Jeff Gorton’s new role with Canadiens is confusing

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

If you hire Gorton, who displayed an eye for procuring talent both with the Bruins and Rangers, don’t you want him to have, you know, the final management call on personnel? But that apparently is not going to be the case, or at least it sure doesn’t seem that way in the wake of Gorton’s introductory press conference on Friday. 

Because it appears as if the GM will operate in a traditional manner. He will have the final call on trades. But why? Gorton seemed to go out of his way to suggest that he wants to hire someone with a different background than his own, which means someone whose résumé is not deep in personnel evaluation and scouting. I’m not sure I understand that. 

Diversity in the front office is important and it is noble for Gorton to embrace the concept. But regardless of background, I’d think the top hockey ops guy would want a GM who sees the game in a somewhat similar manner and whose philosophy mirrors his on. And all this talk about hiring a novice? Why? 

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

Canadiens
Jeff Gorton speaks at his introductory press conference Friday.
AP

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

But now that appears to be a large part of Gorton’s role in Montreal. He will be the conduit from hockey ops to ownership, a role he did not have with the Rangers. He will have responsibility for hiring the scouts and player-personnel people, duties he did not have in New York. 

I’m not suggesting he won’t be successful in this role, only that he is untested in these areas, and in the areas he is tested, he won’t have final say. 

Mais pourquoi? 

Rangers
Jeff Gorton helped bring Mika Zibanejad to the Rangers.
Jason Szenes

The transformation of the Rangers under Gorton’s watch began following the 2015-16 playoffs with the exchange of Derick Brassard for Mika Zibanejad. A year later, there was the “retool on the fly” deal in which Derek Stepan was sent away for the seventh-overall pick and Tony DeAngelo. Then of course, in a mandate that came from the owner’s suite, there came the February 2018 Letter and the rebuilding. 

Without drilling deep into details and trade trees, Gorton put the vision into practice, essentially turning Brassard, Stepan, Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh, J.T. 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 he’s the one who made the trades. Now it appears Gorton will hire someone else to make the trades while he is constructing an analytics department and hockey operations staff. Again: I don’t get it. 


Oops, he did it again. 

Five times within two months, P.K. Subban has used his skates or legs to kick an opponent’s feet out from under him after the latest episode in Winnipeg on Friday night. The Devils defenseman took out the Jets’ Nikolaj Ehlers 1:17 into the third period, and there was nary a peep from the officials working the game or from the NHL’s hopelessly dysfunctional Department of Player Safety and its overmatched leader, George Parros. 

Please do not insult me by telling me Subban’s latest escapade does not fit the rulebook definition of a slew-foot. In the first place, since when do NHL referees call games by the rulebook? Secondly, who cares? Subban is a menace. He is a recidivist who apparently cannot or will not control himself. 

P.K. Subban
P.K. Subban
NHLI via Getty Images

Have you ever seen anyone use his feet and legs in that manner before, and repeatedly? I sure have not. 

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

Wonderful. 


Speaking of the Devils, and this 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, no? 

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 midst of its third straight early season tailspin under second-year head coach Ruff? 

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

Now, after an encouraging 7-3-2 getaway despite losing Jack Hughes to a dislocated shoulder in Game 2, the Devils are in the midst of a 2-6-2 slump in which they have been outscored 43-28 following Friday’s 8-4 loss to the Jets. 

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


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

That is all.

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