Patrick Roy Emilie Castonguay Mathieu Darche Montreal Canadiens GM

Ranking 9 rumoured candidates for the job of Montreal Canadiens GM

Patrick Roy, Emilie Castonguay and Mathieu Darche are among the potential replacements for Marc Bergevin who are being interviewed in Round 1.

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun is reporting that the Montreal Canadiens’s search for a new General Manager has begun in earnest, with the organization, now led by VP of Hockey Operations Jeff Gorton, currently interviewing “around 10 candidates.”

Ranking 9 rumoured candidates for the job of Montreal Canadiens GM

On Nov. 28, the Canadiens fired Bergevin after nearly a decade in charge of the franchise, with Gorton joining the fold that same day. In mid-December, The Athletic reported that the Canadiens had already drawn up a list of candidates, including three women. Last Wednesday, Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports confirmed that at least eight candidates were being considered for interviews. Alongside Gorton, the committee looking to find the new GM — who must be bilingual and have skills that can complement Gorton’s — will be owner Geoff Molson, Hamilton Bulldogs owner Michael Andlauer and former Habs captain/GM/Hall-of-Famer Bob Gainey.

While we await this group’s decision on who gets handed the task of course-correcting this abysmal Habs team, here’s our ranking of all nine candidates we know of so far.

1. Mathieu Darche

Habs fans likely remember Mathieu Darche as a bottom-six forward for the team in the early 2010s, and/or for his punditry on L’antichambre. But as an executive, the Saint-Laurent native has accomplished quite a lot in a short period of time. As Director of Hockey Operations with the Tampa Bay Lightning since 2019, Darche has two Stanley Cups under his belt. He’s learned directly under GM Julien BriseBois, who would’ve been the candidate to beat for the Habs job had he been available.

While he’s assisted BriseBois with various facets of GM life, Darche has more specifically been responsible for helping BriseBois manage the team’s salary cap, where they expertly — if annoyingly — found ways to exploit cap loopholes (*cough* Kucherov *cough*) before the start of last year’s playoffs, where the Lightning beat the Habs in the final. Regarding his potential as a GM, he’s already gotten a co-sign from current Lightning head coach Jon Cooper. Given all of this, plus his pre-existing relationship with the Habs organization, Darche looks to be a strong candidate for the job.

2. Emilie Castonguay

The first of two player agents being considered for the job, Castonguay is also one of at least two women the Canadiens are interviewing. The NHLPA’s first female agent, Castonguay boasts clients like Alexis Lafrenière, brothers Pierre-Olivier and Mathieu Joseph and current Hab Cédric Paquette. Castonguay also interned for the Habs while Pierre Gauthier was GM, and has degrees in both law and finance.

Clearly, she knows a thing or two about negotiating player contracts and working around the salary cap, as well as how NHL GMs operate. Should Castonguay get the gig, it will mark the first time in history that a woman has held the position of General Manager for an NHL franchise. As of now, the only female GM in North American pro sports is Kim Ng, currently with the Miami Marlins in Major League Baseball.

3. Roberto Luongo

Roberto Luongo Montreal Canadiens GM
Roberto Luongo (Ranking 9 rumoured candidates for the job of Montreal Canadiens GM)

One of the greatest goalies of the aughts and 2010s, Roberto Luongo fits the bill as a French-speaking Montrealer. He also just so happens to be pursuing a career in management. As a special assistant to Florida Panthers GM Bill Zito, Bobby Lou has helped oversee the Panthers’ rise from irrelevant lottery team to a genuine playoff contender. Luongo was also supposed to be an assistant GM for Canada’s men’s hockey team before the NHL pulled out of this year’s Olympics in Beijing, after being Canada’s GM for the 2021 IIHF World Hockey Championships.

Even if he lacks management experience at the NHL level, he’s being groomed for a bigger role while learning on the job in a winning environment — one where he became an elite goaltender himself. The trilingual Saint-Leonard native could very well be tempted to come home and bring what he’s learned to a culture that has been steeped in mediocrity for much of three decades.

4. Danièle Sauvageau

Danièle Sauvageau Montreal Canadiens GM
Danièle Sauvageau (Ranking 9 rumoured candidates for the job of Montreal Canadiens GM)

Another candidate the Habs are reportedly interested in is one fans of the women’s game will know very, very well. Having won a historic gold medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City as the Canadian women’s head coach, Danièle Sauvageau has worn many hats since. In hockey, she’s been hailed for her work as GM of the Université de Montréal’s women’s hockey program during the 2010s, with whom she twice won a national championship.

