Tuesday, July 10, 2012


When Marc Bergevin took over as Habs' G.M., he breezed in with a smile and a wink and the promise of a new lightness in the organization's hierarchy. After the oppressive secrecy of the Pierre Gauthier era, Bergevin's willingness to speak frankly about his decision-making was a great relief. It turns out, however, that the new boss isn't immune from a little glossing over of the truth when it suits him.

There's been a lot of discussion in the last week about the Canadiens decision to pass over Larry Robinson as a member of the new coaching staff. The Hall-of-Fame defenceman claimed to be interested in Montreal and the rest of us were certainly interested in welcoming an expert of his stature back to the fold. Then to the disappointment of many, the team announced the job would go to J.J.Daigneault instead.

Now, there's nothing on Daigneault's record as a minor-league coach that says he isn't ready for the NHL. He comes with glowing reviews from the Rangers' AHL affiliate in Connecticut, where he spent the last five years instructing many members of New York's impressive young blueline corps. As is the case with any new guy coming to the organization, we can just wish him the best and hope, for the good of the team, he does a great job.

That said, there's something not quite right about the way in which the Bergevin team handled the Daigneault-over-Robinson hiring. Sometime after Robinson's New Jersey Devils lost in the Stanley Cup final on June 11, Bergevin requested permission to approach Robinson, then called to assess the big man's interest in a job with the Canadiens. According to the Montreal Gazette, calls went back and forth between the two sides, but because of storm damage to his property, Robinson wasn't able to jump on a plane and meet Bergevin and coach Michel Therrien for an immediate in-person interview.

In the end, Bergevin called Robinson just before the team announced Daigneault's appointment and told Robinson Therrien really liked his interview with Daigneault and that's why the Canadiens went in that direction. Robinson said he understood and that it was a business decision. Although many fans were disappointed such a great Canadien would not be returning to Montreal, most were willing to give Daigneault a shot.

That should have been the end of the story, but a piece in the Hartford Courant this week makes one wonder whether Robinson was really a consideration at all. The article gives a little insight into the speed-of-light hiring process the team employed in choosing Daigneault:

"When Montreal was searching for an assistant to concentrate on the defense, Daigneault’s name was mentioned in the Canadian media," the story reads.  "But he did not apply for the job because he was still under contract with the Rangers.
"It wasn’t until the Canadiens contacted Sather that the offer came. Daigneault was working at the Rangers’ prospect camp last Friday when Sather told him he would waive the final year of his contract if he wanted to leave.
"By the time Daigneault arrived at his West Hartfford home Friday afternoon, a contract was waiting for him. By 3:30 in the afternoon, he was officially employed by the Canadiens."

From the first contact with Sather until the contract arrived on Daigneault's desk, just three hours passed. It doesn't give one confidence that the great impression Daigneault allegedly made on Therrien was more than a cursory resume check. Played D in the NHL? Check. Promising career working with minor-league defencemen? Check. Unthreatening? Check.
In the Gazette article, Robinson took care to explain it would never be his goal to use his experience and stature to undermine Therrien. Given the rapid hiring of the minor-league Daigneault instead, it appears Therrien wasn't buying that. 
In the end, Daigneault will possibly do a fine job in teaching the new crop of Habs D-men. Fans everywhere hope he does at least as well as we know Robinson would have done. It would have been nice if Bergevin had been more truthful about how Daigneault was chosen to coach in Montreal, though. When a legend like Larry Robinson is involved, the team owes it to him to be as open as possible. Telling him Daigneault beat him out for the job fair and square because of a great interview (obviously by phone, if it even went in-depth at all, which negates the excuse that Robinson lost out when he couldn't make it to Montreal) isn't the classiest move. People talk and this stuff makes the papers.
Perhaps Bergevin found himself in a difficult position. Maybe he and Therrien wanted a younger, more up-and-coming assistant coach, but they were feeling the pressure to at least give Robinson the courtesy of a phone call. However, if they were never intending to hire him, they shouldn't have pretended they might. And they shouldn't have pretended that Daigneault was in the mix for longer than three hours and somehow blew them out of the water in the interview process. The way this was handled may be due to inexperience on Bergevin's part, but it smells a bit Gauthier-ish. Let's hope that's where the similarities end.


Anonymous said...

