Canadiens Early Frontrunners for GM Position

Since Montreal Canadiens’ president and owner Geoff Molson fired former general manager (GM) Marc Bergevin there has been speculation on just who could be the replacement. There have been several names thrown about, some are well known, others less so. 

As is the case in Montreal, language matters, so the next GM will need to speak french. That being said, the new executive vice president Jeff Gorton spoke to the media and mentioned some of the other important criteria the team will be looking for.

Jeff Gorton
BUFFALO, NY – JUNE 25: Jeff Gorton during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 25, 2016 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

“We want to look at all the candidates and pick the very best based on what they have. Maybe it’s a person that doesn’t have a tonne of experience as a general manager but what else do they have that they could bring to the table? We’re going to look for somebody that’s maybe a little outside the box, that’s going to help us move forward and complement me.”

-Jeff Gorton

We will look at the current front runners, and using the known criteria, if they could be a fit as the next GM of the Canadiens  

Canadiens Search Committee is Formed

The search for the next GM of the Canadiens has begun. Just as he had in 2012, Molson has turned to a trusted advisor to help him in that search, this time turning to former GM and Hockey Hall of Fame player, Bob Gainey.

Gainey being involved in a committee to find the GM is a positive addition. He has a true understanding of what the job of GM in Montreal entails, having once held it. He also understands the market, having been a player and captain of the team, winning five Stanley Cups as a player with the Canadiens and one Cup as the GM of the Dallas Stars. He’s an Anglophone, who embraced the local culture and learned the French language. His knowledge of the unique demands of this market will bring a unique perspective to the search committee that can only help Gorton.

Patrick Roy

You can’t go a day without hearing the name Patrick Roy in Montreal. On the radio, on television, on the lips of people in the streets, it is clear that the popular former Canadiens goaltender – who won two Stanley Cups as a Hab and has his number 33 retired by the team – has the lead in winning the hearts and minds of the fans. He also made his desire to join the team in that role well known.

Looking at the known criteria can Roy be a fit? For starters, he is bilingual and he has experience as a GM with his Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) team, the Quebec Remparts. His experience as a head coach and a vice president with the Colorado Avalanche could also be seen as a plus. While Roy isn’t an outside-of-the-box candidate, his fiery style and comfort with the press could compliment Gorton’s more reserved style of working behind the scenes. 

Patrick Roy of the Montreal Canadiens
Patrick Roy of the Montreal Canadiens hoists the Stanley Cup over his head as he celebrates their championship victory over the Los Angeles Kings, Montreal, Canada, June 9, 1993. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

Would he be the best fit? Maybe not. In his interview, Roy mentions his aversion to analytics, a tool that Gorton is well known for relying upon. Also, Roy had a falling out with the Colorado Avalanche while he was their head coach, and he quit the team six weeks before the start of the 2016-2017 season. These could be red flags for Gorton. Roy’s old school method of player evaluation and that passion he is well known for can also spill over at times. Because of this, Roy may not be seen as someone who could work well in a tandem with Gorton. 

Related: Gorton’s Past as GM Can Point to Canadiens’ Future

Kent Hughes

Kent Hughes wasn’t on anyone’s radar until Elliotte Friedman mentioned him on his 32 Thoughts segment on Hockey Night in Canada on 4 Dec

“The person who I believe they’re interested in who is an agent is Kent Hughes, who’s born in Montreal, he is bilingual, (and is) now in the Boston area, so there’s a connection to Gorton for both of them being around there.”

-Elliotte Friedman

But who is Hughes? He is a Montreal native, that is fluently bilingual. He’s an NHL player agent and managing agent with Quartexx Management who’s client list includes Patrice Bergeron, Anthony Beauvillier and Josh Anderson. There is a connection to Gorton beyond being in the Boston area. When he was still the New York Rangers’ GM, Gorton drafted Hughes’ son Riley in 2018. Unlike Roy, Hughes is making sure he isn’t in any limelight while not saying what his position on the job is either.

Hughes has a connection that could prove helpful, he has two sons who play for Northeastern, which is the current team of one of the Habs’ top prospects, Jordan Harris. It could be a familiarity that the Canadiens could leverage to ensure they sign Harris before 15 Aug. 2022 when he can leave the organization as an unrestricted free agent.

Jordan Harris, Northeastern University
Jordan Harris, Northeastern University (Jim Pierce of Northeastern Athletics)

As an agent, Hughes would be well versed in media relations and analytics. He would also have built relationships with NHL GMs and have an intimate knowledge of how to negotiate contracts and work under the salary cap, all areas that could compliment Gorton if he were chosen for the position. 

Mathieu Darche

As a former NHL player with the Canadiens, and a bilingual Montreal native, Mathieu Darche ticks the boxes for fans as an acceptable choice as GM. But is he ready?

Darche is currently the Director of Hockey Operations for the Tampa Bay Lightning and has been GM Julien Brisebois’ right hand man over the past two seasons, winning the Stanley Cup each of those years. In his role, he has helped Brisebois with negotiating contracts, scouting players around the league, but most of all, Darche has been his salary cap expert. He has made an impact in that organization and has the support from his colleagues for any role he would choose to pursue.

If this were a regular GM role, one where he would be expected to assume the mantle and the responsibility all on his own, Darche would not be an ideal candidate. However, as someone with executive experience in the business world, and now in the NHL, he could take on the role as Gorton would be there to mentor him at every step. Having worked for two years in Tampa Bay, Darche would be very familiar with analytics as they have an extensive staff, he would also have a good knowledge of the importance of the development system as that was a part of his role. All of these make Darche a slightly outside of the box choice that could be a fit for the Canadiens.

The Canadiens’ GM search will continue for several more weeks, and like a bad reality TV show the fans and media will vote candidates off of the island. There will be other names that come out as being of interest to the hiring committee, however, until the search is complete, none of the leading candidates named here can be dismissed or ignored as viable options to lead the Canadiens.  

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