Canadiens’ GM Candidates Reflect Modern Approach

With the Montreal Canadiens having 16 players in COVID protocol, they will now enter a five-day pause.  This is coming off of the heels of a road trip to the southern United States, a trip that saw the Canadiens lose to the Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, and Florida Panthers.

Despite the pause for the Habs lineup, the management team led by executive vice president Jeff Gorton is still hard at work. Their main goal is to find a general manager (GM) that can work in tandem with Gorton.

Related: Early Front Runners for Canadiens’ GM Position

Renaud Lavoie of TVA reported eight people will be interviewed for the Canadiens GM job next week, namely; Patrick Roy, Daniel Brière, Mathieu Darche, Marc Denis, Kent Hughes, Stéphane Quintal, Danièle Sauvageau & Émilie Castonguay. Several of those names have been mentioned as early front runners for the position by THW writers.

The Canadiens GM Hiring Committee Begins

Team owner Geoff Molson and his selection committee, Gorton, minority owner Micheal Andlauer and Bob Gainey begin their meeting this week according to Pierre Lebrun, who also adds the name of Roberto Luongo to the mix.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see the interviews being done remotely over virtual sites such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams based largely due to the medical measures now in place in Quebec and among the Canadiens themselves. Remote interviews will mean that there will be a second interview process that will need to be done in person as there is some unspoken body language lost when done remotely. The wait for this step to have begun may have been due to needing permission from other organizations to speak to some candidates, such as Roberto Luongo (Florida Panthers) and Mathieu Darche (Tampa Bay Lightning).

Florida Panthers Roberto Luongo
Retired Florida Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach, File)

While it’s promising news that the Canadiens have been reaching out for permission from other teams, there is no guarantee that teams will grant permission or that the person they are targeting from that team would be interested in the position. That being said, it’s expected that all teams asked will provide permission as it is extremely rare in the NHL for organizations to deny upward mobility to their personnel, especially when GM positions are being offered. 

New Canadiens GM Candidates

There are some interesting names added to the list of candidates, and for those saying the Canadiens should be seeking out those with NHL management experience, they forget that Gorton will be working in tandem, meaning, the experience needed is already in place. The new GM will have support.

The important aspects for the job now are to bring in someone who can work cooperatively, has an aptitude at identifying talent, and has a more modern mindset to help lead the Canadiens roster and development forward from the traditional school of thought Marc Bergevin followed to one that has been taking over the NHL in the last five to 10 years, that of speed and mobility on the blueline and having a focus on offensive skill at center. The names added to the list of candidates seem to fit that mindset.

Marc Denis

Currently, Marc Denis works as an analyst for RDS, the french language sports network affiliated to TSN, and has first-hand knowledge of the team and its young players due to his work covering the team daily. He would have been able to assess the talent, the strengths, the weaknesses, and also, to form an opinion on a way ahead because of his unique point of view.

While it is true he lacks NHL managerial experience, he does have experience as an NHL goaltender, as a coach with the QMJHL Chicoutimi Saguenéens, and recently, presiding over a committee to modernize the development of hockey players and systems with Hockey Quebec.

Part of what the Canadiens will be doing in this hiring process is not just looking for new ideas, but also looking to new places to search for a GM, namely looking at agents and at adding diversity by talking to qualified women as well. The Canadiens will be looking to speak to two of them in this process.

Danièle Sauvageau

Danièle Sauvageau reminds me of Pat Burns in that she is a former police officer who began coaching women’s minor hockey bringing in a no-nonsense approach to the position. Eventually, she became head coach of the Canadian Women’s National program, winning several Medals. She then moved on to a role as an assistant coach with the QMJHL Montreal Rocket before moving on to eventually becoming the GM of the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) Montreal Carabins then as the GM of the Montreal based team of the Professional Women’s Hockey Player’s Association. 

She has experience as a coach, a GM, and an executive at the Olympic and professional levels. Her work as a Hockey Canada Coaching Mentor also provides her with a view of player and coaching development the Canadiens need. Even if she is not seen as a candidate for GM after the hiring process is complete, she could be an excellent choice to be brought in as an assistant GM in charge of player development.

Émilie Castonguay

Another interesting name that also brings a diverse experience is player agent Émilie Castonguay. A former player herself, as an NCAA player with Niagara University. She may be best known as the first female to become a certified NHLPA player agent, one of Sportsnet’s top 25 most influential women in sports, and as Alexis Lafrenière’s agent.

Alexis Lafreniere New York Rangers
Alexis Lafreniere, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

To get to this point she would have to have been highly motivated, organized, and skilled at identifying talent early, all attributes needed for a GM. If she were interested in leaving her growing business as a player agent for the NHL front office of the Canadiens she would add diversity, but not due to her gender, but due to her point of view as an agent. Negotiation skills, skill identification, and an ability to work well in a group setting would all benefit the Canadiens and Gorton, who is capable of mentoring a young GM.

Whoever the Canadiens hire, they will have their hands full in retooling or rebuilding the Canadiens roster, development, and scouting systems. They will need to work in tandem with Jeff Gorton to build a foundation of speed and mobility. Fans always say “hire the best candidate available”, in Montreal, that does have to include language. Of the names mentioned, they all bring something different to the table, the best candidate available that the Canadiens need most of all, is someone who shares Gorton’s track record of focusing on building from the blueline out with a modern view of mobility and skill first. 

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