Hi JT-I had the same feelings and still am not sure which story is true.Apparently MT had carte blanche on the coaching staff so it is because of his lack of self confidence that Robinson is not a member of the Canadiens.
MB had stated early in his interviews that he liked hiring smart,competent people because it made him look smart,however the hiring of MT did NOT make him look smart and now he already has had to use some BS to us(the fans).
The Jagr story is also quite odd,why would Jagr lie about what did or did not happen with the Canadiens?
MB is quickly erasing the good impression he made when he first came here !!
I wonder if Molson is regretting the classless handling of the Robinson affair ?

DKerr said...


Like you, I hope JJ comes in adn does a great job. But, I have so much respect for Robinson, the coach. I remember rading something from Scott Stevens where he said Robinson really helped improve his positioning. That did it for me, as Stevens was no youngster at the time, but an established defensive force. My hope was that we would bring Larry back home and he could man the D coach position in the same manner as Jacques Laperierre - through numerous head coaches.

Something was definitely weird there in that so many moves by Bergevin were released unofficially and then the announcement was just a formality. With Robinson, it seemed like this would be the same and then JJ got the job - somewhat out of the blue.

Greg said...

Hey JT,
I hear what you're saying. That being said, Bergevin was between a rock and a hard place. If I understand correctly, the hiring was Therrien's job, with MB just giving his approval. So if Therrien knew who he wanted in advance, I have no problem with that.
However, I agree with you that they should have been up front about that, but then MB would take heat from everyone about not giving Robinson a chance. The only way he escapes the backlash is if he hires Robinson, and since he let the coach hire his staff anyway, that's not really fair.
So yeah, he could've been more transparent, but calling it Gauthier-esque isn't really fair to our new GM who has done a great, great job in a very few months.

Kyle Roussel said...

Doesn't it strike anyone as odd that McGuire was the runner up for GM, that Crawford was runner up for coach, and now 'bad timing' prevented Robinson from coming to Montreal?

3 anglos as defacto "close 2nd place finishes" to give the appearance that the Habs are equal opportunity.

I'm not saying that I endorsed McGuire or Crawford, but now with Robinson's case, they seem to be creating a pattern of trying to satisfy everyone but end up leaving many eyebrows raised.

Bergevin may be charismatic and charming, and this shouldn't be a blight on his resume (yet), but it's clear that the fresh breeze that blew in isn't as fresh as we may have originally hoped.

Anonymous said...

The trap last year wasn't on the ice but off it. The Canadiens forgot the 300 vocal language advocates and the media. Martin had purged Muller and brought in Cunnyworth. Hitch had been grabbed by St Louis. There was nowhere to turn other than bring in the gang at RDS and Michel Bergeron.

Like it or not Quebec is a federal reserve in Canada established for french canadians. I know that sounds harsh but what else do you call a place where your bloodline takes priority in everything? Canada does this. It sets aside tracts of land and confines people to it, convincing them that maintaining 1658 society is in their interests. Canada sends money, emergency riot forces, and gives the reserve a sort of free rein to reign.

Larry Robinson knows more about hockey that most people walking the earth but Montreal would have finished him. Likewise the Canadiens don't need to offend the 4 million Quebec residents who hardly follow hockey but do follow their politics. Think what happens if Therrien fails. Do you throw in Robinson? After what happened with Cunnyworth - no way. So you throw in another local hire - and he fails?

The organization can't be seen not to produce success for the majority population. Why? Because Quebec controls business in Quebec and you don't offend the people who control how much you take to the bank. Small societies are like that. Big ones often worse.

RL said...

I live in Qc and am married to a French Canadian - Qc a Federal Reserve for French Canadians.... wow.. I never thought of it like that.. interesting point.

Anyway: I think we need to give MB some time. Frankly, I think JJD was the best decision. Robinson is a legendart, star quality defenseman and though one does hire for skills one often fires for personality. maybe it wasnt the right fit for the team. Like Roy, a strong willed, vocal, determined competitiors wasnt the right fit as a coach personality wise for a young GM.

And though I wasnt and still am not enthralled by MT's hire, as a GM I think it is wise to give your geenrals the right tolls and soldiers to get the job done.

As for the communication gap... how on earth would you suggest he explain his decision and manage to keep face with his internal team, Larry, JJ and the public,: "We had the choice between Larry and JJ but we went with JJ because Larry frightens us"...

Regarding the McGuire/Crawford vs MB/MT dous... frankly I dont think PM/MC would have generated the same sense of palpable Habs fever that now stirs in Montreal, QC and even the NHL for what the Canadiens are becoming again. MB and yes even MT are off to a great start, JJD will be less phsycological trouble for MT and do exactly what MT expects of him... you know what... if I were MT... I would have chosen JJD too.


