick to the facts, there are some a little less reputable who want to create controversy. In spite of the fact that 17 other NHL teams have a different person for Hockey Operations and General Manager, some feel the need to feed the crowds the belief that the next GM will be nothing more than a puppet, a French figure, for Gorton who will actually have the role of GM.

“We will be able to announce our future GM very soon” ~ France Margaret Bélanger on 91.9 Sports (Jan.14/21)

And it doesn’t matter that what Gorton or Molson say about it. Their mind is made up that the new GM will, in fact, be an assistant-GM. In his first press conference, Gorton clearly stated that the new GM would be the one in contact with other GMs around the league but that fact goes over too many people’s head as a lie, a cover-up. Why is that, you ask? Because it fits a narrative.

Narrative of the puppet

That narrative goes like this… They believe that since the Canadiens, in their current market, cannot hire an anglophone as General Manager, Geoff Molson couldn’t give Gorton both the VP of Hockey Ops and GM titles, as Marc Bergevin had. They don’t believe Molson when he said that in retrospect, he realized that it’s a two-men job in Montreal. Instead, they chose to believe that it’s a cover-up, that both Molson and Gorton are liars and that they’re not searching for a GM, but for a couple of assistant-GMs. That’s the narrative they want people to believe and many truly believe that deep inside… in spite of the facts, or what the organisation is saying.

Here’s the deal. Yes, Geoff Gorton will have the last say when it comes to Hockey Operations. The fact that they’re looking at a very green GM – green meaning inexperienced – will, indeed, ask more of Gorton while he trains his new protégé. The reality, from what the organisation says, is that Gorton’s role when it comes to the GM duties, will diminish with time as the new GM gets more experience. Gorton will always supervise because he’s the boss, the VP. That’s how it is in any Corporation and it’s perfectly normal. But the new guy will have more and more freedom as he gains experience.

The disconnect between the truth and the narrative is where or when this job splitting will diminish, or where the line will be drawn between Gorton’s role and the new GM’s role. And that cannot be determine by any of us outside the organisation for the time being. What we do know is that there is a person as VP of Hockey Ops and there will be a General Manager, and that Gorton stated that the GM will have a GM role. The rest is pure fabrication, imagination and wishful thinking to fit a narrative. Some of it is justification (in some people’s mind) as to why Patrick Roy wasn’t selected.

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Top GM Candidates: Only Bilingual Must Apply

One of the biggest news from Canadiens’ President Geoff Molson’s press conference to explain his recent clean-up on the 7th floor at the Bell Centre might have been that two heads are better than one. Seeing how over-stretch Marc Bergevin was doing double-duties, he acknowledged and recognized that perhaps, he had too much on his place in a market like Montreal. Bergevin was the Vice-President of Hockey Operations as well as the team’s General Manager. From now on, two separate men will do those jobs, each one being able to better focus on their workloads.

Jeff Gorton was gathering his personal effects and should arrive in Montreal in the very near future. He will be the VP of Hockey Operations. He and Molson will immediately start looking for a new GM. According to the team President, this individual must be able to speak English and French. He explained that it’s not as important for Gorton as the GM is the one who will be speaking to fans and media and in his market, the organisation feels it’s important to do so.

Disgruntled people

Some fans and media members had grown unhappy and, quite frankly, rather aggressive towards Marc Bergevin. When rumours came rampant that he would be replaced, they inundated social medias, crying to whomever would want to listen, that the Habs should select the “best available” GM, regardless of languages. Yes, that debate again.

Molson managed to tip-toe his way around the issue by trying to please everyone. He hired that best man available when he signed Gorton, a unilingual anglophone, to a multi-year deal. He then tried to explain once again why he feels it’s important, in Montreal, to have a bilingual GM. Smart.

Yet, Serge Savard (amongst others) came out and chastised Molson for his decision. In spite of Molson’s efforts, those people are not happy that Gorton can’t speak French. On the other side, you have this other group. Guess what? They’re not happy either. They’re still furious that the Canadiens will “limit themselves” by putting the bilingual requirement for their GM, and they’ve ensured to let everyone know about it.

Most of those people were unhappy with the Habs, with Bergevin in particular. Now, they’re still unhappy for their own reasons. I guess it goes to show two things: 1- there’s no compromising with them, and 2- they’ll always find something to complain about, for not being happy. I personally find that Molson did the right thing by going with Gorton and a bilingual GM.

