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Montreal Canadiens State Of The Rebuild – Management

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Montreal Canadiens

Our ‘State Of The Rebuild’ series is nearing an end, but before we shift to the overall grades given to the Montreal Canadiens in various departments we have to examine one final, crucial element: team management.

State Of The Montreal Canadiens Rebuild Series – Published

 

A Fresh Start

The best decision owner Geoff Molson made upon deciding his team needed a new direction was adding an important element of oversight before hiring a new general manager.

Kent Hughes is given most of the credit for the changes in Montreal, but I’d like to suggest hiring Jeff Gorton as the executive vice president of Hockey Operations was perhaps the most important change made to the organization.

He’s the one who suggested the team needed to revamp its data analysis system, not to mention the development program.

During Marc Bergevin’s tenure, there was little to no pushback within the organization as he held all the cards due to his dual role as general manager and executive vice president.

The only person who could hold him accountable was Molson, however, the owner of the Canadiens has a longstanding history of explicitly trusting the people he put in place to run his team. For the most part, that’s a very logical approach. Many team owners around the international sports landscape could learn a thing or two from how Molson has run the Canadiens. The less you hear from an owner, the better.

However, a lack of accountability inevitably leads to an atmosphere of nonchalance when the long-term employees show little to no thirst for innovation.

With Gorton in place, the Canadiens have not just added oversight, they’ve paired Hughes with an executive who is overflowing with experience, giving them a solid combination of raw energy and hockey expertise.

Communication Is Key

We recently discussed how Bergevin’s boisterous and affable personality was slowly but surely replaced with domineering behaviour that led to a bevy of awkward contract negotiations, not to mention an ugly divorce with many of the team’s legends, including two members of the Montreal Canadiens Holy Trinity, Guy Lafleur and Mr. Jean Béliveau.

MUST READ: Buyer Beware – Blue Jackets Interested In Hiring Bergevin For Open GM Job

But the change did not happen overnight.

There’s a reason Bergevin aged faster than Barack Obama during that time frame.

Serving as the general manager of the Montreal Canadiens is one of the most stressful jobs in the city, country, and perhaps even the world. This doesn’t exonerate poor behaviour, but it does explain why Bergevin became a little more jaded every time he had to deal with the media.

Originally, Bergevin was described as a great communicator, a significant departure from Pierre Gauthier’s management style. He was also praised for his transparency, yet another issue that had plagued the team during Gauthier’s tenure.

After almost a decade on the job, the transparency was non-existent and communication went the way of the Tasmanian Tiger.

With that in mind, it will be interesting to see how Gorton and Hughes navigate the human and public relations side of the job once the pressure starts to mount.

The last two years have been the easy part.

We do have to give them full marks for providing a clear roadmap to success, at least relatively speaking. They have not treated fans like simpletons that would have a difficult time understanding what a proper rebuild entails.

While Bergevin used the fans as an excuse to avoid tearing everything down to the studs, Hughes, for the most part, has been honest as to the challenges the team may face as they traverse the choppy waters of rebuilding a professional sports franchise.

You could even argue Hughes and Gorton have been honest to a fault, but that would be quite the nit to pick considering the improvements they have put into place in the last two seasons.

Potential Criticism

Beyond some questionable trades (or lack thereof in the case of the three-headed monster that plagued the crease all season), Hughes and Gorton have avoided most of the common pitfalls from an asset management standpoint.

But they did fail to capitalize on the opportunity that presented itself when Josh Anderson was receiving interest from various clubs around the NHL. Rather than selling while his stock was high, they held firm in their demands. Either a team was going to overpay for his services, or they would be perfectly happy keeping him in the fold.

As the person in the negotiations with almost all the leverage, Hughes’ approach made sense, but given that asset value varies greatly throughout a season, it was also a gamble.

A gamble he lost.

There’s merit to the idea that you have to strike while the iron is hot, just as Hughes did when he traded Sean Monahan to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for a first-round pick.

You could also suggest his handling of the Jake Allen situation was far from ideal. Not only did Hughes offer Allen an early contract extension when there was no reason to do so, but he also gave the goaltender a no-trade clause.

Allen would go on to use that clause to nix a trade with the New Jersey Devils earlier in the season. The Habs eventually sent him to the Devils in exchange for a mediocre draft pick, but a situation that emerged ahead of training camp took until the final moments of the trade deadline to be resolved.

He also received poor returns in trades involving Artturi Lehkonen and Tyler Toffoli, though you’d be hard-pressed to say he was robbed in either case. For the most part, Hughes’ trades have improved the Canadiens, both in the short and long term.

Finally, there was a certain level of obsession when it came to adding right-handed defencemen to the organization. To be fair, the team did lack options on the right side of the blue line, and there’s a finite amount of right-handed talent available each season. The team may have gone overboard rectifying the area of weakness, but considering the importance of the position it was a fairly understandable strategy.

Montreal Canadiens Brass Tacks

Gorton and Hughes have been a much-needed breath of fresh air for an organization that rested on its laurels for the better part of the last few decades, but their work is far from done.

They have yet to solve the most pressing issue facing the team: a clear lack of elite talent among forwards.

That’s not to say they haven’t added important elements to the team. Both Kirby Dach and Alex Newhook were solid additions, but due to Dach’s health issues and Newhook’s defensive problems, it’s too early to suggest they will become a game-changing presence in the lineup.

