It was announced Friday that Pierre Boivin has been tapped to become president of Claridge, the private equity firm run by Stephen Bronfman. We already knew that Boivin was set to step down as president of the Montreal Canadiens and he confirmed that he’s leaving that job next Wednesday.
Geoff Molson will succeed Boivin as president and CEO of the Canadiens. Geoff and his brothers Andrew and John head the ownership group that bought the Habs in 2009 reportedly for $575 million U.S. Last month, Geoff Molson announced that Kevin Gilmore – a Quebecker who held senior executive positions with both the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Mighty Ducks – would be taking on the newly-created position of chief operating officer of the Habs. In short, Molson now has his own senior management team in place.
So what exactly did Boivin achieve in his 12 years as president of the Canadiens? Not a hell of a lot. La Presse columnist Philippe Cantin has a piece in the paper Saturday under the headline ‘Pierre Boivin peut partir la tete haute’. Essentially he makes the case that Boivin turned the organization’s fortunes around, taking over an ailing franchise in 1999 and turning it into a money-maker.
That’s true – though I would argue that previous owner George Gillett also had no small amount to do with making the team so profitable. But you know what? I could care less that Boivin was able to sell more over-priced tickets, more over-priced watery Molson drafts and those delicious hot dogs.
I’m a Habs fan and all I care about is my team winning. And we haven’t won anything since the spring of 1993. During Boivin’s tenure, we’ve only ever been to the conference final once – that was last year and it was almost entirely due to the spectacular play of one man, Jaro Halak. Need I remind you that the team’s management, led by former GM Bob Gainey, did everything in their power to run Halak out of town?
From 1999 until this season, the Habs have missed the playoffs on four occasions, lost in the conference semi-finals three times, lost in the first round three times, and, as I mentioned, made it to the conference finals once, last year. That is not a good record for any NHL team and is downright pathetic for the team we like to call the most storied franchise in the league.
The sad truth? We have not had anything approaching a great team since Patrick Roy and his team-mates hoisted that last Stanley Cup way, way back in June 1993. We are right smack mired in an 18-year rebuilding project and Boivin did zip to get us out of that. Do I sound a little bitter? I am. And if you’re a Habs fan, you should be too.
When Boivin came in, season ticket holders had nose-dived from 17,000 to 9,600. Now the Bell Centre fills every single one of its 21,200 seats every game-night and yes that is a credit to Boivin. But it is also part of the reason the team is stuck in neutral. The rink is full, the TV contract is as good as it gets and the team has a higher-profile than ever in its hometown. So where’s the incentive to strive for excellence? Boivin’s philosophy has always been if the city is happy with a mediocre team, why rock the boat?
So no I don’t think Pierre Boivin should leave with his head held high.