It’s better late than never.
Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson has resisted changing the structure of the team for years. All it took was the worst start in franchise history for massive changes.
With 11 draft picks in the upcoming draft and many prospects in the stable already, Montreal can’t afford to get this wrong.
The new structure will feature a VP of hockey Operations Jeff Gorton and a general manager to be named later. The two will work together to build a team that can be competitive for years to come.
“It’s a lot for one person (to be general manager of the Canadiens) and if I could back up a few years and know what I know today, I would have compliment him (Marc Bergevin) with another person,” said Molson. “It’s that big a job in this market.”
He was adamant that his role as Owner, President and Chief Executive Officer won’t change.
“The decision to restructure the leadership of hockey operations has nothing to do with my role as president,” said Molson. “In the past Marc was accountable for hockey performance, now there will be two. This entirely my decision, that I believe will make this team better.”
Montreal has given Gorton a long-term contract. The hope is that he’ll be able to do some of the things he did with the New York Rangers who are starting to see the fruits of his labor. And the Boston Bruins who won the Stanley Cup in 2011 thanks in large part to the foundation he helped build.
The area of focus will be drafting and developing which was a big failure during the Bergevin era. Trevor Timmins oversaw amateur scouting, and his firing came as no surprise. The Canadiens are a team that is built almost exclusively by trade and free agent signings, which isn’t a path to success.
“In this league, with the salary cap and the importance developing players, it’s essential to succeed when we have a chance at getting a top pick. It gives us a greater potential of winning,” Molson said.
He pointed to having three top 10 picks since 2012, including two picks at third overall and none of them being on the team.
Gorton has his work cut out for him. What is expected to be an “exhaustive search,” to find a new general manager will be top priority. While the team would prefer to find someone sooner rather than later, they won’t rush into a decision.
“I don’t think we would rush into anything if we think a better candidate will be available in the off-season,” said Molson. “I think we’ll take the best decision no matter what.”
Fixing the roster will have its challenges. Montreal has no projected cap space and most of their money is tied to players with long-term deals that will be hard to trade.
The other thing that must be looked at is the future of head coach Dominique Ducharme. While the roster he was given is flawed, the team has underperformed with their record of 6-15-2.
“I don’t make the coaching decision, I haven’t even discussed that with them,” said Molson. “As far as I’m concerned, he’s the coach, he’s staying there.”
Even though this restructure took way too long, at least the Canadiens appear to have a plan to bring the team back to respectability. Now, it’s all about execution.