Recent weeks have seen the thermometers hit record highs and, coupled with the humidity, has made for hot, sticky weather. Yet, even in the midst of weather where nary an ice cube would survive, the Montreal Canadiens manage to keep us talking. In this edition of the HW Mailbag, our writers chime in on the signing of Josh Gorges and the recent changes to the team’s coaching staff.
1) Do you think the Gorges deal is too short?
Michael Bitton: I was expecting a higher cap hit with a longer term deal. Although it is a pleasant surprise to have Gorges on the cheap for this season, I don’t think Montreal will have an opportunity to use up their 5 million dollars in cap space so I would have preferred to have seen him signed for longer. I suppose the decision came down to uncertainty over Gorges’s health.
Brian La Rose: Though my preference like many would have been to see him get a multi-year deal, I’m not overly concerned with just a one year contract. Gorges has already indicated he still wants to sign long-term next offseason so if the Habs want to keep him around beyond this year, I’m confident they’ll get something done. For now, we’ll just have to wait and see how he holds up coming back from his knee injuries. That single aspect I think was what made Pierre Gauthier hesitant to offer more than just a one year deal, now he’ll get his evaluation period.
Louis Moustakas: The cap-savings and risk associated with his recent knee injury make the notion of a one-year deal quite reasonable. Yet, even on a longer deal, it is hard to imagine the cap-hit being dramatically higher than it is now. It is often mentionned that Gorges is a leader on the team, a loyal individual who wishes deeply to play for the Canadiens, but it worries me that the organization might be testing the blueliner’s loyalty a touch. If the Habs lose Gorges for nothing next summer, it will be hard not to look at this decision as a misstep.
2) Are you happy with the additions of Randy Cunneyworth and Randy Ladouceur?
Michael Bitton: I don’t know much about them except that Cunneyworth did well in Hamilton and that Martin is familiar with him. Short of keeping Muller, I don’t see the downside in this move unless it’s that Hamilton become less stable.
Brian La Rose: There are seven players who either will crack Montreal’s lineup or have a shot at doing so that played for these coaches last year in Hamilton. With that many youngsters about to be with the Habs on a regular basis, having some familiarity will certainly help their development. Both have NHL experience behind the bench as well which always helps. What I’m happiest with was the addition of the two both replacing the same coach. Having that extra assistant allows each coach to focus on just one element (offence, defence, or special teams). Though it’s hard to quantify how much that will help, I think having that greater role diversification will come in handy at some point.
Louis Moustakas: Montreal has done an excellent job developing coaches through their system, a fact that was amply illustrated in this year’s playoffs. Three of the four coaches in the Conference Finals were formerly part of the Canadiens’ organization. If that past success is any indicator, one must believe that Cunneyworth and Ladouceur are more than adequate replacements for the departed Kirk Muller. Their familiarity with many of the young players in the organization is certainly a benefit and their success with an often depleted Bulldogs team, taking them all the way to the AHL Conference Finals last year, also bodes well for the duo.
3) Should the Habs have looked to hire a younger coach for Hamilton that could be groomed to take the Montreal job down the road?
Michael Bitton: Coaches aren’t likely to remain with a single team for that many years so I don’t think age really matters. It’s not like Jodoin will remain with the Habs for long enough for his age to become a factor. I also don’t think the Canadiens are looking to return to the custom of hiring first-time NHL coaches. I think they would sooner bring back a former coach (maybe Guy Boucher) than promote somebody from the AHL.
Brian La Rose: When you place restrictions on an already thin coaching pool, you can’t be picky. Yes, it would have been nice to try and groom someone for a few years from now but with all due respect to the QMJHL, there weren’t a whole lot of appealing options out there and those more or less are the only candidates that qualify based on the bilingual requirement. Although Jodoin is getting up there in age, he can bring a lot to the table. First, having had a hand in scouting/player development will be useful in terms of working closely with Jacques Martin in terms of setting up a development program for each player. His diverse portfolio of coaching experience to draw from is also beneficial. The fact he’s older almost acts as an advantage to me, he’s less likely to be poached by another team. Considering this will be the fourth coach in as many years for the Bulldogs, some stability is quite appealing right about now.
Louis Moustakas: As both of my colleagues allude to above, the Canadiens have developed many coaches over the years and there has been a lot of turnover in Hamilton. Jodoin has a rich background and is familiar with the Canadiens environment, having been an assistant coach with the Habs for six years. In the end, his veteran, practiced hand should bring much needed stability to a farm team which has seen its fair share of changes over the past few years. Besides, if Montreal ever requires a talented, young coach in the future, they can always poach him from some other team.