November 30, 2021 – Many people don’t realize that I actually used to work for the Habs. Way back in the 90’s I was their first real analytics guy during the Rejean Houle/Mario Tremblay days. I actually used a VCR with a shuttle that caught fire to crunch video. Sometimes I’d literally work through the nights crunching a game so that my report would be ready for the coaches and team during practice. The best tool I had was for taking a players stats from any team in the world and filtering it to any team in the world. It’s an amazing tool. While Analytics have become very complicated now I think many have simply missed the simple truth that all they are meant to do is amplify the knowledge built up by people that have committed their lives to hockey and not replace them. You don’t need new fancy ways to say something that can be explained simply.
The tools I created were based mostly on the works of Bill James, the true Godfather of the way sports are looked at now. Unlike others I don’t share the tools I created and left hockey to literally move to Hollywood and work in film where my first credit was nominated for an Oscar making me a hockey trivia question. Name the only Habs employee to ever have something they created earn an Oscar nom. We lost that documentary Oscar to Michael Moore, but that’s grist for another tale. Somehow I ended up starting this newspaper in 2009.
Watching the Habs flounder then and since has been difficult as I was a fan since I was a kid even though I was truly disrespected by the management of the team, but one does have hope. I also got to work and tour with some of the greatest hockey legends of our time. I was a very lucky soul.
Geoff Molson inspired some hope this week. Not just in his management housecleaning, but the direction he’s now instigated the team in with the hire of Jeff Gorton who was the Ranger’s GM only a year ago.
Gorton has a positive track record, and while the two person GM & President precedent is common now in hockey ultimately it will be Gorton’s ship. Yes, politics dictate a bilingual GM, thus why Gorton wasn’t hired as a GM, but this was handled well by Molson and the reality is that there simply was no clear candidate with close to Gorton’s resume.
This will give the team a chance to kickstart, and to groom the future GM who will fit the criteria. Personally in this scribblers opinion Mr. Molson must simply have been tired of the low hanging fruit criticism of the team under his tenure, and that makes sense since the solutions are so simple.
The team has to develop its management core which they now will have a chance to do. If the team needs a bilingual coach and GM they need the best available period or they need to groom them into those position. The Gorton hire will allow that to commence. If they need the best homegrown talent that too has to be a factor in how the team moves forward in the future.
Looking at his history I’d suspect some key moves coming into play. I expect a few veterans and bad contracts to go away and to build from the base that’s here. That could take as little as two seasons (counting this brutal one) and I have a hunch the communication to the base will be far better than it’s been in over a decade.
I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see a GM until the off season as there’s no panic and again you need the right person and that person may still be under contract.
So for today congrats Geoff. You scored. You scored a win. And you’ve taken the first step into truly making this team better.