January 25, 2011
In the last few days, Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk has all but declared that Coach Cory Clouston and GM Bryan Murray are on a slow march together into the sunset -- with Clouston toppling over a cliff into unemployment and Murray allowed to linger on the edge of the canyon in some paycheck advisory role after season's end.
Which means there will be another general manager to pick another coach. Which means it's the third year in a row that TSN/NBC yammerer Pierre McGuire will be in contention for an executive position with an NHL franchise.
He interviewed with the Minnesota Wild in 2009, losing out to Chuck Fletcher's pedigree for that gig. He was very much in the running for the Florida Panthers' GM spot last year that went to Dale Tallon, a former broadcaster himself. And CSN Philadelphia reported he was interviewed twice for the Lightning opening.
Pigeonholing Pierre McGuire -- while that sounds like something most viewers and/or Marty Turco wouldn't mind doing on occasion -- isn't fair to him, of course. He's been a scout, a Stanley Cup winner as an assistant coach, the head coach of the Hartford Whalers and has likely seen more hockey in the last 20 years than most beer league rinks have.
So it appears he'll be a candidate again for the Ottawa Senators opening, although he denied he's already interviewed for the job in a radio hit with Team 1200 on Monday:
"I haven't talked to anybody about the Ottawa Senators job. I've been on the record very strong about Bryan Murray [being] the general manager of that team and Cory Clouston being the coach of that team. If there were an opening, and they had interest, that'd be a different thing."
(Please note that on Tuesday, when asked on Team 1200 about which free-agent goaltenders he'd pursue were he the Senators, Pierre said, "There are certain things I can say and certain things I can't." Hint hint.)
There are reasons not to hire McGuire, like his lack of executive experience. There are other candidates to consider; Elliotte Friedman noted that a homecoming for Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli has been mentioned, as has Los Angeles Kings assistant GM Ron Hextall, who would match Pierre for infamy and become the best goalie in the organization upon his hiring.
But there are also some very compelling reasons to hire Pierre McGuire as the next Ottawa Senators general manager. Here are six.
And here ... we ... go.
1. Pierre McGuire Occasionally Shows Flashes of Personality and Ego
The other NHL team in Ontario has a general manager who, for better or worse, has come to define the franchise. Is Pierre McGuire another Brian Burke? Not really; one curtly shuts down speculation by the media with a gruff quip, and the other would finish his rebuttal roughly 20 minutes after it should have ended.
But they share public personas that go well beyond a suit in the GM's box and into the realm of public theater. Pierre plays a part on TSN and NBC, whether it's as the bellowing critic or the insufferable know-it-all. And judging by the reactions he elicits, he plays it well.
Something tells us he won't exactly wear the cloak of invisibility as the head of an organ-i-zation that completes with the Toronto Maple Leafs' bluster and the Montreal Canadiens' prestige. Ottawa needs a personality as a franchise. Somewhere buried in that stream of droll trivia, Pierre has one.
2. The First Arbitration Hearing in Which the Team Contends That the Player Simply Wasn't "Monster" Enough, and Leaves It at That
C'mon, you know it would happen.
3. Community (Not the Sitcom)
In listening to two McGuire interviews since Melnyk raised the white flag on the season, it's clear he respects the Ottawa owner. Or at least has to kiss his ass a little to get a contract. One of the two.
In doing so, he talked about how Melnyk wants to be part of the Ottawa community and build community around the team. McGuire said much of the same thing about the general manager's job as well.
Pierre is a grassroots, from the-ground-up guy. We know this because he can tell you how many goals Player X scored as a 15-year-old in Moose Knuckle, Alberta. It's no secret that there's a disconnect between the franchise and its fan base as significant as the distance between the arena and downtown Ottawa. One gets the sense that McGuire would put a premium on rebuilding trust, rebuilding enthusiasm and having the community "buy in" to the new regime.
4. Say, Do You Like Goalies?
McGuire is on the record as saying Pascal Leclaire(notes) is done in Ottawa and Brian Elliott(notes) can't be an everyday starter. On Team 1200, he picked up the pom-poms for Tomas Vokoun(notes) and Craig Anderson(notes), depending on his health. Bottom line is that it appears GM Pierre puts a premium on premium goaltending, despite the franchise's reputation as a Goalie Graveyard. Which is a good thing.
5. Say, Do You Like Coaches?
New GM means new coach, and Roy MacGregor of the Globe & Mail threw out some names:
McGuire is a fan of Kirk Muller, an assistant coach with the Montreal Canadiens, and former Edmonton Oilers coach Craig MacTavish. Another coaching possibility is former NHLer Kevin Dineen, currently coaching the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League.
Muller is apparently ready to move on from the Habs, and the Sens could do a hell of a lot worse than to hire him. He was the puppet master for a lot of what worked for the Habs during their playoff run.
6. Finally, It Will Get Pierre McGuire Off of Our Televisions
His usefulness as a commentator has been swallowed by self-parody and outright repulsion from some audiences. "Shut up Pierre" outnumbers "Great Point by Pierre", and the margin isn't even close. His act as a self-assured hockey brainiac has worn to the point of ridicule (two words: loose chinstrap). He frequently commits the worst kind of broadcaster sin: He detracts from the action.
On NBC, his intermission segments with Mike Milbury have become like watching a grizzly bear maul a jelly sandwich, while the jelly sandwich strains to make his point about player safety. Not to mention that the whole thing comes off about as forced as Leo DiCaprio attempting an accent.
So taking over the Ottawa Senators would mean leaving our televisions as a broadcaster. It would also mean these years of opining, criticizing and acting smarter than the room will be put to the test in an actual NHL executive role.
Like we said: "Shut up, Pierre" has become too prevalent a sentiment in his current career. Leading the Ottawa Senators back to prominence? That would be a way for Pierre McGuire to shut all of us up for once.