Kent Hughes admitted he was more of a behind-the-scenes type of player agent, but that's all going to change as new general manager of the Montreal Canadiens.
Hughes was officially hired Tuesday as the 18th GM in the team's storied history, replacing Marc Bergevin, who was fired on Nov. 28. Former New York Rangers GM Jeff Gorton was brought in as executive vice president on the same day was Bergevin was dismissed.
Addressing the media for the first time as GM on Wednesday, Hughes said he's most excited about the challenges that lie ahead in his role rather than the publicity that comes with it.
“I would describe myself as a hockey junkie. I always have been,” Hughes said during a bilingual press conference at Bell Centre alongside Gorton and owner Geoff Molson. “I've worked in this sport. I've coached in this sport. I've coached without my own children as part of it and my wife will tell you that if I'm not coaching or working in hockey, I'm talking about hockey. For me, the public part of it is what it is, the excitement is the hockey piece.”
Montreal is just 8-25-5 and dead last in the NHL standings despite advancing to the Stanley Cup Final in 2021, but before making any drastic moves Hughes said he first plans on taking time to familiarize himself with the players on the team and others within the organization.
"We have challenges, there's no question. The team's not where we hoped it would be, or the Canadiens hoped it would be at this point in time," Hughes said. "My opinion is some of that is circumstance, but there's no question that there needs to be changes and I've got to get familiar with Jeff. We're going to spend a lot of time together here over the next five to seven days and start to discuss what steps need to be taken."
Hughes previously worked as a player agent and has represented the likes of Patrice Bergeron, Kristopher Letang, Darnell Nurse, Colin White, Drake Batherson and Anthony Beauvillier among others.
In fact, the relationship between Hughes and Gorton dates all the way back to when Bergeron signed his entry-level deal with the Boston Bruins where Gorton was assistant GM at the time.
Gorton explained that he and Hughes have spoken regularly on the phone for close to 20 years. He said they will join the team sometime Thursday and will start “diving into hockey.”
“Our committee wanted someone that was a really good hockey person that would complement my skill set as well as we could and I think that’s what we’ve done. I’m really confident in that. I know that he was an agent but I think of Kent as a hockey person first.
“I’ve spent a lot of time the past two weeks here talking hockey and team building and I like his outside-the-box thinking. Ultimately it came down to a good feel with Kent and I just like his overall philosophies on where this team needs to go, what we have to do.”
The organization interviewed 11 different candidates for the vacant GM role. Although it’s uncommon for a player agent to be named a GM, Hughes said he wouldn’t be here today if he wasn’t the best person for the job.
“I believe the candidates had a fair chance in the process,” Hughes added.
Molson said it’ll be up to Gorton and Hughes to decide who else they add to the front office.
Hughes was also asked about GMs often wanting to bring in their own coach but he didn’t say that would be part of his philosophy.
“I have some beliefs of what a modern-day coach should be,” Hughes said before adding he will discuss with head coach Dominique Ducharme what type of team the Canadiens can become.
“In a perfect world we’d be an offensive-minded club,” Hughes said. “I envision a team that plays fast, plays fast with the puck that’s a possession hockey team, but I also understand that you have to build a team around the players you have and that’ll be part of the process as we move ahead.
“We’re going to create a modern organization that players want to be a part of.”