The Canadiens are committed to hiring a bilingual general manager which shortens their candidate list considerably. The ideal hiree should combine sharp hockey evaluation skills with the business side of hockey which includes thorough knowledge of the salary cap and the ability to hold his own in contract negotiations. At best, upon close examination, only three or four of the most-mentioned candidates truly qualify for the job. There may be an unheralded candidate out there, but here are the names being mentioned most prominently.
You will note that not many fill all of the criteria, although in this day and age, some of today’s GM’s hire assistants to fill in the specialized gaps in their resume, especially in the area of salary cap management.
The most mentioned candidates in alphabetical order -
Marc Bergevin – 1200 game NHL career. Named assistant GM of Chicago Blackhawks last June replacing Kevin Cheveldayov, who took over the Winnipeg Jets GM position. Prior to that, assistant coach and director of scouting for the Blackhawks.
Julien Brisebois – Former assistant GM with the Canadiens, now holds the same job with Tampa. Pencil pusher. Has law degree. Knows the salary cap rules. His talent evaluation ability open to question. Qualifications remind me a lot of former Habs GM Irving Grundman, and that’s not a compliment.
Pat Brisson – Very influential player agent. Knows the business side. Taking the job would mean taking a heavy pay cut.
Vincent Damphousse – No managerial experience. Popular 1993 Cup winner with Canadiens as a player.
Francois Giguere – Business degree at Laval University. Two years as general manager of Colorado Avalanche. His second year is eerily reminiscent of the Gauthier demise, complete with bad salary cap and coach selection decisions which included firing Joel Quenville and replacing him with Tony Granato. The Avalanche finished 28th overall prior to his firing. Committed to developing a strong farm system his drafting was questionable.
Claude Loiselle – Franco-Ontarian. Assistant GM under Brian Burke in Toronto. With the Leafs he handles contracts, salary cap issues and coordinates scouting. Only two years at that job. Before that, scouted for Anaheim when Burke was running the Ducks. For seven years he was Associate Director of Hockey Operations at the NHL head offices in New York dealing with arbitration, collective bargaining and disciplinary issues. Extensive 13 year playing career. Earned law degree from McGill after he retired.
Blair Mackasey – Currently director of player personnel for Minnesota Wild. Excellent evaluator of talent. No front office experience. For ten years was prominent with Hockey Canada, especially in connection with the formation of the World Junior teams. His coaching experience was three years in the QMJHL.
Pierre McGuire – Talks a good game. NBC hockey analyst. Very ambitious. Has extensive experience in scouting. Was assistant coach in Pittsburgh. His only head coaching stint was shortlived. Was briefly an assistant GM at Hartford. Scotty Bowman thinks he’d make a good GM.
Patrick Roy – Successful as coach and GM of one of the richest junior hockey franchises in the CHL. Loose cannon. No NHL front officel experience. High risk candidate.
Andre Savard – General manager of the Canadiens for three years between the Rejean Houle and Bob Gainey eras. Responsible for turning around the Canadiens miserable scouting department with the hiring of Trevor Timmins. Inherited a bad team. Stayed with the team for three years as assistant GM after Bob Gainey replaced him. Currently a pro scout for Pittsburgh.
Serge Savard – Charged with finding Pierre Gauthier’s replacement. General manager of Canadiens for 12 ½ years. Two championships in three appearances in the Stanley Cup final. He is a multi millionaire partner in a firm of real-estate developers, Thibault, Messier, Savard & Associates, based at Place du Canada. 66 years old and doesn’t need the headache. Despite 15 years away from active NHL participation, would make an excellent transitional GM should the team feel the need to go in that direction.
Nobody is going inviite us to take part in the important interview process, but off this list the number one candidate could be Claude Loiselle. After that I like Andre Savard. Then, it drops off into specialized skills. Brisbois for the management of the salary cap; Bergevin, McGuire and Mackasey for their talent evaluation skills. Serge Savard could do all of these things, but I don’t think his name is on his list, at least not yet.