The Montreal Canadiens haven’t just reshuffled their managerial deck chairs. In the midst of the worst start in franchise history, they have pretty much pitched them overboard.
Marc Bergevin is out as general manager. So are his assistants, Trevor Timmons and Scott Mellanby, and Paul Wilson, the vice-president of public affairs and communications.
Dominique Ducharme retains his position behind the bench – at least for now.
“I don’t make the coaching decision,” Geoff Molson, the club’s co-owner and chief executive, said Monday during a one-hour news conference in Montreal. “As far as I am concerned, he is still the coach.”
On Sunday, Molson hired Jeff Gorton, who until recently served as the GM of the New York Rangers, as the head of hockey operations. He will also temporarily fill the role of GM until a new one is found.
“There is no question this is going to be an exhaustive search,” Molson said. “I believe the sooner the better, but we would not rush into anything if the best candidate is not available until the off-season. The first step is to do research and put together a list.
“I strongly believe this organization needs a fresh start.”
The Canadiens headed into a game at Bell Centre on Monday night against the Vancouver Canucks with a 6-15-2 record. Only months ago, they reached the Stanley Cup final for the first time since 1993.
Since then, however, key players were lost to free agency, Montreal’s captain Shea Weber suffered a career-threatening injury and goaltender Carey Price voluntarily entered rehab via the NHL’s player-assistance program.
The wheels haven’t just come off, they have been jettisoned.
“I reached a point where I wasn’t supportive [of management’s decisions] anymore,” Molson said.
Where Bergevin fairly well ruled the roost, responsibilities will be split up between Gorton and the Canadiens’ next general manager.
“The two of them will work together to make good decisions for the good of the organization,” Molson said. “I listed a bunch of things that we need to do for us to get better. To do that is a big job.
“Having two people thinking about those smart decisions is way better than one. There is a big opportunity to introduce different perspectives.”
Gorton was GM of the Rangers from 2015 to 2021 after spending four seasons as their assistant GM. Gorton was fired by the Rangers, along with team president John Davidson, on May 5 and has worked since then as an analyst on the NHL Network.
Born in Massachusetts, Gorton does not speak French. Like Bergevin, the Canadiens’ next general manager will be bilingual so as to be able communicate with the club’s large French-speaking fan base.
“Our market is unique and it is pretty complicated,” Molson said.
It is believed that the Montreal-born Martin Brodeur, a long-time NHL goalie and member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, will draw interest. Brodeur has worked in the front office of the New Jersey Devils for three years.
Other possible candidates include former Canadiens centre Daniel Brière, who runs the Maine Mariners of the ECHL, and Patrick Roy. The former Habs goalie will forever be linked with the organization and his name will always be bandied about when change is in the air.
It is blowing pretty hard now.
Under Gorton, the Rangers missed the playoffs in each of the past two seasons. They are 13-4-3 now and third in the Metropolitan Division. They have won their past three games.
“He is going to be one of two people to do the job,” Molson said when asked about Gorton’s credentials. “In the hockey world, nobody is perfect. I look at [that Rangers team] today and it seems to be performing well.
“When I met with him I was thoroughly impressed. I think we are going to like to have him here. He will be a breath of fresh air and will provide us with a fresh start.”
The next general manager might not have ever worked in that capacity. Molson is open to anything and everything, and said he is not afraid to rebuild.
“I hired Marc Bergevin in 2012 and he had zero experience and did a good job,” Molson said. “But it is a lot for one person. If I could back up a few years, I would have added another. Jeff has had many years of experience in different roles, and we are fortunate to bring that breadth and depth to this organization.”