Seravalli: With Gorton, Canadians Could Overthrow Traditional Front Office Power Structure
It is fitting that a popular idiom we use today has its origin in a mid-12th century iteration in French, of all languages: “Hell is full of good wills and desires. “
Version of the day: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
How else to describe owner Geoff Molson and the Montreal Canadiens’ management of an inevitable power transition? This weekend has been an absolute mess – sloppy and messed up in just about every facet.
First off, it was rumored that the Habs had been given permission to speak to former New York Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton on Saturday night. News of Deputy Managing Director Scott Mellanby’s resignation soon followed, which would have upset and stunned Managing Director Marc Bergevin.
Finally, almost 24 full hours after the news cycle started, blue white redthe bleeding has happily ended. Bergevin and another deputy general manager Trevor Timmins were laid off along with public relations manager Paul Wilson.
Oddly enough, the fact that the Canadiens officially hired Gorton as the newly created executive vice president of hockey operations was only mentioned halfway through the team’s press release.
Previously mentioned: “A process to recruit, as soon as possible, the next general manager of the team is underway. While the next general manager will bring significant hockey expertise to the organization, an additional criterion of this person’s role will be to communicate with fans in French and in English.
The entire execution, including Bergevin’s subsequent farewell letter, was mismanaged – something decidedly off the mark for the franchise which generally puts on ceremonies and pomp and ceremony better than any other in the NHL.
That left many more questions than answers, which Molson will attempt to explain at a press conference on Monday morning.
But back to that road to hell: what if the plan put in place by Molson over the weekend was exactly what the Canadians needed, damn the timing and the announcements?
The real answer will not be known for about five years. And by then, if Molson is right, this weekend’s blunders will long be forgiven.
There are so many questions.
What if… tradition-obsessed Canadians took the non-traditional route and broke away from the standards set both in the way their club previously operated and in the way the NHL wickets have generally been structured?
What if… this was a creative workaround to pacify a fan base and a market that requires a French-speaking CEO?
Because so far the various presidents of NHL hockey operations have been more figureheads than callers, the link between the property and the front office which can also be the franchise’s public face to take balls. for the manager who does all the heavy lifting on a daily basis.
Gorton could undoubtedly fill this role. He is certainly presidential.
But what if… Canadians reverse this model?
Gorton, 53, could be the man in command with all the traditional power and might of an NHL general manager, while the next francophone who is effectively hired with that title will gain valuable experience under him in a collaborative role where he is also the voice and face of the franchise in French in the most rabid hockey market.
It would be an unprecedented front office structure – but it would make sense on so many levels.
Gorton is known as a collaborator, a relationship builder among his staff. He spent his entire NHL career with the Original Six, now having checked off half of his resume by adding the Canadiens alongside the Bruins and Rangers. His mentors are Hall of Fame builders Harry Sinden and Glen Sather, and Gorton knows how to build – both as a shrewd talent assessor in the project and someone who knows how to find the finishing touches to a reconstruction (Artemi Panarin) even if it means catching it a few years in advance.
Those who know him say that Gorton is one of the few in the game who can achieve this structure from a personality standpoint.
Gorton could help bring in a Mathieu Darche or Danny Brière, two former Canadiens players who gained front office experience elsewhere in Tampa Bay and Philadelphia. Could Roberto Luongo’s contagious personality be a perfect fit for the face of the franchise in the market? Gorton also had a front row seat in Boston for Martin Lapointe’s leadership abilities, seeing what Lapointe did to mentor an 18-year-old Patrice Bergeron, and that could make Lapointe a very intriguing internal candidate.
To know Gorton is to know that GM hired would not just be a figurehead, but a trusted counterpart. More importantly, any of these four applicants would meet the French language requirement. Knowing how Montreal works is a requirement that exists. The last time the Habs had an English-speaking head coach only in 2012, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Bell Center.
Too often this means that Canadians have hired with a short deck.
In Gorton, the Canadians went for the best cadre available, who was also an American and an English speaker. It had been a long time since no one had been able to type this sentence.
Maybe this weekend was a mess because Molson knew he had to strike fast. Anaheim and Chicago already had vacancies at GM, with both also considering chairman roles – not to mention the inevitable turnover in Vancouver.
Good intentions, and all that. We will see what kind of road this opens up now for Les Glorieux.