Jeff Gorton’s new role with the Canadiens is confusing

If you’re bilingual, you’ll be twice as confused as to how this operation in Montreal is going to work with Jeff Gorton as executive VP of hockey operations and someone to be hired later as general manager, n’est-ce pas?

If you hire Gorton, who showed an eye for talent at both the Bruins and Rangers, then you do not want him to have, you know, the final management challenge on staff? But that’s apparently not going to be the case, or at least that’s not how it looks in the wake of Gorton’s inaugural press conference on Friday.

Because it looks like GM is going to function in the traditional way. He wants the last call to action. But why? Gorton seemed to go out of his way to suggest that he want to hire someone with a background other than his own, meaning someone whose resume is not deep in staff evaluation and scouting. I’m not sure I understand that.

Diversity in the front office is important, and it’s noble for Gorton to embrace the concept. But regardless of background, I would think that the best hockey player would have a GM who sees the game in a somewhat similar way and whose philosophy reflects his. And all that talk about hiring a novice? Why?

What happens if GM wants to make a trade and Gorton does not? Tie goes to the runner?

Jeff Gorton speaks at his inaugural press conference on Friday.

If the Canadiens did not hire Gorton as GM because of his inability to communicate with the fan base in French, then could they not have hired an interpreter? Gorton has never beaten me as much as an administrator in New York. Glen Sather and then John Davidson had that responsibility with Rangers while Gorton served as GM.

But now that seems to be a big part of Gorton’s role in Montreal. He wants to be the channel from hockey ops to ownership, a role he did not have with Rangers. He will be in charge of hiring the scouts and player personnel, tasks he did not have in New York.

I am not suggesting that he will not succeed in this role, only that he is untested in these areas, and in the areas he has been tested, he will not have the last word.

But why?

Jeff Gorton helped bring Mika Zibanejad to Rangers.
Jason Coal

The transformation of Rangers under Gorton’s guard began after the 2015-16 playoffs with the replacement of Derick Brassard for Mika Zibanejad. A year later, there was the “retool on the fly” deal where Derek Stepan was sent off for the seventh overall election and Tony DeAngelo. So of course, in a mandate that came from the owner’s suite, there came the letter from February 2018 and the remodel.

Without drilling deep into details and swapping trees, Gorton put the vision into action, essentially turning Brassard, Stepan, Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh, JT Miller, Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Hayes and Michael Grabner into Zibanejad, Ryan Strome, Jacob Trouba, Ryan Lindgren, K’Andre Miller, Nils Lundkvist, Julien Gauthier, Libor Hajek, Matthew Robertson and Will Cuylle.

But it is he who has made the trades. Now it looks like Gorton will hire someone else to carry out the trades while he builds an analysis department and hockey operations staff. Again: I do not understand.

Oops, he did it again.

Five times in two months, PK Subban has used his skates or legs to kick an opponent’s feet out from under him following the latest episode in Winnipeg on Friday night. The Devils defender took out the Jets’ Nikolaj Ehlers 1:17 into the third period and there was not a peep from the referees working on the game or from the NHL’s hopelessly dysfunctional player safety department and its overmatched leader, George Parros.

Please do not offend me by telling me that Subban’s recent escapade does not fit the rulebook’s definition of a batting foot. First, since when do NHL referees call matches after the rulebook? Second, who cares? Subban is a threat. He is a recidivist who apparently can not or will not control himself.

PK Subban
PK Subban
NHLI via Getty Images

Have you ever seen someone use their feet and legs that way before and repeatedly? I certainly do not have that.

First it was Ryan Reaves, then it was Milan Lucic, then it was Trevor Zegras, then it was Sammy Blais (as a result away for the season with a torn ACL), and now it’s Ehlers. And out of all this, Subban has been fined $ 20,000 and apparently received an ineffective lecture from his head coach, Lindy Ruff.


Speaking of Devils, it reminds me that when I worked for the team four decades ago, we had a newsletter for Gold Circle members entitled “The Devils Advocate.” Clever, right?

But back to our story, have you noticed that the team’s AHL Utica affiliate is 16-1 under first-year head coach Kevin Dineen, while the NHL’s Newark affiliate is in the process of its third move at the start of the season under second-year head coach Ruff?

Last year, after winning their first two matches after their COVID-related shutdown to get a 6-3-2 start, the club went 1-8.

Now, after an encouraging 7-3-2 escape despite the loss of Jack Hughes to a staggered shoulder in Game 2, the Devils are in the middle of a 2-6-2 downturn where they have been surpassed 43-28 after Friday’s 8. 4 loss to the Jets.

There’s too much talent in New Jersey for the team to fall apart again. A promotion from Utica is in order. We are not talking about a player either.

Finally, for no particular reason, I thought the other night about how there was a stretch during Bryan Trottier’s short tenure behind the Rangers bench as he went with Ronald Petrovicky instead of Pavel Bure on the first powerplay unit.

That is all.


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