Anonymous said...

I posted a comment last night which I do not see today. If we want to talk about transparencies, lets also include the censoring that goes on here.

My comment may not have been up to par with your opinion, but it was fair and polite.

I'm removing you from my daily read.

Anonymous said...

Bergevin has made the Habs more open and friendly by being accessable and by getting rid of Gauthier's petty policies. However, don't expect the Habs to be more forthcoming on areas of substance.

GMs rarely give detailed answers on hires, fires, possible trades, contract talks, and buy-outs. Bergevin won't be any different, but he will provide his non-answers more often and in a charming manner that Gauthier never could.

It's also possible that the Hartford report is inaccurate. This year reputable journalists have reported that Gauthier was only a figurehead, Patrick Roy was hired as the coach, Savard was going to be the "real" GM with Bergevin reporting to him, and that the cap hit for a Gomez buyout would be $1.66 M for the next 4 years.


Dharmesh said...

Your title says it all... "Transparency". We see it all the time in business how the lack of transarency affects public perception. The owners all the time say sports is a business.... well them come out with a press release and explain the hiring to your customers.

My expectation, from all the previous work was that they were building a TEAM approach to management and coaching the Canadiens.... if that were the case, why not hire Larry AND JJ. Would JJ and Patrice not have benefitted from the wisdom of the Big Bird and all he's endured over the years.

I get the feeling that a lot of the hirings is an effort to re-stock the francophone cub-boards and develop the future Habs coaching. Which is the right thing to do.... What I cannot fathom, is when u have an oppoprtunity to bring in a teacher to shape and mold the next generation ... you don't!

Also, as your article points out Lary Robinson has been the utmost of class and professionalism with the Canadiens... why can't the organization do the same and at least give him the respect he has earned.

J.T. said...

Thanks all, for some interesting comments. @anon, the offended one: I didn't actually censor your comment. I approved it, but accidentally deleted it with a duplicate copy of another approved comment. I'd be happy to post it if you would care to resend it. I only banish posts by obvious trolls. Fair and polite disagreement is more than welcome.

Anonymous said...

Now I forgot what I said. In a nutshell, let's stop over-analyzing everything. We don't really know what transpired. Given the rotten year we had and the way in which things were hidden, it's easy to get stuck and list in the rehashing of fans to critizes everything. We have a new regime; let's move on, remain positive and have faith that the leaders are leading with everyone's best interest. Because this is what it means to stand behind your team.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for confusing sentence! iPhone!!!

Howard said...

JT, I agree with you wholeheartedly. I thought it was ironic that Gauthier got Bergevin's old job. Too much of a full circle if you ask me. I've been disappointed since the hiring of Therrien. He is in no way in the same class as Larry Robinson. I think he is an insecure person, evidenced by his meltdown in Pittsburgh and those insecurities translate into his hires who are mostly neophytes or flops at coaching in the NHL. That Bergevin is covering this up and trying to put a positive spin on it is even more disturbing. I just hope it all works out for the sake of the team.

JF said...

J.T. - I love your writing, but I found this piece disturbing; you seem to be trying to put a negative spin on the Daignault hiring with very little to build on. We really don't know exactly what happened.

A majority of fans would have liked to see Larry Robinson behind the bench. He was a great defenceman and he has certainly done excellent work as a defence coach. But we have to ask ourselves if he would have been the best fit for the Habs, with a young, inexperienced GM and a coach who has been out of coaching for a few years and whose loss of control almost certainly cost the Habs a trip to the Conference Final last time he was here.

Michel Therrien has a lot to prove. If he is to be successful, he must feel comfortable with his assistants and be confident he can work with them. If he thought he might feel undermined by Robinson's almost legendary stature, surely it would have been the wrong decision to hire him. No coach can succeed if he is always second-guessing himself.

Furthermore, the sense I got from reading Dave Stubbs's interview with Robinson was that coaching the Habs was not a priority for him, but simply an interesting possibility that he would think about when he had solved his immediate problems. If he had really wanted the job, he would have found a way to get to Montreal for the interview. As things have turned out, Robinson is probably a better fit in San Jose with a more established management and coaching team (quite apart from the consideration of being close to his family).

