Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Jack Todd: Gorton and Hughes have transformed image of the Canadiens

The Canadiens are treating their players right and building a solid foundation that will pay dividends for years to come.

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The NHL is a multi-billion-dollar business. The value of franchises is soaring, competition is ruthless, the American dollar rules all.

Yet long-term success in the league often comes down to how you treat people.

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The old rule was front and centre again last week when Canadiens GM Kent Hughes dealt Sean Monahan to the Winnipeg Jets for a first-round pick this year and a conditional third-rounder in 2027.

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Most of the focus after the trade was on the deft manner in which Hughes had acquired two first-rounders for Monahan — a 2025 first-round from Calgary for taking on Monahan’s expensive contract 18 months ago, another from Winnipeg on the way out. That is asset management at its finest, and it is indisputably one of the strengths Hughes and Jeff Gorton bring to the job.

Beyond that, however, was the simple fact that Hughes had assured Monahan that he would be traded to a contender before the deadline.

Hughes is that rarity: a man whose word is his bond. His long experience as an agent taught him how players want to be treated. You won’t see Hughes pulling Mike Cammalleri off the ice in Boston to trade him for Rene Bourque (!) or denying Andrei Markov a two-year contract after 990 games as the Canadiens best defenceman.

A minor detail in the scheme of things? Perhaps. Full credit has to go to Gorton as well. In a relatively short time, Gorton and Hughes have transformed the image of the Canadiens. Once an organization synonymous with class, the image had been badly tarnished. No more. The Canadiens are treating their players right and building a solid foundation that will pay dividends for years to come.

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More Owe for the Big Oops: It’s daft. It’s barmy. It’s ridiculous, thoughtless and irresponsible.

And it’s happening.

The Quebec government announced Monday that it is throwing another $870 million (not allowing for cost overruns) of your tax dollars down the maw of the hopeless money pit that once served as the Olympic Stadium, AKA the Big Owe.

For that amount, give or take six figures, the existing ring will be torn down and replaced with a spanking and very expensive new roof which will tower over … nothing.

The Expos are not coming back, and even if they did, it would be to play in a new downtown ballpark. There may be a monster truck rally or two. Maybe a car show. CF Montréal might conceivably play two or three games a year inside the concrete monstrosity. The Alouettes could host another Grey Cup.

But a full-time, 81-games-a-year tenant? Never happening. The Big O is and will remain a ghost town, a monument to folly. Health care in this province is a disaster, education a catastrophe. We lack low-cost housing, roads that aren’t falling apart, a response to the opioid crisis.

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So where is our tax money going?

To a roof over nothing. If that strikes you as sane — get help.

Bettman, loud and clear: Gary Bettman is a lawyer to his toes. He can duck, dodge and obfuscate with the best of them. When it comes to offering non-answer answers, the commish is the world champ. If he chooses, he can talk for two minutes and leave you with a notebook full of bafflegab.

But as the all-star weekend began last weekend, Bettman observed the 31st anniversary of his unparalleled reign as commissioner of the National Hockey League. During his state-of-the-league press conference, Bettman was asked the inevitable question about the league’s investigation into the alleged group sexual assault involving World Junior players in London, Ont.

Bettman said the NHL would not release the report on its investigation into the incident while the charges are pending. Then he lowered the boom:

“I want to be clear,” Bettman said. “From the moment we first learned about this on May 26, 2022, I have repeatedly used the words ‘abhorrent, reprehensible, horrific and unacceptable’ to describe the alleged behaviours. And those words continue to apply.”

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All-star dud vs. the PWHL: After enduring as much of the NHL all-star weekend as I could bear without breaking out in hives, I watched the PWHL tussle between Montreal and Boston Sunday, won in overtime by the local heroes.

It was night and day. The thing you notice most (other than the commendable absence of Nikita Kucherov) is that the women compete with such joy. They are so visibly happy to have a league of their own at last — a league that is soaring from one success to another and breaking attendance records week after week. If you have yet to tune in, what are you waiting for?

Heroes: Kent Hughes, Sean Monahan, Jacob Fowler, Piper Gilles, Paul Poirier, Gabriel Diallo, Alexandre Duchaine, Mikaël Kingsbury, Caitlin Clark, Marc Gasol, Laura Stacey, Marie-Philip Poulin, Erin Ambrose, Elaine Chuli and last but not least (believe it or not) Gary Bettman.

Zeros: Nikita Kucherov, the NHL all-star game, a new roof for the old O, Dani Alves, Mike Ribeiro, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Ben Simmons, Marcus Rashford, Catherine Tait, Galen Weston, Claude Brochu, David Samson and last but not least, Jeffrey Loria.

Now and forever.

jacktodd46@yahoo.com

twitter.com/jacktodd46

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