Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The Canadiens' succession plan

After some thought, here is my best guess/birthday wish of what the Canadiens' management team should be going into the draft.

1) Director of Player Recruitment and Development: No change in this position, as far as I can tell Trevor Timmins is doing a good job and should continue in his post.

2) Head Coach: Patrick Roy is a fiery, sometimes hotheaded individual, but my hunch is that we need some passion and leadership behind the bench. Mr. Roy will provide this, he has a big personality and will inspire his charges to fight and win. Officials will be put on notice when they miss calls, we won't be doormats and easy marks in this respect.

Additionally, he is a former player with impeccable credentials who will command respect from everyone but especially from his players, and won't brook anyone not bending to the team program. All these considerations would be a welcome change from the current coaching régime.

Mr. Roy also has shown that he has the desire and skill for coaching. He could have sat at home living off his earnings and being a retired gentleman star, but he demonstrated he still has the competitive fire by purchasing the Québec Remparts and serving as the head coach. He also is the General Manager of the team, and while there isn't complete correspondence between being a NHL and LHJMQ GM, it will be good exposure for him and he will tend to have a better grasp of the issues facing the Canadiens' GM and will allow him to better participate in meetings and decisions.

Finally, Patrick is independent, financially and otherwise. He will be coaching not to hang on for another contract, but to win, and will not be meek and timid, but rather proud and unrelenting.

3) Assistant Coaches: This is a very iffy area to make predictions on, since these nominations are really the purview of the Head Coach. My first and most fervent wish is that he be able to choose people he will feel comfortable with, rather than being assigned his assistants. Practically, there is no chance of this happening, as Mr. Roy would not accept this, and it wouldn't make sense for the team to start this relationship on a disagreement.

Having said that, I would like it if we could repatriate Larry Robinson to coach the defencemen. Larry was a noble warrior and is a role model for our younger players. He established himself in Montréal and became an important member of the community, he can provide good direction to our players on how to deal with the 'pressure' of playing in Montréal and how to maximize the benefits. He now has decades of NHL coaching experience and can help Mr. Roy in terms of scouting notably.

For the forwards, I wouldn't be averse to having Guy Carbonneau back, and for him to also be in charge of the special teams. I wouldn't give him the head coaching position, since I'm worried about his reaction when he hit the wall in his first stint with the team. He is quoted as saying, when Bob Gainey was asking him what his next move would be to deal with an underperforming team rife with dissension, that he was "out of ideas" and "didn't know what to do". So while he may not have been ready to be an NHL head coach, and while I don't see it favourably that he is working with RDS rather than coaching in junior or minor-league hockey, I do think he would be a good fit with this coaching team. He, like Mr. Robinson, played with Patrick Roy and they won Stanley Cups together. He had good results with the special teams of the Canadiens while he was coaching, and his team played an uptempo, offensive brand of hockey, which would be a great change from Jacques Martin's 'Système'.

For a goalie coach, we can retain Mr. Groulx, but the overriding concern for the next ten years is that the coach be the one who works best with Carey.

4) Vice-President and General Manager: Julien Brisebois has gone through all the steps and is ready to assume the role of an NHL General Manager. He is obviously intelligent and educated having earned his law degree and having practiced briefly with Heenan Blaikie. He then joined the Canadiens and was in charge of legal affairs before moving into the hockey side of the operations. He moved up in the organization and was notably in charge of the Hamilton Bulldogs as their GM, and the Canadiens Vice-President of Hockey Operations. He is currently the Assistant GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning and GM of their AHL affiliate.

With his background and training, Mr. Brisebois is eminently qualified to take the reins of the Canadiens. He has shown talent and produced results at every position he has filled. While he may not be a former NHL player, which some may think is absolutely necessary (I don't), he has an educational and vocational background that few other aspiring GM's can match, and the ability to wrestle with contracts and the salary cap. He is familiar with the organization, its people and culture, and the market it serves.

A great asset is that he is young and energetic, and could be the GM for a long long time. The Canadiens have had a revolving door in their management and ownership teams, something which we thought was going to end with the Bob Gainey-Guy Carbonneau team. While that didn't work out, we have to strive to put in place a team that will inspire confidence and ensure stability.

He would also take over at a time when fans would be prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. They won't be expecting a Stanley Cup in 2013, so he will have the luxury of time to put his plan in action. He can make long-term decisions and build a deep and competent organization on a foundation of intensive scouting and diligent player development, instead of knee-jerk free agent spending and turnstile-spinning coaches.

5) President: I would respectfully recommend that Geoff Molson does not need to be the President of the team. He can act as the Chairman of the Board, and take another step back from day-to-day operations.

For President, I would like someone who has credibility and respect in the league and embodies the Canadiens organization. This individual would need to advocate on our behalf against some of the more bizarre decisions the NHL takes on a day-to-day basis, as well as steering the Good (?) Ship NHL in the right direction, basically counteracting the effect of the Jeremy Jacobs, Mike Milbury and Don Cherry. My best guess of who could fill this role is, wait for it, Bob Gainey. He is already employed by the team, has a lot of hockey knowledge and can command respect around the league, in a way that Mr. Molson may find it hard to do for at least a number of years. He can act as a sounding board for Mr. Brisebois when needed. Others who could fill this role might be Jacques Lemaire, Ken Dryden or Serge Savard, although there are issues with each of these candidates as well. We can maybe also draft a dark horse such as Bobby Smith or Doug Risebrough.

Another benefit of having a 'hockey man' as President is that he would be able to take some of the load off Mr. Brisebois and allow him to concentrate on day-to-day operations. The President would relieve some of the press and PR duties that might fall on the GM's shoulders, and to a smaller degree, the head coach.

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