One more point: we won't unearth new coaching talent without giving younger, less experienced guys a chance. There are two opposite trends in the NHL these days. The first is to go for experience (Hitchcock in St. Louis, Carlyle in Toronto, and so on); the other is to try someone younger and less experienced (Boucher in Tampa, Bylsma in Pittsburgh, Dineen in Florida, etc.). I'm actually glad to see the Canadiens give a chance to someone who has done excellent work in the AHL. They are doing the same thing by hiring Sylvain Lefebvre to coach the Bulldogs. Deepening the pool of available coaching talent can only make the task of choosing the next head coach easier.

the Maritimer said...

Looking at the Canadien's line-up as it currently exists, I don't really see how they will improve a whole lot. Who would they beat out of the top 8 from last season? Maybe Florida if they transferred to the Souteast division. Therrien won't make any difference other than he appeases the francophone protestors. They may be tougher to play against but where is the secondary scoring going to come from? Plekanec plays like a little girl, Bourque left his heart in Alberta and Gionta, a warrior, is unfortunately no spring chicken. Bergevin has surrounded himself with lots of reputable hockey managers but his on ice product remains suspect. I'm convinced that a transaction of some kind between Montreal and Chicago will eventually take place. Just not sure of the magnitude.

That comment about Quebec being a Federal French reserve was truly thought provoking.

I would have loved to see the Big Bird behind Montreal's bench but at this stage of his life did he rally need the aggravation? I'm hoping he will be an ambassador for the Canadiens somewhere down the road when his coaching days are over.

Chris Lovejoy said...

Wow. I read the article in the Courant, which frankly isn't that well written, and I think you're really grasping at straws here. It says Daigneault didn't apply because he was under contract. Makes sense. But you seem to read it that other than a possible phone interview Daigneault is a total unknown to Bergevin and Therrien. Seeing as they're all native Montrealers, have been in the business for years, it seems unlikely that these gentlemen wouldn't have crossed paths on more than one occasion. Bergevin and Daigneault both skated for the same AAA team so it seems pretty likely.

The organizations position seems pretty clear and sound to me. Robinson wasn't a sure thing, and to wait may have meant the Canadiens missed on both Robinson AND Daigneault. A real possibility since Larry chose to move on to San Jose to be closer to his kids and grandchildren. No Larry, no JJ and then what would you be saying about the organization?

Look, Bergevin called Lou, called Larry, Larry talked to Therrien. It didn't work out. I'm disappointed too. But you write as if Daigneault is some scrub who got the job because of his name, instead of also being a Hab alumn who won a Cup with the team, is well regarded as a coach in pro hockey circles and has an observable class of outstanding young defensemen who have graduated to the pros after learning from him. Unless you are privy to every phone conversation, and have knowledge of everyone involved's relationships, your blog post is just the basest of speculation; the paranoia is not Therrien's, but your own.

Anonymous said...

I just wonder if Big Bird didn’t play more of a part in not taking a position in Montreal.
Image for a second Therrien ripping the Habs defense, in effect Hall of Famer Robinson, a new one openly in front of the Montreal media. I don’t think Robinson would stand for that and had the foresight to see this coming a mile away.
If Robinson is professional and had options, as he obviously did, why would he want to subject himself to a person of TM’s tendencies?
Mean while they all got their stories a little confused when taking to the media.
I have no idea how this came to pass. However, I wouldn’t want to have someone say something like this about my body of work (www.youtube.com/watch?v=agL3NHgb8Rk), would you?


MNRK said...

The writer wishes Bergevin had been "more truthful". Where and when did he discuss the hiring process and the choice of JJD over LR? Does anyone have a link?

Hadulf said...

I just think we should put this to rest and be done with it. Stirring crap is not going to do the team any good. Let's just accept it, really, and move forward.

I have a lot of respect for Big Bird but at the same time, he does cast a huge shadow. I really think it's better that he is not part of Montreal...

Here's to a great season for our Canadiens!

Tom said...

I would tend to believe that there was an interview, prior to asking Sather for permission. MB and JJ can't openly to that, since that would be tampering. While I'm not grabbing my spot on the parade route over MB's hiring, I'm still quite pleased in his moves to date.

Anonymous said...

I dont care about transparancy, there are many rules, written or unwritten that go against such an ideal state of affair when running a proffessional NHL Team and Organisation.

The Molson-Bergevin lead Montreal Canadiens are in good hands, I expect transparancy from my wife, I expect futur ongoing successes from he CH and I am fine about my present situation.