When the Habs fired Marc Bergevin and brought Jeff Gorton in, Trevor Timmins was also among those leaving. With our attention primarily on the GM situation at the time, we didn’t want to gloss over Timmins. Instead, now that we’ve had some time to reflect on his tenure in Montreal, our writers offer up their thoughts on his departure.
Terry Costaris: Timmins to me is the Rodney Dangerfield of NHL talent evaluators. That is, he gets no respect – at least with much of Montreal’s fan base. In the hockey community, it’s a completely different story.
Had Timmins’ predecessors allowed him to do his job, he would have delivered some superstars onto Montreal’s roster.
Scouting is a skill mixed with luck. And luck comes by throwing more darts on the board.
If you draft high, your odds of success tend to be better. If, however, you draft high in a mediocre or bad draft year, you don’t land a generational talent.
If you draft with only a handful of picks because your GM has decided to go for a long playoff run, your odds of snagging a difference-maker go down precipitously.
If you beg your GM to draft player X and he overrides you for a less talented player, you’re the one that gets egg on your face.
And, even when you manage to draft someone who is promising, he may get traded for someone of less value or his potential gets crushed by incompetent friends of the General Manager who work in player development.
I realize that I am in the minority, at least in terms of the opinions of most fans on this topic, but I have to call it as it is and say that much of Timmins’ work was undermined throughout his tenure by multiple GM’s. And yet, he was the loyalist of soldiers who took multiple hits for the team despite the incompetence that surrounded him.
Timmins, like Bergevin, had lost tremendous political capital in the first six years of this particular regime. His last three drafts were excellent. Two to three years from now, he is going to make Gorton look like a very smart executive. Unfortunately, the hate for him was too great and he had to be let go.
I realize that this is sports and so much of it is emotionally focused but I truly believe that Timmins was a premier scout who was unfairly maligned. When people look at him, they tend to see a funhouse mirror image of what he was capable of doing.
Should the Canadiens rush into hiring someone to fill Timmins’ spot? No. They have a sufficient scouting department for Gorton to work with. While none of Timmins’ team acquired a generational talent, I believe that the prospects in Montreal’s system are close to what they had in the 1980s. So, as is, Gorton has the right people on hand to do well in this summer’s draft and should go on the hunt for both a suitable candidate and some additional help, from July onwards.
In order for this person to look good though, he must be given a badly upgraded and expanded player development department to make the most of his future selections.
As for who this person should be, I don’t have the foggiest clue. I do, however, believe that the best ones tend to be young. Perhaps this is due to them having less information cluttering their thinking. The older a scout gets, the more “paralysis by analysis” that he suffers from.
Even with Timmins, many of his best picks were in later rounds where there was less “thinking” involved in the decision-making process and more reliance on his gut.
Yes, drafting is a science, but above all, it is an art that is based on intuition. It is pattern recognition that projects into the future – much like how great musicians perceive sounds and where they are heading towards in the current zeitgeist.
Older scouts tend to forget what got them to where they are. They tend to build biases that impair their perception. So, I won’t give out a name. Instead, I’ll show a bit of ageism-despite being old, and advise that the Habs go young in terms of finding a successor to the unfairly maligned Timmins.
Tom Haapanen: Timmins’ drafting record is not as atrocious as some fans make it out to be: the Habs have had only a few top draft choices recently, and those picks have been reasonable if not spectacular. And Timmins cannot be blamed for top-pick players (such as Mikhail Sergachev) that were traded away. Nevertheless, the desire to start with a clean slate is quite understandable, and it allows Gorton to put his own stamp on the Habs’ drafting strategy in the coming years.
For the next eight months — until after the 2022 draft — I think the most realistic option is for Gorton to proceed with Martin Lapointe (the current director of player development and amateur scouting) at the helm of the scouting organization. Lapointe will know the scouts and as well as the Habs’ existing prospect pool and will be able to work with Gorton and the incoming GM to execute Gorton’s strategy at the draft.
With both Gorton and the new GM new to the organization, retaining some familiarity with the team and the prospect pool will be valuable, and Gorton will surely set the priorities for the draft in any case. Once the draft is over, Gorton can either confirm Lapointe’s position with a promotion or select a new AGM with those responsibilities.
