The Montreal Canadiens stole the show this week in the NHL. While Southwest Newfoundland was dealing with a storm last weekend, the Habs management group were dealing with a storm of their own.
On Saturday, Nov. 28 during the pre-game show of the Canadiens game in Pittsburgh, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman broke the news that Montreal had permission to talk to former New York Ranger executive, Jeff Gorton. Before the first period was over, Assistant General Manager Scott Mellanby had resigned. Nobody remembers what happened on the ice.
On Sunday afternoon, Gorton was named Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations. GM Marc Bergevin, AGM Trevor Timmins and Paul Wilson, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs and Communications, were all fired. Bergevin reportedly declined a contract extension in the off-season and was seeking a higher salary. There were also reports that he may be ready to move on from the stress of Montreal. With the ugly start to the season, the shine had worn off of Bergevin, and Geoff Molson decided it was time for a fresh start.
Now that’s a bit like saying it’s time to pull up the engine after the bow of your boat has already run aground, but I digress.
On Monday, Molson met with the press, delivered his own statement and responded to questions for an hour. Molson stated he felt the team needed a fresh start, and that “we need to be better at drafting, better at developing and better at supporting our players to arrive at their potential.” He said Gorton would be charged with hiring a diverse management group and his first task would be to hire a Francophone GM.
Gorton arrived in Montreal on Wednesday, Dec 1. He was in Laval that night to watch the Canadiens farm team lose in overtime. Then Gorton got his first look at the Habs on Thursday night against the Colorado Avalanche and what a look it was. The Avs barely broke a sweat in a win over the listless Habs.
Gorton has a monstrous job on his hands. Once he hires a new GM, they will have to make decisions about the direction of the organization. Will they retool on the fly, or will there be a complete rebuild? What will happen to core players with big contracts like Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher? How will they improve drafting and development, and support a young team under the bright lights of Montreal?
The coming weeks and months promise to be a roller coaster for the Habs.
CFL Catch Up
The CFL post-season is underway and marching toward a December 12th finale. By the time you’re reading this table will be set for the 108th Grey Cup in Hamilton.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats defeated the Montreal Alouettes 23-21 in the Eastern Division Semi-final. Hamilton’s defence was the story, forcing quarterback Trevor Harris into an interception and three fumbles. They also recorded five quarterback sacks. The Ti-Cats were headed to Toronto on Sunday for the Division Final against the Argonauts.
The Western Semi-final was a closer affair that was settled in overtime, with the Saskatchewan Roughriders defeating the Calgary Stampeders with a 33-30 score. It was a 34-yard field goal in the extra frame that sealed the win. The Blue Bombers were due to greet the Roughriders for the Western Final on Sunday, with the winner advancing to the Grey Cup.
Blue Jays Babble
The Toronto Blue Jays are starting to take a little shape as the future of some players is being settled. Pitcher Robbie Ray signed with the Seattle Mariners, second baseman Marcus Semien signed with the Texas Rangers, and pitcher Steven Matz signed with the St. Louis Cardinals. Each leaves a hole in the Jays roster that management will have to find ways to fill, while also improving on last year’s team.
The work has already begun. On Wednesday, two free agent pitchers were added via free agency. Starter Kevin Gausman was signed to a five-year contract worth $110 million, and relief pitcher Yimi Garcia was signed to a two-year, $11 million deal.
In other MLB news, at midnight on Thursday the ninth work stoppage in baseball history took effect. MLB has locked out its players until a new collective agreement can be reached. Is there a better way to kill the joy in any sport than a lockout?
The XXIV Olympic Winter Games, commonly known as Beijing 2022, are scheduled to take place from February 4th to the 20th in Beijing, China. Newfoundland will be well represented at the Games as Brad Gushue will return to the Olympic platform to lead Team Canada in men’s curling. He’ll be looking to bring home a second Olympic Gold.
We’re guaranteed to be watching any Newfoundlander representing Canada at the Olympics, but at this point we can’t be sure we’ll be watching NHL players represent their countries in men’s hockey. The NHL and NHLPA have an out clause that permits them to withdraw from the Olympics if COVID-19 conditions are too unsafe. January 10th is the drop dead date on a final decision.
Lori Bennett is a social worker, policy professional, recreational softball player and coach, and new ukulele-ist. Originally from NL and now based in Toronto, Lori loves a good hockey chat or debate, as long as it remains respectful. She posts game time thoughts on twitter as @lori10habs.