Now that Pierre Gauthier has finally been fired by the Montreal Canadiens, the search for a new general manager can begin in earnest. Former Montreal Canadiens Hall of Fame defenseman (1966-81) and general manager Serge Savard (1983-95) has been handed the task of finding a replacement in a hurry.
Many reporters in the Montreal area have been calling for former Habs goalie Patrick Roy to be the new coach and or GM for the struggling Canadiens. Roy is currently co-owner, general manager and coach of the Quebec Remparts, a hugely successful franchise in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) based in Quebec City.
There are a lot of reasons this is a good idea. There is a lot of logic behind the idea.
Savard was the GM who drafted Patrick Roy in the third round (51st overall) back in 1984. Both of the Cup teams that Savard was involved with starred Patrick Roy in net.
French Canadian fans love St. Patrick. He is one of the best French-Canadian players to have played in the NHL in the last 20 years.
Roy obviously fulfills all the French language and birth requirements that a Montreal Canadien employee could be expected to have.
He is a Hall of Fame goalie often mentioned in discussions of the greatest NHL goalie of all time.
Patrick Roy was also the goaltender for the last two Montreal Canadien Stanley Cups. His performances in 1986 and 1993 were among the best in 100 years of great Montreal Canadien Stanley Cup goaltending. He, like Savard, is a link back to the last actual success the Montreal Canadiens ever had.
Montreal is a young team and Patrick has been in the young talent development business in Quebec with the Remparts. The likely first-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens in this year's NHL entry draft will be Mikhail Grigorenko, who plays for Patrick Roy and the Quebec Remparts.
All these factors make it easy to see St. Patrick as the saviour in Montreal. Unfortunately, I don't think he is the right fit for the job the Canadiens need done.
Here are seven reasons I believe Patrick Roy can't get the job in Montreal as either general manager or coach.
The late, lamented sports reporter Trent Frayne said it best when he asked the question, "What kind of crack-pot is a goalie?"
Goalies aren't hockey players. They wear different equipment and they perform a different function than anyone else on the ice. Half the time they are observers—like some sort of highly-paid official watching what's going on—usually at the far end of the ice. The rest of the time they are trying to get hit with a vulcanized rubber puck traveling at speeds often exceeding 100 mph.
A great number of goalies end up as hockey analysts. Kelly Hrudry, Darren Pang, Greg Millen and Glen Healy and John Garret quickly come to mind. Apparently, if they play on such a good team that they have too much time on their hands for reflection, they write books (see: Ken Dryden).
The goalie's perspective can be interesting, especially a backup goalie who gets a much better seat for hockey games and gets to hear the coach all game long. Still, their perspective is not an NHL player's perspective. Goalies even have their own coach because they don't play hockey; they play nets.
The list of NHL goalies who become NHL head coaches is frighteningly short for just that reason. The current roster of NHL head coaches is made up of 19 former NHL players: four centers, eight wingers and seven defensemen. The other 11 coaches all had some sort of minor league experience but again, among them are no goalies.
Goalies don't become head coaches in the NHL. There are very few exceptions to this rule I can find. Emile Francis played 73 games for the Chicago Blackhawks and in 22 for the New York Rangers before spending 10 seasons as the head coach of the New York Rangers and three years in St Louis.
Former Boston Bruin All-Star goalie Gerry Cheevers was head coach of the Bruins for four-and-a-half years in the early 1980's.
Glen Hanlon put in 14 years in the NHL as a goalie with the Vancouver Canucks, New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings. He had a short stint from 2003 to 2007 as the head coach of the Washington Capitals.
Former Conn Smythe trophy-winning NHL goalie Roger Crozier was head coach of the 1981-82 Washington Capitals for one game. That seems to be stretching a point. He was the "acting" GM in Washington from November 5th, 1981 until August 27th, 1982.
Lester Patrick was an NHL defenseman who became a general manager and coach. He then filled in as goaltender in 1928 for the New York Rangers when his goalie, Lorne Chabot, was injured. That's more of a reverse career path—a coach who became a goalie.
Scott Gordon was a former Quebec Nordique goalie who became the New York Islanders coach for two-and-a-half years.
This is a short list of goalies who became NHL head coaches. The only successful one would have to be Emile Francis and possibly Gerry Cheevers, and none of them coached their team to a Stanley Cup victory. Goalies don't become coaches in the NHL.
Great players tend to be bad coaches. Steve Yzerman in Tampa bay is still trying to make a case for great players being great GMs, but the results are not in on that study yet.
Generally, great players have not gone in to coaching (they don't have to) and when they have, their success record has been spotty at best.
Patrick Roy was definitely a great player. He was one of the best goaltenders ever to play in the NHL.
