June 5, 2012; Montreal, QC, Canada; Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin speaks at the press conference to introduce new head coach Michel Therrien at the Bell Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-US PRESSWIRE

New Staff for the Habs and A Winning Habit

There has been a flurry of new hires in the Canadiens organization as the new regime staffs up.

Ex-player and pro-scout Martin Lapointe has been appointed Director of Player Development. Lapointe was hired from the same Blackhawks organization that new GM Marc Bergevin was brought in from.

Ex-Hab and long time NHL defenseman Patrice Brisebois has been named a Player Development coach. His responsibilities supposedly will entail helping players make the transition into the NHL.  A seemingly appropriate task for a player that has seen the worst the Montreal media and fans can throw at a player during his two stints with the Montreal Canadiens.

Sylvain Lefebvre, assistant coach of the Colorado Avalanche has been hired to take over as Head Coach of the Hamilton Bulldogs. Another ex-NHL defenseman, Lefebvre is known for being a defenseman coach which was the role he filled in Colorado. A potentially saavy choice to head the AHL team which will see an infusion of defenseman talent next year with the troika of Jarred Tinordi, Nathen Beaulieu and Morgan Ellis. He is also seen as a potential future NHL head coach. Previous Hamilton Head Coach Clement Jodoin is reportedly interviewing to reprise his previous assistant coaching position in Montreal which he held during Therrien’s previous Montreal regime.

Finally, Gerald Gallant, the coach of the twice consecutive QMJHL champions St. John team as well as ex-coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets has been named Assistant Coach for the Canadiens. He has been very successful with a very talented team in the junior leagues and unsuccessful with a weak lineup in the NHL.

Taken with Bergevin’s previous hires in Dudley, Mellanby and Therrien, we now have a fairly good picture of what the staff of the new Montreal Canadiens will look like. Bergevin seems to favour running a much large staff than the previous bare-bones operations of the Gainey-Gautheir era which takes advantage of Montreal’s enormous financial clout.

The plethora of new positions also allows for the hiring of a large number of francophone and Quebec natives in management positions which is an always popular decision in la Belle Province. This also insulates a couple of highly qualified and well regarded non-Francophones in key positions, ex-NHL GM Rick Dudley and chief scout Trevor Timmins. Also Timmins will not be forced to wear so many hats in the new regime as his role shifts more towards his primary job of amateur scouting while the player development jobs he had get shifted to new staff.

As a group Bergevin’s team is heavily weighted towards ex-NHL players (Dudley, Mellanby, Lapointe, Brisebois, Gallant, Lefebvre). The coaching staff is likewise comprised of those who have coached in the NHL before rather than new faces from the CHL or AHL.

The emphasis for the front office thus far seems to be on the principle of scouting, acquiring and developing players, with most of the front office team coming from a pro or amateur scouting background and a number of new staff in player development roles. This would build on Montreal’s current greatest strength in amateur scouting in the Timmins era, having one of the best records at the entry draft relative to draft position during his tenure as head scout. A number of new hires seem targeted to help young players with the often rocky transition to the NHL which has led to the loss of horrifying amount of good talent from the organization in recent years (Riberio, S. Kostitsyn and Latendresse being prominent examples).

The other side of the emphasis on ex-players and scouting is that the Bergevin group seems weighted towards the more “old-school” ways of hockey management of relying entirely on “hockey men” rather than some of the newer approaches found elsewhere in the NHL front offices were people with backgrounds in law or management, often drawn from the player agent ranks are becoming increasingly common and having notable success. The excellent front offices of Vancouver under Gillis and Boston under Chiarelli being notable examples.

As the Habs hires new faces, so does A Winning Habit. I am very proud to announce that I will be taking over as Editor of this fine establishment. My previous work as Writer and later Feature Editor of Habs Eyes on the Prize can be found here: http://www.sbnation.com/users/Stephan%20Cooper/blog. Following Bergevin’s example over this summer I will be looking to expand the writing staff here to provide better and more in depth coverage of the Montreal Canadiens, the NHL and hockey in general.

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