Canadiens president and CEO Geoff Molson dishes on the team's communication strategy, Quebec-born players and more in an exclusive interview with Marc Denis for HabsTV.
MARC DENIS (RDS ANALYST): Geoff Molson, owner and president of the Montreal Canadiens. This summer, this organization went through so many changes: new faces, management. What is the true identity of this team entering the 16-17 season?
GEOFF MOLSON (CANADIENS PRESIDENT AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER): Yeah, there's no question that the second half of last year was very disappointing. You could point to several different reasons why it was disappointing, but in general, I think that this year we've added more character, we've added a lot of leadership, and we've also added some goal scoring. It's also really nice to see two young guys who have made the team with [Mikhail] Sergachev and [Artturi] Lehkonen this year. It's going to be a stronger team in the dressing room, with a lot more leadership, and some more goal scoring potential, which is fun to see.
MD: A few years back, not that long ago, actually, you said that year in and year out, winning the Stanley Cup has to be the main objective of the Montreal Canadiens. Is this where we stand, even though there was a disastrous second half to last season?
GM: Every year, that's the objective. I sort of break it up into moments in a long season, because it is a long season. I think if you're thinking about the end of the season too early, it can affect you. But if you have a good start, you build on that good start and then you start thinking about making the playoffs and where you're going to be seeded in the playoffs. Once you do make the playoffs, I think everyone has the same objective, and that's to win the Stanley Cup.
MD: Last season, through the ups and downs, a lot was said about communication - or the lack thereof - within the organization. Trying to hide injuries, lack of transparency. For someone like you who's very active on social media and who is in tune with the fan base, is this something you wanted to address over the offseason?
GM: Communication for the Montreal Canadiens is probably the most important thing that we do, because our fans are so loyal, [and] our fans are following us every day. Our coach communicates after every practice and every game. It is a very important element of our plan in a year, and it's always disappointing to see moments when it looks like we're hiding something or we're not communicating, because we like to communicate. We like to tell our fans what's going on with our team. However, there are moments when we can't communicate. Twenty-nine other general managers would agree that when you have a situation with an injury and you're not sure when the player might - or might not - come back, you want to protect your player first, because that player is going to get back in action and you don't want people targeting a player. It's difficult to sit back and see the disappointment that fans had in our communication. I think it's important for people to realize that sometimes we're just protecting our players.
MD: You just mentioned disappointment in seeing the fans react. You're obviously very in tune, through your Twitter account especially. Are you the one that handles your own Twitter account? Are you communicating and reading and listening to what the fans are saying on a daily basis?
GM: Yeah, I do. Sometimes I wish I didn't. (laughs) Especially after a difficult period. But I do check it on a very regular basis and I respond myself. It's important for me to get the perspective of the fans. You actually get to know them better, as well, through Twitter. Often it's the same people that are talking to me via Twitter. For me, it's my chance to listen and to get feedback. I think it's a valuable tool for me.
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MD: One [piece of] feedback in recent years has been the very small number of Quebec-born players in this organization, which traditionally [has won] Cups with a lot of Francophones and Quebec-born players. [Stefan] Matteau, [Mark] Barberio, [Charles] Hudon were all cut at the end of training camp. Is this a concern for Geoff Molson?
GM: [Canadiens general manager] Marc Bergevin's primary objective from me is to put the best possible team on the ice. When he's making decisions on who's going to play, nationality cannot be one of the criteria. It needs to be the best player for the position. We have built an organization through Marc that is Quebec-based employees - so the coaching staff, the general manager, the assistant general manager - we've drafted Quebec-born players, we've traded for Quebec-born players, and we try our best to have a good representation of Quebec-born players on the team, but at the same time, 29 other teams are also going after the best players available at a given point in time. Even if it is a priority for us to try and have it, another team might want the player that we want and that player might be a Quebec-born player. It remains important for us. It's disappointing when you have fewer Quebec-born players, but it's also very difficult to accomplish that goal because there are 29 other teams that want to be the best, as well.
MD: Before I let you go, what would be the most important message from Geoff Molson to the Montreal Canadiens' very loyal - as you mentioned - fan base?
GM: I would say to our fans that they're going to see an exciting team with a lot of character, improved leadership, and a team that can probably score more goals, let's hope. The most important thing is we should all, fans and myself, be praying for a healthy team, because when our team is healthy it's a really strong team.