Passing on Matvei Michkov was not a death knell for their long-term aspirations, but if the Canadiens cannot solve their offensive issues the decision to pick a right-handed defenceman rather than an elite offensive talent at 5th overall could come back to haunt them.

Fortunately, the Habs will have a perfect opportunity to improve the dearth of talent up front at the 2024 Entry Draft, which will be the third season in a row that Hughes and Co. will pick among the top 5 teams in the NHL.

Consequently, it may be the last time they pick so high, putting even more pressure on the management group to select someone who not only fits a clear organizational need but also happens to be the best player available.

Simply put, teams (other than Vegas) need to hit on their top draft picks if they hope to one day be considered legitimate contenders for the Stanley Cup.

Hughes has added a lot of draft capital to the organization since he took over, but if Juraj Slafkovsky, David Reinbacher, and whomever they pick this summer fail to become elite players, the odds of finally bringing Lord Stanley’s Cup home will quickly dwindle.

Grading Montreal Canadiens Management

When it comes to grading management, I do think fan input is one of the most important aspects of the evaluation.

Some may scoff at the idea that fans should hold any semblance of importance in this situation, but those people fail to understand fans will always be the most important aspect of professional sports.

That’s not to say fans should have input on every decision, but keeping them informed is crucial, even in a city like Montreal where marketing is irrelevant due to the never-ending thirst for all things Canadiens.

For the most part, fans are on board with the direction the team is taking.

You will always find some outliers, not to mention fans who solely focus on the negative aspects of every situation, but the general feel from the Canadiens fanbase is that they’re mostly happy with the decisions that have been made.

Pressure will mount.

And it will start to mount in the upcoming season.

But in the meantime, Canadiens fans look forward to the team writing a new chapter in the organization’s glorious history, a chapter authored by Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton.

Management Grade: 8/10

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eddy

Most sports teams at their press conferences are drinking water from plastic bottles. The Canadiens drink water from cartons that are made from mostly renewable, plant-based materials, the eco-friendly packaging is 68-75% renewable and recyclable. Hughes and Gordon are very progressive water drinkers.

eddy

I am sorry, I should have mentioned that this trend was started in the Marc Bergevin era and is now being continued in the new era. Sorry for this oversight.

Mahovlich1971

It is healthier to drink from glass containers, if they don’t know then they are not as smart as they think they are.

habbernack

He loved to talk about character. His true colors came shining through. The trinity, Markov. and the trade for Drouin ( for the name on the back )who refused to report to Syracuse.

habbernack

What’s more important? Winning the Cup or the language the coach speaks

habbernack

Are comments censored?

Mike

Isn’t it too early to say Hughes lost the Toffoli and Monahan trades? In a previous article, didn’t you mention how little both the Flames and Devils got for him?
Same for Monahan since we don’t know what Hughes will do with the pick and as I believe you said or someone else, he already got TWO first rounders for Monahan!
I wish he hadn’t traded either of them but I understand the situation and as with the case of many trades, it can be difficult to discern a “winner” when prospects or draft picks that haven’t been used yet are involved.

Mahovlich1971

Montreal won the Monahan trades. Also I think Anderson never fully recovered from his high ankle sprain, and I firmly believe he will rebound this season.

Last edited 10 days ago by Mahovlich1971
John

We tend to overlook one major positive move relating to Sean Monahan. After trading for him and a first round pick, when he became a UFA at season end, Hughes signed him to a very team/trade friendly contract BEFORE free agency, keeping him in the fold and available to yield another first rounder at the Trade deadline. The rapport between Hughes and Monahan got us another first pick, as Monahan could have signed elsewhere. His rapport with the players will continue to pay dividends.

Ralph

Habs should try to acquire Alexi Lafreniere.

Randy Lavoy

Yup…but maybe it’s a little late now…He should have offer sheeted him …when N.Y. was cooling on Laffy …but now he has resigned …The Habs could have got him 4.5 ….4.6 ….Which is decent for a 1st overall pick …You snooze you lose !!!

Tyrone

Agreed. I have felt this from Day 1, but now that he’s broken out, my guess is that ship has unfortunately sailed. 😞

mikeysl

Another “prop” for the kid playing in a watered down league where jordan weal registered more than 2x as many points.This is not your fathers KHL. Not sure the same applies to MHL/VHL (demidov beware) …until michkov shows up and plays in the NHL there is no use bemoaning that pick – maybe the player/attitude turned them of (like shane wright?).

John

We got a better return on Toffoli than anyone else has ever gotten from moving him… we did not lose that trade, we are just still waiting to see our return… Lekky was never getting the same line mates or opportunity with us, we certainly did not lose that trade either (Sakic is even on record stating he overpaid before going on to say how important Lekky has been) – that will become a win-win once it settles..
The hiring of Adam Nicholas is the most under rated genius move HuGo made shortly after joining us.
Future is bright but patience is still a virtue.

darren

“there was a certain level of obsession when it came to adding right-handed defencemen to the organization”

Because they drafted one? It’s not like every trade and draft pick is about acquiring right handed Dmen.

Habulations

Time to trade for some players and start climbing out of the bottom of the NHL. New draft picks will take many years to develop. I’d like to strive to make the playoffs in the next few years. It likely will take 2-4 years depending on who we can get now. If we wait for the kids we are drafting now it may take 5 years to make the playoffs.