New Canadiens GM faces task of reconstructing team

For Kent Hughes, the chance to help rebuild the Canadiens was too attractive to turn downGETTY IMAGES

New Canadiens GM Kent Hughes can "turn his attention to the more difficult task of rebuilding" the team, a task that will "begin in earnest" today when Hughes and Exec VP/Hockey Operations Jeff Gorton join the team in Las Vegas, according to Pat Hickey of the MONTREAL GAZETTE. Hughes made his reputation as an agent for such high-profile players as Patrice Bergeron, Vinnie Lecavalier and Kris Letang, but Gorton said that he has "always viewed Hughes as a 'hockey person.'" Gorton went out of his way to "clarify that Hughes is not his best friend," but the two "have had a professional relationship that began 20 years ago" when Gorton was an Assistant GM with the Bruins. Hughes was "high on Gorton’s list" when the search committee led by Gorton and team Owner, President & CEO Geoff Molson "moved into high gear in the new year." Hughes had "turned down a job offer from Gorton" when he was Rangers GM, but the "chance to help rebuild the Canadiens was too attractive to turn down, especially for someone with Montreal roots" (MONTREAL GAZETTE, 1/20). Molson said that 11 candidates "were interviewed for the job before the decision was made to hire Hughes." In Montreal, Stu Cowan notes Molson and Gorton were part of a "four-man committee to find the next GM," along with former captain and GM Bob Gainey and minority team owner Michael Andlauer. The three finalists were Hughes, along with former Canadiens players Mathieu Darche and Daniel Brière (MONTREAL GAZETTE, 1/20).

GOOD FIRST IMPRESSION: In Montreal, Brendan Kelly writes Hughes at his introductory press conference yesterday "impressed with his smart, friendly, open and articulate style of discussion." Hughes "never bristled at any of the journalists’ questions, he never got angry, he didn’t get in a testy exchange with anyone." He "didn’t look like he’d been up all night." In short, he "couldn’t have been any different" than former GM Marc Bergevin. Hughes "looks like the right man for the job, as does" Gorton. Molson "deserves full credit for making the gutsy decision to hire two anglophones for the Habs’ two top hockey jobs." He has sent the "clear message that he wants to strive for excellence," which has "not been the philosophy of the club for the past 40 years" (MONTREAL GAZETTE, 1/20). NHL Network’s Jody Shelley said he liked the Hughes hiring “for Gorton because Gorton obviously trusts him” and for Hughes, a first-time NHL GM, “why wouldn’t you want to work with Jeff Gorton? He’s got such a great pedigree" (“NHL Tonight,” NHL Network, 1/19).

RIGHT FOR THE JOB: The GAZETTE's Cowan in a separate piece writes for someone not used to being in the public spotlight, Hughes "shone on the stage set up on the ice at the Bell Centre." He answered a variety of hockey-related questions "thoughtfully and intelligently" for 50 minutes, and also was "very, very comfortable speaking French" (MONTREAL GAZETTE, 1/20). NHL Network’s Adnan Virk said with the Canadiens having the worst record in the league, there is “nowhere to go but up” for Hughes. NHL Network’s Ken Daneyko said Hughes is “certainly going to know the CBA inside and out," which is an "important element as far as retooling, rebuilding your team.” Shelley noted the Canadiens fan base is not very “patient,” so “there better be a retool, not a rebuild" (“NHL Tonight,” NHL Network, 1/19).

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