In a press conference today, Geoff Molson announced the relieving of Pierre Gauthier's and Bob Gainey's duties as the front office of the Montreal Canadiens. We all new that Gauthier's reign at the helm of the Canadiens was all but over despite Molson waiting until now to unveil the news. He gave Pierre Gauthier to go out with a nice swan song but, that was not achieved.
Now that Gauthier is gone, the Canadiens clearly face a rebuild from top to bottom. Despite Molson, in his boring press conference, reiterating his belief and his commitment to his core players, this organization can't help but to rebuild.
This year, the Canadiens find themselves in the bottom of Eastern Conference with 72 points and a shot at first overall. This is a golden opportunity to rebuild and start the recovering of this historic hockey brand. Molson and his minions face an uphill battle that, if they don't produce quick results, they'll be a great cause of distress in Montreal.
Here are seven things that, in my opinion, he needs to do in order to recover this franchise.
Well, that didn't work out after all...
I sincerely wish all the best to Randy Cunneyworth, and I also believe that he has the potential to become one of the top coaches in the NHL. This year, he came under flak right from the get-go when he replaced Jacques Martin.
The situation is untenable behind the Canadiens' bench. Molson has already made some changes, taking Larry Carrière from the bench and reinstating him at his assistant GM role. It remains to be seen whether or not the Canadiens will hire a francophone coach, but they will to have either a francophone GM or a francophone coach, if not both.
This is the end of the road for Cunneyworth, Ladouceur and, most likely, everyone behind them.
For me, Patrick Roy is perfect to occupy either the position of head coach or of GM in the Canadiens organization. An ex-Hab that had a contentious departure, Roy came back to Quebec and has been doing an excellent job with the Quebéc Remparts of the QMJHL.
While one might think that he has no business being the general manager of this organization, Roy's I-can't-hear-you-because-of-my-rings bring another dimension of passion only found in rare characters (see Brian Burke).
That might not pan out as well, but this has the potential of being a genius PR move for Geoff Molson. Imagine if they win the Cup a few years down the road with Roy at helm. If he's not a saint yet, I'm sure he'll be canonized after that.
Personally, I think that there are better francophone names in both capacities. The name of Julien Brisebois of the Tampa Bay Lightning has been tossed around, and I believe that for the coaching position, a name like Michel Therrien would be better for the Canadiens, but Roy has an abnormal pull in the province.
It's almost inevitable for Geoff Molson to give Roy a good, hard look this offseason.
This is much less related to hockey than one thinks it is. I don't believe that results will solely achieve the culture change that Geoff Molson so exhaustively mentioned in his press conference. Both the Kaberle and Bourque trades did not work out, and the dealing with the Markov debacle were some of the nadirs of Gauthier's tenure in Montreal.
Molson needs to empower the staff-to-be-hired to make the necessary changes, either through trade or drafting, to revamp this roster. Furthermore, the Canadiens need to embark in a campaign to win back the Quebecois hearts and minds which, historically, have been so supportive of this franchise. They need someone that will deal with the day-by-day in a totally different manner than Gauthier did.
In summation, the Canadiens need to make a 180-degree turn from where they are, not only on ice, but in the front office too.
For me, it's pretty evident that the cornerstones of this franchise are Carey Price, Josh Gorges, PK Subban, Brian Gionta, Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty. The Canadiens can get a pretty sweet return on each of these players if they decide to shop them but, it's not in their best interest to do so.
PK's struggles were notorious throughout this season, but he is a flamboyant player with tons of untapped potential. Josh Gorges is one of the better shut-down defensemen in the league and has greatly benefited from Hal Gill's presence in the squad.
PK's best time was when Andrei Markov was healthy and Jaroslav Spacek was around, though he's now on his own. Max Pacioretty and Carey Price have been the brightest spots of the franchise this year and they will be elite players at least for the better part of this next decade.
Molson needs to leave his cornerstones alone in order for them to receive new players and build a new franchise that they can call their own.
The two in the picture above, Price and Subban, have the skill to be the top players in their positions in the league. Price has come into his own after Jaroslav Halak left, but he hasn't achieved the numbers that the Slovak has due to the lack of a proper backup. PK has been dealing with being one of the most hated players in the league and his production has dropped significantly.
A team psychologist would not only improve both PK and Price, the whole team will benefit. Players like Rene Bourque would greatly benefit from the measure, in my opinion
I don't know what happened regarding Andrei Markov's injury and I think that the party that most lost on his absence was himself. This process has been all too shady, and Markov has essentially lost the last two seasons.
Don't get me wrong here, Andrei Markov could've been one of the top power-play quarterbacks for the time that he was out but, due to his absence, the whole franchise has suffered. In my opinion, Markov is finished at top level, unfortunately for the Habs. Because of all the injuries and possible returns that didn't come to fruition, he deserved at least another productive season and a good run into the playoffs.
It seems that he won't have the body to compete in the NHL for that to happen. Markov is only a shadow of himself, and it would be best for both parties if he would return to mother Russia. Tied up for the next three seasons with a cap hit of almost $6 million, it seems that the buyout would better for both parties' sake.
Considering that the Columbus Blue Jackets will inevitably have the worst record in the NHL this season, they will draft this year's top prospect, Nail Yakupov, first overall. If handled properly, Yakupov could be their next franchise player because Rick Nash is going to be out the door come draft time.
The next best center available in the draft is the Swede in the picture above, Filip Forsberg. Despite some rankings showing MIkhail Grigorenko ahead of Forsberg in the rankings, it is my opinion that Forsberg is a more consistent performer and is a better player, suited to Montreal's needs, as said here by Craig Button.
Even though Grigorenko has been very for good for Roy's Remparts, Forsberg is a player that could have the bigger impact for Montreal.