Friday, May 11, 2012

A Day as Habs GM: A Tour of the Front Office

Before he gets to addressing matters like Scott Gomez, Tomas Kaberle, or anyone in the team's line-up, new Canadiens General Manager Marc Bergevin needs to assess the staff he has in place.  It has come to light that there was a lot "wrong" with the Pierre Gauthier/Bob Gainey regime of the past few years, and Bergevin has come in with the right attitudes to reverse it, but as an inexperienced GM, he'll need to surround himself with the right people.

First, Bergevin has indicated that Trevor Timmins, who currently holds the title of Director of Procurement and Player Development, has his confidence (and rightfully so given his track record) and will remain with the organization.  His role could conceivably change a little, as many have been critical of Montreal's Player Development over the past few years, so it is possible that the team brings in someone to focus on just that.  Timmins will also see his scouting staff grow, as Bergevin has committed to at least adding more sets of eyes to watch the QMJHL (currently only Serge Boisvert does this) to not miss out on local talent.  Of course, it is likely too late to add scouts in preparation for the Entry Draft just over a month away, so this is something the team will look at for next season, meaning there is no rush on the scouting staff changes to come.  But they are coming.

The other important member of the organization that Bergevin indicated would stay around is Larry Carriere, who currently has the position of Assistant General Manager.  What Bergevin hasn't confirmed is what position Carriere will hold in his new regime, as we know it is only a matter of time before Rick Dudley joins the organization from the Toronto Maple Leafs, and will likely become the "real" Assistant GM.  It isn't impossible for a team to have multiple Assistant GMs - the Leafs have many who could qualify as such which is a model I'd like to see Montreal emulate - but the team will need to assign them specific roles.  One possibility is the creation of a post for a dedicated GM to the Hamilton Bulldogs, something that Carriere discussed during a little bit of late season work in Canada's Steel Capital.  It is reasonable to speculate that this become Carriere's role, or that the team may bring in someone lacking experience to grow in the job.

With Bergevin, Dudley, Timmins, and Carriere in place, the Habs seem to be building a strong front office.  But none of these men is known as a "numbers guy," meaning there could still be another opening for a specialized Capologist.  Patrick Boivin, son of former President Pierre Boivin, currently assumes this role (title of Director of Hockey Operations) but at age 33 is far from an experienced NHL exec.  Previously, the last time Montreal had a dedicated person in this role, it was Julien Brisebois, current Assistant GM in Tampa Bay and recent candidate for the job Bergevin ended up winning.  Brisebois won't return, and nor is this an area of expertise for Pierre McGuire (if he'd accept the significant paycut, GM of the Bulldogs is far more within his reach) for those who want him involved in the organization.  One possibly interesting name to watch here is Francois Giguere, another guy known to have been an early GM candidate.  Giguere has a CPA degree, meaning math is no foreign subject to him, and filled similar capacities with the Dallas Stars after his days in Colorado.

Bergevin is unlikely to stop his overhaul there, however, as his audit of the organization may encourage him to bring change to another area: Strength, Conditioning, and Athletic Therapy.  Nothing at all against Graham Rynbend, Nick Addey-Jibb, or Pierre Allard, who have provided the Canadiens with their best hard work for many seasons, but there comes a time where the curse of injuries that have followed the club - regardless of how players have changed - needs to be questioned.  And right now, with the big changes that have begun and remain on the horizon, is the ideal time to change direction and start players on new programs.

When you add in looking at the roster, surveying the upcoming free agent class, preparing for the draft, and oh yeah - finding a new head coach - it becomes clear that Bergevin's first weeks as the new head honcho will require long hours and difficult decisions.  This may shed light on why he's in a hurry to get some help, with Dudley hoping to make the jump to the Canadiens' organization as early as possible, though we still await an official announcement.  Either way, even if changes to the on-ice product are going to take a bit of time, it should be an exciting off-season of positive announcements out of Montreal.

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