Montreal Canadiens Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Jeff Gorton got his first taste of what it’s like to deal with the Montreal media, as he held his first press conference for about 30 minutes on Tuesday. Some interesting topics came up and the newly appointed VP touched on a number of things fans have been wanting answers for. Here are five takeaways from Gorton’s press conference.
5. Ducharme Won’t Be Fired…Yet
When the club fired former general manager Marc Bergevin on Sunday, along with Trevor Timmins and Paul Wilson, many wondered if head coach Dominique Ducharme would soon follow. Well, that answer was clarified by Gorton on Tuesday, as the 53-year-old VP confirmed Ducharme would remain the coach for the remainder of the season.
This decision does not mean Ducharme’s job is secure after the season ends. The Canadiens are not going to make the playoffs, so it would make little sense to make a coaching change mid-season, even if Ducharme does not have a future in Montreal. Gorton seems to be deliberate in his hockey decisions and does not rush any process, including who the next head coach will be.
4. Gorton to Learn French
The Journal de Montreal came out with a controversial headline, mocking Jeff Gorton and sarcastically wishing him “good luck” on the cover of their issue earlier this week. Language politics and sports continue to make headlines in certain sectors of the Montreal media and Gorton was unsurprisingly asked whether he plans to adapt to the culture in Quebec and learn French. He answered candidly and took it in stride, saying his wife signed him up for online French lessons.
He makes no promises his French will be fluent, but the fact he recognizes the importance of language in La Belle Province and has already taken steps to embrace living in Montreal speaks volumes on what kind of a man Geoff Molson hired. The Habs’ owner found a good one.
3. General Manager Decision After Christmas
Fans have been anticipating what Gorton will do in the coming days and weeks, with one of those decisions being who the Canadiens’ next GM will be. While Gorton said the search has started, he made it clear the process will be deliberate and take time. When asked the over-under on whether the decision will come before or after Christmas, the 53-year-old said he would bet on after.
To expect the decision to come sooner would be a reach. Picking the next GM will define the direction this organization will take under this new regime. Gorton touched on hockey decisions being a two-man show between himself and the next general manager. Finding the right partner to work with will be crucial and, rightfully, should not be rushed.
2. Change in Philosophy
In analyzing the Canadiens’ front office staff, Gorton said the club has some good personnel in place, but he feels there could be more support for player development. He alluded to growing that department, along with starting an analytics department to modernize player evaluation.
Again, this speaks to Gorton’s knowledge of the game. Having been around hockey for majority of his life, he understands the crucial steps that need to be taken to ensure an organization’s success from the top-down. Montreal has struggled with player development and lacked an analytics department. Evolving those areas and keeping up with modern ways to manage a hockey team is something the previous administration failed to do and should give fans hope the team is in good hands.
1. Picking the Next GM
Perhaps the biggest takeaway of the press conference was the process of picking the next GM. Gorton spoke honestly about wanting someone that has a different background and different approach to the game than he does. The Canadiens’ VP said he will not close the door on any candidate, including Patrick Roy.
Roy was a hot topic at the press conference after he came out expressing interest in the general manager position, and as anyone would expect, Gorton did not show his cards. But he is not ruling Roy out as a candidate either. When speaking of the former Stanley Cup champion, Gorton said, “I have a tremendous amount of respect for him (Roy) for what he’s done in hockey, and I know he’s an emotional guy who speaks his mind. We’ll look at everyone.”
Interestingly, Gorton also said he would consider a general manager with an agent background. TSN 690 brought up Pat Brisson being a possible option, which could be a great fit knowing his resume and negotiation skills. Alas, this is all speculation, but one thing we can conclude from this press conference is Gorton is an honest, humble man and, despite what some members of the media say, seems to be a great fit for the Habs organization.
Ryan graduated from the Ryerson School of Journalism in 2015 and contributes to the Montreal Canadiens section. He has also previously worked for STATS LLC as a Hockey Reporter and the Rant Media Network as a Copy Editor.