The rationale for the lack of success great players have shown has been that they see the game from the summit of their talent. They have trouble relating to mere mortal players. It is thought that the great players can do things naturally that lesser players have to figure out. The man who has done the work dissecting the game is better suited to explain what needs to be done.
One of the the Canadiens' most successful coaches was of course Toe Blake, who was also one of their all-time great players. I think because of his success, Montreal has been more open to having former players coach the team. That kind of thinking had them put Bernard "Boom Boom" Geoffrion in place to coach the team back in 1979. He only lasted 30 games and had to be the worst coach in Canadiens history. Montreal doesn't need that kind of coaching performance again.
The mercurial Roy has more in common with Montreal legend Maurice "The Rocket" Richard. He has a passion similar to the passion the Rocket showed playing. Richard was beloved in Montreal. No one was pushing to make Richard the coach of the team. His linemate, Blake, was fine for the job, but no one saw the temperamental and supremely talented Richard as a coach.
The same qualities that kept Richard from ever coaching the Montreal Canadiens also count against Patrick Roy when you think about him as Montreal Canadiens coach.
The Montreal Canadiens have already suffered through having Patrick Roy as a cornerstone of their organization. The team has never recovered from his public spat with the equally temperamental coach at the time and another former Montreal Canadiens player, Mario Tremblay. It resulted in what is universally regarded as the worst trade in Montreal Canadiens history.
Roy exploded in public and forced a trade that wound up providing the last piece in the puzzle for the Colorado Avalanche Stanley Cup run in 1996. Roy would go on to have a successful seven-and-a-half-season career in Colorado, where he won two Cups and established himself as one of the best goalies in hockey.
Does the Canadiens organization really want to give Patrick Roy another opportunity to devastate it? It would seem like a much better gamble if he hadn't already done it once.
Patrick Roy has what many see as the perfect situation in Quebec. He is a part owner of the Remparts. He is the team general manager. He is the coach. Any hockey decisions the organization makes go through Roy. He is judge, jury and executioner. It is hard to believe Roy would be comfortable in a job where he didn't have a similar level of control.
One of the reasons it took so long for ownership to get rid of the destabilizing Pierre Gauthier was that the hockey decisions in the organization were being made by too few people. After Jacques Martin was fired, it seemed only Gauthier himself and the man who hired him, Bob Gainey, were in a position to make a decision on what Gauthier was doing. They weren't ready to fire him, so the madness went on much longer than any interested outside observer could believe.
The Canadiens appear to be ready to have more expert voices involved in the team's hockey decisions. The first step down that road was engaging Serge Savard as the leader of the search for the next general manager of Les Habitants. It looks like he may be hired on a more permanent basis as a vice president of hockey operations.
This would ensure more voices in hockey decisions in Montreal and get further away from the one-man band set-p Roy enjoys in Quebec. I think Patrick Roy is going to want an NHL job where all the responsibility and all the power to make decisions comes to him. I don't think Montreal is going to be that kind of an organization. I don't think Montreal should or would be willing to hand that much power to Patrick Roy.
Pierre Gauthier brought chaos and disorder with him to the Montreal Canadiens this season. His moves were unexpected, non-traditional and often just strange. The ownership has outlined a plan that involves a return of order and stability to the franchise.
Patrick Roy is a chaos attractor. He is always big news, a big story and likely in need of making a big splash. This doesn't seem to fit with Montreal's latest need for stability.
It would be exciting having Patrick Roy as your GM or coach or both, but I can't imagine it would be a stable arrangement.
His departure will be more spectacular than his arrival and his arrival would resemble the celebration of the election of a new pope.
Patrick Roy has had several incidents in his life that suggest he is not always in charge of his temper. He is a passionate man and was a passionate player. That doesn't excuse everything he has done in the past.
A man who may not be in charge of his own emotions is probably not the right man to be the coach of the Montreal Canadiens. Screaming coaches tend to get tuned out early in the modern NHL.
Quebec City seems a much more logical place for Patrick Roy to end up. Inevitably, an NHL franchise will make its way to Quebec as long as the Canadian dollar stays strong versus the U.S. buck.
In either situation, Patrick, born and raised in Quebec City, would be an excellent candidate for a job there. He would likely be given all the power he wants with the nouveau Nordiques, especially if they were a franchise. He would be a hugely popular choice among fans there.
While there are a variety of good reasons for Patrick Roy to be coach or general manager of the Montreal Canadiens, there are just as many reasons it would be a bad idea. Going to Quebec City to run a franchise there seems like a much more unambiguous, positive move. If he does end up with an NHL organization, I see him starting with a team that doesn't exist yet, the Quebec City franchise.