Canadiens GM: The Short List

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Written by Robert Rice, AllHabs.net

TORONTO, ON. — There has been much talk even before Pierre Gauthier was relieved of duty about who should take over as the next General Manager of the Montreal Canadiens. I have often been in opposition to the names passed around the most in Vincent Damphousse, Pierre McGuire and Patrick Roy. I have been challenged more often of late to name my choice, or rather my choices. I don’t have a particular horse in this race, I have a list of people I would like to see get strong consideration and would be content with any of these hires.

Jim Benning: Current Assistant General Manager of the Boston Bruins.

Benning began in the NHL as a scout for the Anaheim Ducks in 1993, than moved on to scout for the Buffalo Sabres in 1994 and in 1998 took over as Director of Amateur Scouting from 1998 to 2004. In Benning’s tenure, Buffalo drafted players including Clark MacArthur,  Jason Pominville, Derek Roy, Drew Stafford Dennis Wideman and Thomas Vanek. Benning took over as Director of Player Personnel in Boston in 2006 and was promoted to Assistant General Manager in 2007, he won the Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins in 2011. Benning obviously offers the experience of working within a winning club and would probably ensure the Canadiens had a lot more bite in their roster going forward as many would prefer.

Marc Bergevin

Marc Bergevin: Current Assistant General Manager of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Bergevin’s portfolio with the Blackhawks has included three years as a scout from 2005-2008, including Director of Pro Scouting for a year and spending a year as an assistant coach. Bergevin was named Director of Player Personnel in 2009 until being promoted in 2011 to the post of Assistant GM. Bergevin has been a notable riser in the Chicago organization so far and has the credentials of working in an organization that has rebuilt “the right way” and being involved in that process for most of that time. Bergevin has worked under General Managers like Dale Tallon and Stan Bowman, who are both considerable names in today’s NHL. Bergevin offers the lure of a Montreal native with experience within a winning organization.

 

Julien BriseBois: Current Assistant General Manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning. BriseBois began in the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens as their Director of Legal Affairs from 2001 to 2003 when he added Director of Hockey Operations to his portfolio. BriseBois’s work with the Canadiens expanded further in 2007 when he became the General Manager of the team’s AHL affiliate the Hamilton Bulldogs who enjoyed a 137-78-25 under his three-season tenure and won their Division and Conference in 2010. BriseBois was considered the “Capologist” of the Montreal Canadiens and is known to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement.

BriseBois was hired by Steve Yzerman in 2010 to become an assistant General Manager with the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he fulfills the same duties he held in Montreal, in addition he also is involved directly in contract negotiations, salary arbitrations and player transactions. BriseBois’s management of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s AHL affiliate the Norfolk Admirals involved the team setting an AHL Record this year, winning 21 straight games. BriseBois offers the appeal of someone with varied experience in hockey operations and is a fast-tracker in NHL operations. While young, BriseBois always seems ready to accept a challenge and younger minds are becoming more favourable in today’s NHL.

 

Jarmo Kekäläinen: Current General Manager of  Jokerit Helsinki in the Finnish Elite League. Who? Is a popular response to this name likely but allow me to make a case. Kekäläinen has served in hockey operations since 1995 when he spent four years as General Manager of IFK Helsinki in the Finnish league. During his term with IFK, Kekäläinen worked in several capacities for the Ottawa Senators before moving to North America in 1999 to assume duties as Director of Player Personnel until 2002. Kekäläinen would then move on to assume duties as Assistant General Manager and Director of Player Personnel in 2002 with the St Louis Blues, a position he held until 2010 when he left to become the GM of Jokerit Helsinki.

Kekäläinen’s involvement in scouting with NHL teams has included the selections of Marian Hossa, Martin Havlat, Ray Emery, David Backes, David Perron, Alex Pietreangelo, Patrik Berglund and T.J. Oshie. If the objective is a General Manager who is all about working the draft and has a good eye for talent in both North American and Europe, Montreal could do far worse than talk to him.

