I grew up during a time when the Montreal Canadiens were winning the stanley cup almost on a yearly basis. One championship wasn’t enough and a year without a cup meant failure no matter how well the regular season went.
Since 1980, the Canadiens have won two stanley cups, largely on the strength of their star goalie of the time, Patrick Roy.
The Canadiens have made their share of mistakes since the last dynasty concluded in 1979. Coaching changes, managerial changes, trades, call ups and draft choices have all been scrutinized as major blunders. The likes of David Wilkie, Jean Perron, Rejean Houle, Ronald Corey, Denis Herron among a cast of hundreds have come and gone with varying degrees of success and failure.
But in all comes back to one seminal moment back in 1979. The Montreal Canadiens passed over Scotty Bowman to be their GM after the decision by Sam Pollock to step down. It is a decision that I still don’t understand. It was based upon the recommendation by Sam Pollock himself that Scotty Bowman not be handed the job. How could such an astute GM not have considered the value of Bowman to an organization, a man who knew the ins and outs of the whole team at all levels of play?
Would Scotty have drafted Denis Savard with their first pick? Would he have went with Michel Larocque as the number 1 goalie instead of going to get Denis Herron? Would he have handed the reigns to Jacques Lemaire to coach the team? Would he allow Guy Lafleur to resign or trade him for good return value? I think I know the answer to these questions but there is one thing that Scotty as GM of the habs would have accomplished.
It would have given the Canadiens continuity. Continuity with tradition, the tradition of winning that went from Frank Selke to Pollock and logically Bowman. A winning tradition is something that is built from the GM office on down to the coach and ultimately the players.
Irving Grundman, the GM the Canadiens chose to succeed Bowman did go get Wickhenheiser when Denis Savard was the obvious heir apparent to Guy Lafleur. He did go get Denis Herron which was an insult to Michel Larocque who waited patiently until Ken Dryden retired. Grundman may have been a good GM but he had no link to the glories of the past.
What I fail to understand in all of this is how Pollock, an astute a GM as there ever was, pass over the reigns to Grundman when Scotty Bowman was right there as the logical successor.
Since that fateful decision, the Canadiens have been playing catchup. There have been blunders such as the handling of Patrick Roy, Guy Lafleur’s forced retirement, the stupidity of the Koivu language dustups and in the case of Guy Carboneeau, they messed up twice.
But it all comes down to Scotty. He proved himself in Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Detroit and he would have done the same had he stayed with the Habs. I suspect the more banners would have hung from the rafters had he stayed. The culture of the organization would have been to win the cup, not just make the playoffs….and my frustration level would be greatly reduced.
But what do I know….I’m just a bus driver