Congratulations, Kent Hughes - you get to take over the worst team in the NHL. According to Pierre LeBrun, Hughes was the 11th and last of the candidates to be interviewed. Lebrun also reported that Hughes needed convincing to take the job. I imagine the conversation went something like this:
Jeff Gorton: Hey Kent old buddy, want to be the GM of the Montreal Canadiens?
Kent Hughes: I don’t know Jeff. I am a successful player agent making a lot of money with a strong client base and perpetual job security.
Gorton: What if I told you that you get to take over the worst team in the NHL with no elite prospects on the way?
Hughes: No. Why would I do that?
Gorton: What if I told you that you're in salary cap hell with contracts that even Harry Potter couldn’t make disappear.
Hughes: No. That makes it worse.
Gorton: What if I told you that you need to appease a rabid fan base with unrealistic expectations and mollify a vindictive media in both of Canada's official languages?
Hughes: OK, I’ll do it.
If you care at all about the Montreal Canadiens and their success, you need to take the lessons that the Chinese Bamboo Tree teaches us.
Once the Chinese Bamboo Plant bursts through the soil, it can grow 90 feet tall in only 5 weeks! The bamboo itself is one of the strongest natural materials on earth and offers a great deal of support for many years to come. The problem is that it takes 5 years of fertilizing, watering and nurturing to burst through the soil. What we see is the 90 feet in 5 weeks; what actually happens is 90 feet in 5 years and 5 weeks of growth.1
Can you wait 5 years for the Habs to be strong and reliable? Will you still tend to them daily even when they show no signs of growth?
The Habs are up against the salary cap with many contracts that are untradeable; subtraction by attrition may be the only answer. In other words: wait. The cupboards are bare in terms of elite prospects and there has been a massive restructuring of the scouting team. It will take at least 3 drafts to restock Laval, but if the Habs are going to shed their impulsive and reckless history of rushing 1st rounders to the NHL, they are up against more bamboo-math. If it takes 3 solid years for a prospect to make it, the ‘22 picks won’t be ready until the ‘25 season - and that is only 1 draft class. Conservatively speaking, we are looking at the 2027 season as to when the prospects will be ready to think about bursting through the minors into the rarified air of the NHL - and that is if the Habs draft well and actually nurture their seedlings in the AHL.
Then you have to come to terms with the fact that there are no guarantees in nature; some seeds are genetically defective. If you take the Buffalo Sabres Bamboo, that is a tree 10 years in the making and it looks like a chainsaw is in order again. The Ottawa Senator Bamboo looks like it may be a promising seedling, but their fans have withstood many years of painstaking agricultural turmoil. Starving Giant Pandas wouldn’t eat Arizona Coyote Bamboo.
There is a farming proverb that reads, “The farmer has to be an optimist or he wouldn't still be a farmer."2 Do Habs fans and media have the stomach for growing bamboo?
The clock is ticking, Farmer/GM Kent Hughes: 5 years, 4 weeks, 6 days and counting!