Top candidates

So regardless of everyone’s feelings, Geoff Molson has a business to run and the Montreal Canadiens have a General Manager to hire. Trade deadline is approaching, the team is going nowhere on the ice and decisions will need to be made. Further, Gorton will have to focus on revamping the scouting and player-development, build that medical performance team and, as stated by his boss, add diversity to the Habs front office.

Simply by reading the media and on social media, here is what appears to be the list of top candidates for the position.

Martin Madden Jr.: Solid choice, he is the second most experienced choice on the list when it comes to working as an executive in the NHL, behind Dale Tallon. He is in his 14th season with the Anaheim Ducks, his second as Assistant General Manager. He spent the previous 12 seasons with the club as Director of Amateur Scouting. Native of Quebec City and still residing there, Madden oversees all of the club’s scouting efforts (professional and amateur) and assumes an expanded role in a majority of hockey operations directives and initiatives.

Dale Tallon: We’re going under the impression that he is bilingual as he was born in Noranda, Qc. Tallon he has tons of NHL experience. He built that dynasty team in Chicago even though Stan Bowman was the GM when they won those Cups. He then helped put the Panthers on the map and left the team in August of 2020. He’s a very respected hockey man with tons of knowledge and contacts.

Mathieu Darche: The French media’s choice it seems, as many are pushing for him on social media. But Darche has only been working for an NHL team since May of 2019 as the Lightning’s Director of Hockey Operations. While he does have a good head on his shoulders, one has to wonder if having someone that “green” is the right thing to do in a market like Montreal, even with Gorton to help.

Martin Lapointe: His name hasn’t popped up as much as the others, or so it seems. Lapointe was hired as a pro scout by the Chicago Blackhawks organization in December 2009. He joined the Canadiens in June of 2012 and he has occupied the position of Director of Player Development. Since 2017, he’s been the team’s Director of Player Personnel.

Daniel Brière: Truthfully, I personally don’t understand why people think of him as a candidate. Throughout his entire playing career, he wanted nothing to do with coming to play in Montreal. Only at the end of his career, when his options were limited, did he sign with the Canadiens and we know how it ended. How could he look someone in the eye and sell them with a straight face, on the benefits of playing in Montreal? Further, his experience is solely at the ECHL level.

Patrick Roy: Ah, the people’s choice… God knows he’s been trying hard to return to the NHL since he burnt Joe Sakic and the Colorado Avalanche! He even orchestrated a “peace offer” with Mario Tremblay by making a Uber commercial. But there are more reasons NOT to even consider him than there are to do so. How can people be so upset about the selection of Logan Mailloux and what this guy in a position of power is beyond reason.

Vincent Damphousse: Another television personality who has never set foot as a NHL executive but fans see and hear him. Those who like what he has to see are pushing for him but let’s be honest here… It is very doubtful that he’ll even be considered. EDIT: Damphousse came out to say he’s not interested. Good for him, I doubt he’d be considered.

Roberto Luongo: This is an interesting choice but much like Darche, Roberto’s experience as a NHL executive is limited to a couple of years. Also to take into considerations is the fact that Florida is home to him. Even as a player, he missed it when playing in Vancouver and wanted to return to the Panthers. Between you and I, I’m not so sure he wants to leave, even for Montreal. There’s something to be said about the tax breaks and sitting in shorts by the pool at the end of the day.

Luc Robitaille: Those who are brining the name of Robitaille as a candidate are, in my humble opinion, dreaming big time. Luc is the President of the Los Angeles Kings, where he has had an outstanding career both as a player, and as an executive. Why would he take the GM position in Montreal exactly? See the reasons for Luongo…

Martin Brodeur: After a short stint with the St. Louis Blues for his post-hockey playing career, Brodeur is finally home, with the New Jersey Devils, where he occupies the position of Executive Vice President,
Advisor. Much like Luongo and Robitaille, there are not many reasons for him to take a step down to fill a stressful position in Montreal.

So there you have it folks. From the names circulating in the media, those are your candidates at the time of writing these lines. In my humble opinion, the short list should be, in no particular order:

  • Martin Madden Jr.
  • Dale Tallon
  • Mathieu Darche
  • Martin Lapointe

Let’s enjoy the ride and see what Jeff Gorton and Geoff Molson have in mind. There should be a lot of action and things to follow and talk about all season around the Canadiens and that, even if the team isn’t doing well.

In case you missed it, I made an appearance with my co-hosts Annik Lemire and Andrew Thompson on Habs Tonight, and we talked about Geoff Molson’s press conference and what it means for the Canadiens. Enjoy.

More reading…

A Sense Of Positivity And Hope

A Close Look At Bergevin’s Time In Montreal

Patrick Roy As New GM? Not So Fast…