Allan Katz: The firing of Timmins was one of the sad subplots of the Habonian collapse of the Canadiens this season. There’s no arguing that the Habs under Bergevin had a few highs amidst some colossal lows over his tenure. It is hard to separate Timmins’ skill set, success and failures from what were his responsibilities to what were Bergevin’s choices. An example is the two draft picks the GM gave up for Andrew Shaw that Timmins would have preferred to turn into Alex DeBrincat. You could just see the disappointment drip down his face, in an interview, when he explained that he is there to serve Bergevin’s vision first and foremost, but he did more or less imply, “I would have taken DeBrincat”. For a while, Montreal’s talent pool and thus the man behind that, Timmins, were considered the best in the league… now… not so much. The man and his team seem to own the seventh round of the draft; Primeau, Evans, yet somehow showed a lot fewer skills at the top of the draft. My explanation is Trevor might have been overruled much more often at the top of the draft and referred to much more as the team went lower and lower in the draft. Bottom line; Timmins will get another job in the not-so-distant future and it won’t be in retail.
Brian La Rose: It was a mixed bag for Timmins’ tenure with the Habs. He had some strong drafts but also some clunkers. His team had done a good job of finding role players in the later rounds and that’s an important thing in a salary cap world.
However, the misses at the top sting. The top-three picks that don’t project to be top-three players from their draft class, the late first-rounders that didn’t turn into at least role players (though I think Noah Juulsen would have broken through to become a decent blueliner had it not been for the pucks to the eye), and even the second-rounders who weren’t good enough to sign (and there will be another of those this year), that really hurt. It’s hard to overcome that many underachievers at the top and to be fair, that is at least in part an indictment on the player development side over simply the player procurement one.
I’d have been interested to see how Timmins would have worked with a new management group where some of the organizational priorities may have shifted. We know Timmins and his staff could find the late-bloomers; a new approach at the top might have been enough to give Montreal the best of both worlds.
I think down the road, the viewpoint on Timmins will be viewed more favourably than it is now. The last few drafts appear to be promising and if there are a few more drafted and developed players on the Habs in a few years, his tenure will look better.
Kevin Leveille: This was the most important move made by Geoff Molson. I would have accepted Gorton overseeing Bergevin so long as the amateur scouting was overhauled. Bergevin won most of his trades, but the draft and development as been this franchise’s weak spot for the last 20 years. Frankly, I’m not sure the team always made the wrong pick, though some stand out (Andrei Kostitsyn comes to mind). But others have been highly regarded and never panned out, so it was time for a fresh approach here, one where when the team selects a celebrated player, the odds aren’t heavily in favour of the Habs squandering the development until said pick eventually flames out.
For this reason, I would prefer a complete overhaul and selecting people from outside the organization to move forward. Some may find a bigger voice under a new vision, and some may need to be let go, but the leader should be a fresh face with a fresh vision.
Much like the Bergevin firing, the timing of this was fine. This season is a lost one at this point (which is likely why Dominique Ducharme will be given the rest of the season before being let go), so the idea of installing the new staff comfortably in place before the trade deadline to set up the draft is the most logical path here, and I’m quite happy they didn’t wait until the end of the season to get the ball rolling.
Ken MacLeod: The Canadiens may have thrown out the baby with the bathwater in getting rid of Timmins. His ‘lousy’ draft record for the Habs may have been more one of perception than reality.
Timmins’ biggest difficulty over his 17 seasons as Montreal’s draft guru was finding value when the Canadiens made their first pick in the back half of the first round, selecting eventual duds like Juulsen (26th, 2015), Nikita Scherbak (26th, 2014), Michael McCarron (25th, 2013) and Jarred Tinordi (22nd, 2010).
His strong point as head scout may have been his knack for finding diamonds among the trash in the later rounds, with Brendan Gallagher (147th, 2010) and Jake Evans (207th, 2014) being the best examples.
His very best pick will always be Carey Price, taken 5th overall in 2005, at Timmins’ insistence, and his best draft year was 2007 when he selected Ryan McDonagh (12th), Max Pacioretty (22nd), P.K. Subban (43rd) and Yannick Weber (73rd) among the players selected by the Habs in that draft class.
His worst pick – unfortunately, there are a few candidates – was arguably Louis Leblanc, taken 18th in 2009.
I have no idea of the individual capabilities of the Canadiens scouting staff, so I won’t offer an opinion on whether the team should promote from within or do a job search around the league. But with Timmins gone, his replacement should be hired sooner rather than later.
Waiting until the summer makes little sense, considering how important scouting throughout the entirety of this tumultuous season will be for the Canadiens’ future.
Paul MacLeod: I was a little bit surprised, but not unhappy to see Timmins follow Bergevin out the door. After 20 years of middling success, whether or not some, or even most, of Timmins’s shortcomings at the draft were a result of his bosses or poor development is a moot point. It doesn’t matter. The team needed a fresh voice and a new direction in scouting and player development.
The one thing the Canadiens absolutely MUST NOT do is hire from within.
As I said, drafting and player development needs a fresh approach. Gorton has already pledged to develop an analytics department and beef up the player development department which now only has two, yes two people assigned to it. I think it is telling when the training staff has approximately five times the number of staff as player development.