 

Trevor Timmins

Trevor Timmins: Current Director of Procurement and Player Development for the Montreal Canadiens. Timmins served from 1992 to 2002 in the Ottawa Senators organization, including the lat 3 years as Director of Hockey Operations. Timmins also served as Scouting Director, Strength and Conditioning Coach and Director of Player Services with the Senators. Timmins was hired by the Canadiens in 2002 and took over as Head of Scouting of the Montreal Canadiens in 2003. Timmins work defines the team core in the selections of Carey Price, P.K. Subban and now Max Pacioretty. One hardly imagines Timmins was in favour of the team dealing away Ryan McDonagh either, who is proving his worth, unfortunately in a New York Rangers jersey. Timmins also found a number of late-round steals, including Mark Streit, Sergei Kostitsyn, Matt D’Agostini, Mikhail Grabovski and the new fan-favourite freight train of the blue line in Alexei Emelin. One can readily imagine a Canadiens team holding Mark Streit, Ryan McDonagh would not struggle as mightily on defence. It would also be a Canadiens team that lost fewer draft picks dealing for band-aid defensive assistance and have more prospects now available.

Yes there will always be the thought “why didn’t Timmins go for Ryan Getzlaf or Claude Giroux” but what if the Habs had never drafted Carey Price or P.K. Subban?  Timmins recent work is also highlighting a brighter future as Louis Leblanc is displaying his ability to play in the NHL and training camp favourite Brendan Gallagher is edging ever closer to that stage of his career. Despite defensive issues at present for Montreal, Timmins has also been diligent in restocking the team’s pipeline with defencemen like Jarred Tinordi, Nathan Beaulieu and Morgan Ellis. Timmins would be a General Manager who would have a strong focus on building via draft and in the modern NHL,  Draft is often the key to building a Contending team.

 

I have often preached the need for a General Manager with experience to be in charge of the Montreal Canadiens and I think my reasoning is sound enough. Every post-lockout Stanley Cup Champion had a General Manager with experience working within an NHL organization, from Jim Rutherford as General Manager of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 to Peter Chiarelli of the Boston Bruins in 2011. Each of these General Managers served apprenticeships in lesser roles before assuming their duties.

The names I discuss now are men with experience as builders, they’ve been involved with the operations of NHL teams and the process of designing a team blueprint. They understand talent evaluation and modern NHL operations. They’re all looking for their first term as a General Manager and have shown proficiency in organization and talent evaluation. They’re all experienced from the side of player development which is a key factor for a Canadiens team set to revamp itself from a burgeoning core of young players coming up through their farm system. The Montreal Canadiens must respect the draft and their prospects in order to undo mistakes of the past such as casually dealing away high picks or prospects that have yet to realise their potential. It’s time for the Canadiens to select someone with experience and ideas, someone with vision and the understanding of the modern game. I’m not sure if any of these men are truly fit for the job, but I believe they hold the experience necessary to potentially make the Montreal Canadiens a Contending Team for the ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup which has been too long absent from Montreal.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Good stuff Robert. Whether people agree with you or not you give legitimate reasons for each of the potential candidates.
    Who knows, maybe Serge will use this as factual data.

  2. Good article Robert! Just one remark: I think Timmins is a great candidate because of the good job he’s done over the lat few years, but there’s no way to know if he “would be a General Manager who would have a strong focus on building via draft”. That’s just based on the fact that he’s in charge of scouting now, but we can’t really tell what style of GMing he would adopt. (Unless he said so in the media or something and I missed it!)

    • Well there is never a guarantee with the style of GM but to me it seems only logical in my opinion that someone like Timmins who has spent his career in scouting would take a particular focus on drafting and player development. Not definite, but I’m wagering that would be his basis for building a team.

  3. Great article, you threw out some names I hadn’t even considered before. Refreshing to find someone who actually looks a little outside of the box. I especially appreciated the bit on Timmins, never considered promoting from within!

    That said, what’s your opinion on Jim Nill, Assistant GM of the Red Wings? I doubt he’d move, but do you think he’s also a legitimate candidate?

    • Nill is considered a hot candidate around the league, but the issue RE him is his contract runs until 2016, has a No-Compete clause attached to it as well. DET previously declined MIN, TOR from talking to him when they went GM hunting as well from reports.

      I think he might like where he is, but DET seems loathe to give him up.

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