Sauvageau also became an assistant coach in the QMJHL in the 1999-00 season, the first and only woman to do so. In other words, she’s an excellent hockey mind, and a smart cookie in general. Even if it seems like the organization might be simply trying to tick boxes when they announce a plan for greater “diversity,” they could do far, far worse than Sauvageau in that department.

5. Patrick Roy

Of every candidate listed, this would be the most “high risk, high reward” hire of the bunch. He’s also made his desire for the job public. Roy’s reputation as a Habs goalie needs no introduction, though neither does his acrimonious split with the team that set the franchise back lightyears. He won a Jack Adams award as a rookie NHL coach with the Colorado Avalanche (where he also served as VP of Hockey Operations), only to resign two years later — and six weeks before the start of the season — for lack of input on player personnel decisions. It remains to be seen how comfortable he’d be as Gorton’s subordinate, should he get the job.

So then, what—to answer Roy’s own question — have the Habs got to lose? As head coach and GM of the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts, he has overseen the development of future NHLers like Nikita Kucherov, Jonathan Marchessault, Anthony Duclair, Marc-Édouard Vlasic and former Hab Alexander Radulov. However, much like Bergevin before him (and surely much to Gorton’s chagrin), he’s not a fan of analytics. His competitiveness, swagger and emotional nature helped make him a legendary goaltender, but these traits don’t always translate well to management.

6. Daniel Brière

Daniel Brière
Daniel Brière (Ranking 9 rumoured candidates for the job of Montreal Canadiens GM)

A former Hab as a player in the 2013–14 season that saw the team go to the Eastern Conference Final (after snubbing the team years earlier in free agency to sign with the Philadelphia Flyers for less money), Daniel Brière’s name is a familiar one to fans. Having spent two years as a special assistant to the GM for the Flyers, Brière has been working for the ECHL’s Maine Mariners as the team’s President, GM and VP of Hockey Operations. 

Though he’ s been cutting his teeth for several years at the management level, Brière has yet to have a hands-on role in building a team outside of North American hockey’s third tier. Even if he’d be reporting to Gorton, it stands to reason that upgrading from the ECHL to GM of the Montreal Canadiens may be a step too big, too soon for him.

7. Kent Hughes

Hughes is not only an experienced player agent, but he’s someone Jeff Gorton knows very well. Representing Patrice Bergeron, Darnell Nurse and Kris Letang, among others, the Beaconsfield native has been living in the Boston area for many years, where Gorton — who drafted Hughes’ son Riley while with the Rangers in 2018 — is from.

Although he has reportedly thrown cold water over his possible candidacy, his name was dropped as a possibility by Elliotte Friedman in early December. With his reputation and unique perspective as an agent, Hughes would come to the organization with a knowledge of the salary cap and pre-existing rapports with other GMs. His younger son Jack (no, not that one) is also a prospect for the upcoming 2022 Entry Draft, and one the Habs will surely target if Hughes joins the organization.

8. Marc Denis

We know what you’re probably thinking. “Really?! Marc Denis from RDS?” While Denis lacks front office experience at the NHL level, his knowledge of the game is stellar based on what we’ve seen on TV as a colour analyst alongside RDS legend Pierre Houde. He’s also worked as a goaltender coach and VP of Hockey Operations for the QMJHL’s Chicoutimi Saguenéens. Clearly, he knows the game and, as a local boy, understands how much the Habs mean to the community and to Quebec as a whole. Unfortunately, all of that is still unlikely to be enough to propel him all the way to the GM’s office.

9. Stéphane Quintal

Stephane Quintal Montreal Canadiens GM
Stephane Quintal

A former Habs defenceman during the ’90s and early 2000s, Stephane Quintal knows the franchise well and understands the culture better than many candidates on this list. He’s also spent his post-playing career climbing up the ladder in the National Hockey League itself, working as the NHL’s Senior VP of Head of Player Safety from 2014 to 2016. The Boucherville native is considered a great hockey mind, and still works in the league’s Player Safety department. However, Quintal’s lack of managerial experience with a club will likely be a strike against him for this particular position.

This article was originally published on Jan. 6 and updated on Jan. 11

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