That leads us to the crucial question, who should it be?
- If not hired as the GM, the Canadiens should utilize all of their resources to secure Madden Martin Jr., as AGM and Director of Scouting.
- Danielle Goyette who, with Hayley Wickenheiser is leading player development for the Maple Leafs (again if she is not chosen as GM)
- I am not as up to speed with scouts as I am with potential GM candidates but others to be considered could be Blair Mackasey of the WIld, Brad Whelen of the Lighting, Wade Klippenstein of the Avalanche.
Quite honestly, effective scouting and an improved player development system go hand in hand. Unless a team has both good drafting and good development working in sync the team will not be successful. And drafting and development are not working in tandem, even an outstanding trading record will not be enough to sustain success—SEE: Bergevin, Marc.
Norm Szcyrek: It was an understandable decision for Molson to let Timmins go along with Bergevin. His track record had hits and misses, and a recent radio interview with an independent draft publication expert had Montreal pegged as one of the worst teams in the league when it comes to drafting and developing players that reach the 200-game mark in the NHL. By contrast, an article from Recrutes’ Grant McCagg – who worked for Timmins and the Canadiens previously – from the fall of 2017, defends Timmins’ record, indicating that “since Trevor Timmins joined the club as the head scout in 2003 have drafted as well as any other team in the league.” He backs up his claim with different sets of numbers. On December 3rd, Grant published another pro-Bergevin article.
Earlier in his career, Timmins could take credit for a few successes such as Pacioretty, Subban and Price. Bergevin has traded the first two players, and the next GM may be forced to trade Price, provided another team is interested and the Habs eat some of his huge salary. I believe Timmins lost his job for a couple of reasons. First, he was seen as very close to Bergevin; the whole “biceps club” phrase came up several times to their amusement. Secondly, Bergevin appears to have put his stamp on several of the Habs first-round controversial selections, like Michael McCarron, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and Logan Mailloux. Each selection appears to be made as a positional need, instead of the traditional “best player available”, even though the BPA phrase was often used to try to rationalize the picks. Each of these players was simply put, an overreach based on some Bergevin-driven criteria.
In McCarron’s case, the Habs were outmatched in that spring’s playoffs by a larger and more aggressive Ottawa Senators team. In Kotkaniemi’s case, Bergevin humbly bragged that he watched Kotkaniemi play in the spring’s Under-18 championship. In Mailloux, Bergevin appeared to have thought he was choosing an undervalued two-way defenceman with good size but disregarded the obvious PR storm that would haunt him and the Habs franchise, causing Molson to publicly speak to that decision. In Mailloux’s case, when Timmins was interviewed after the draft, I have never heard him so uncomfortable talking about a draft pick; the unspoken comment was clear that he did not support that pick.
Dave Woodward: It was time for Timmins to go. The drafting and development of players have been the Achilles’ heel of the Bergevin era and Timmins was running the draft during the entirety of Bergevin’s tenure and, more recently, had been involved with player development.
In fairness to Timmins, some of his best picks were traded by the GM of the day (such as Sergachev and McDonagh). Timmins has also found some diamonds in the rough in later rounds such as Gallagher, Evans, and Cayden Primeau. However, as a general rule, he hit a major dry spell in the drafts from 2008 to 2015 and the Habs are paying for that dearly now. While Timmins has replenished the prospect roster in recent years, failing to draft an impactful player with two third-overall picks (Alex Galchenyuk in 2012 and Kotkanemi in 2018) along with his record of (i) failed first-round picks from 2009 to 2015 and (ii) his consistent failure to draft elite players or players that have a material impact at the NHL level (e.g., top-four defencemen or top-six forwards) are more than sufficient reasons why it’s time for a change. When one looks at the Canadiens’ roster, the dearth of players that were drafted and developed by the Canadiens speaks for itself.
As for who should replace Timmins, there may be a temptation to replace Timmins midseason so his replacement can prepare for the 2022 NHL Draft. That would be fine if the right person is available now. However, this rebuild should not be undertaken in haste. Gorton and the new GM, when hired, should conduct a comprehensive search for such a key position and if the right person cannot be found until after the 2022 NHL Draft, then Gorton and the new GM should take their time. The new Director of Amateur Scouting will be running many future Drafts and will hopefully be developing the Canadiens’ prospects for many years after the 2022 NHL Draft.
Regardless of timing, the Canadiens’ staff in charge of drafting and development should be re-evaluated and, more than likely, overhauled. For that reason, a promotion from within to replace Timmins is unlikely and would only be considered if that person has an entirely new approach in mind.
Based on Gorton’s public comments to date, it is clear that analytics will play a much larger role in player evaluation. This pundit anticipates that Gorton will look outside the organization for a person with a similar approach.