When the Ottawa Senators hired NHL on NBC analyst Pierre McGuire last July, many wondered exactly what his role would be. Would he be GM Pierre Doiron’s right-hand man, helping to expedite what’s been a sluggish rebuild? Perhaps the Sens would regularly serve him up to the local media as the eloquent new voice of the front office? Or maybe he was brought in as the next GM-in-waiting, and in the meantime, to keep an eye on things for owner Eugene Melnyk.
We may never actually get a clear and official description of why he was here, but the Senators provided a very strong clue on Monday, dismissing McGuire as their senior vice president of player development, just ten months into the job.
On the day of his hiring, McGuire made no secret of the fact it was Melnyk – not Dorion – who personally hired him.
“Mr. Melnyk, we’ve had about five or six pretty significant discussions, and I was just blown away by his passion, I really was,” McGuire told NHL.com last year. “(Melnyk’s) passion to win, his passion to achieve excellence with the franchise, that’s something that appeals to me.”
Almost as an after thought, the 60-year-old McGuire then mentioned his prior communication with Dorion.
“Then the discussions I’ve had with [general manager] Pierre Dorion, and I’ve had a lot of talks with Pierre, it’s just been fantastic.”
In a perfect world, an NHL general manager would want to have some level of input on the hiring of a key employee who would be working directly under him. It’s certainly possible Dorion did sign off on Melnyk’s decision to bring in McGuire and for whatever reason, things just didn’t work out.
But the timing of McGuire’s dismissal so soon after his hiring – and so soon after Melnyk’s passing – would suggest otherwise. It’s not like Dorion had never met McGuire. If he had fully endorsed the hiring last year, he’d surely have given McGuire more time to prove himself in the role or correct any problems.
McGuire had often spoken in the past about a strong desire to be an NHL general manager. Objectively, his new role with the Senators had the potential to be a smooth and possibly short road to that goal. After all, the Senators’ situation was well known around the league. They had an impatient owner with a club that had just missed their fourth straight playoffs – and missed them by a lot. It would be natural for anyone to assume changes might be coming.
It was also reasonable to think Melnyk would promote from within and hand the role to the next guy in his food chain. For example, Melnyk did just that in 2011 with Dave Cameron, who was then head coach of Melnyk’s OHL club in Mississauga. Cameron was personally hired by Melnyk as Paul MacLean’s assistant coach in Ottawa and then promoted him when MacLean was fired three years later.
But when Melnyk passed away in March, it changed the road map completely.
Since then, Dorion has been reporting to a three-man board of Sheldon Plener, Lawrence Zeifman and John Miszuk. Based on their backgrounds, it’s doubtful they would intervene on anything hockey-related that didn’t involve big money.
In the end, Pierre McGuire was Melnyk’s guy, not Dorion’s.
By Steve Warne