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The Senators And Pierre McGuire Deserve Each Other

Kelly Thomas Reardon

So here’s a conundrum for the morning: how to write that Pierre McGuire is now going to straighten out the Ottawa Senators’ player development department without sounding all snarky about it, like “JUMPING JESUS, THEY HIRED PIERRE MCGUIRE!”

A-a-a-a-a-nd we can’t. Our Sens, our glorious Sens (well, Comrade Theisen’s glorious Sens; we just went along for the week-long ride), have decided that what the team needs to consolidate its bubbly late-season push is the preposterous McGuire, who has spent most of his hockey career as an analyst entombed in the glass cage between benches that mostly resembled Hannibal Lecter’s prison rec room.

This is the kind of cute-yet-daft move one would expect from owner and part-time Cap’n Crunch box Eugene Melnyk, yet it rings even cuter and dafter than that. McGuire’s management experience was an almost-full year coaching a bad 1994 Hartford team and then being fired, apparently to the delight of the Whalers players. He topped that off by being forced by the league to forfeit half of his coaching salary for providing confidential scouting reports to the Edmonton Oilers compiled while he still was working for the Whalers. Thus, he was fully prepared for a career in broadcasting, which he held at one level or another for nearly a quarter-century.

McGuire seems to have been pursuing a gig like this for nearly the entire time he’s been a traveling larynx. He was most recently rumored for the Pittsburgh general manager job that came open in January when Jim Rutherford left. But he’s been rumored for vacant jobs so often that one stopped thinking of him in those terms long ago—that is, until Melnyk apparently saw magic where so many others saw, well, McGuire. Maybe everyone in hockey has missed this obvious opportunity 145 times for a general manager vacancy and 282 more times for a coach, according to CapFriendly. Maybe Eugene is the one guy who has this whole hockey scam figured out in ways that even Julien BriseBois and those yokels in Tampa do not.

As for McGuire, we’ll see what all those years as NBC’s designated boy-in-the-box, largely reciting which player had played for which college or junior coach, and pushing the analysis envelope by pointing out that Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, and Jonathan Toews were really good. To be fair, though, he never missed a chance to talk, thus assuring us all that the mute button would be a long and cherished companion.

But the management screwups were one franchise and 27 years ago, he was young and ambitious and forgiveness is a virtue. The broadcasting quirks are mostly a matter of personal taste; some people like him, at least glassed off from the rest of society. Let’s instead ask what Admiral Melnyk has done here, starting with providing him a ready excuse to fire eminently fireable general manager Pierre Dorion at the first sign of trouble, or as we otherwise know it, Canadian Thanksgiving. One does not make a splashy hire directly below a general manager or coach because said GM or coach is nailing it, so it is safe to assume that Melnyk will be dressing McGuire in a grim reaper’s outfit until the time comes to bring out the sickle.

By deciding that a broadcaster long removed from day-to-day management is suddenly the guy to reorder a cadaver-stiff franchise, Sailor Gene brings us memories of other such triumphs as Jerry Coleman coming from the San Diego Padres’ play-by-play chair to managing the team for a year, or Ken Harrelson descending from the booth to become the vice president of baseball ops and de facto general manager of the Chicago White Sox before quitting a week before his only season ended because he hated it so much, or Jon Gruden, who … well, you know.

But let’s be fair (yeah, yeah, I know). Maybe McGuire’s obsessive need to tell you what player named his first goldfish after Bob Probert or who the assistant trainer for Traktor Chelyabinsk is makes him uniquely qualified for this job. Maybe he sees the Three True Outcomes for hockey. Maybe he closes the Pierre gap that separated them from the Canadiens (the two franchises are now tied at three, at least as far as we can tell). Only Eugene knows, and his gift for incomprehensible gibberish makes that a task beyond all fathoming. All we know is, Melnyk conducted a man-cave search, saw McGuire on his television explaining how Tampa controlled Montreal by having all the better players and said, “This is genius! I must have him!” One wonders what Melnyk might have done had his dog entered the room and started barking at the image of Phillip Danault.

But no, the dog kept a respectful distance and left its owner to bypass anyone else who might have been on his TV at the time—Ray Ferraro, Sid Seixeiro, Colleen Jones on the CBC curling desk, Catherine O’Hara, God only knows—so that he could steal McGuire out from under anyone else who might have been thinking about it.

I’ll leave you the rest of the day to imagine who that could have been.

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