Sweeping changes usher in a new era in Montreal Alouettes football

Whether you are ready for it or not, the winds of change blasted through La Belle Province and the Montreal Alouettes organization has some new bosses on the forefront.

The news that everyone was expecting took a back seat to news that no one was expecting, as Andrew Wetenhall, current lead governor of the team and son of Alouettes owner Robert Wetenhall, announced today that Presdient/CEO Mark Weightman had left the Alouettes after 21 seasons with the team. He will be replaced with Patrick Boivin, former Director of Recreation and Athletics at Concordia University. Boivin’s role is clear; to make the Alouettes a more viable commodity in the city and province and make this team relevant to Quebecers again.

The news that everyone WAS expecting these past few days was that Kavis Reed would be named the new general manager of the Montreal Alouettes and now it is official. He takes over for Jim Popp, who parted ways with the team after 21 seasons. Reed also announced that he will retain the services of Jacques Chapdelaine as the team’s head coach, removing the interim tag from his title in the process.

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These moves were expected after the search to fill Popp’s role ramped up with the handing out of the Grey Cup. The past few weeks saw a number of candidates be interviewed for the vacant position, including Ottawa RedBlacks assistant GM Brock Sunderland and francophone media darling Danny Maciocia, head coach of the Universite de Montreal Carabins.

But in the end, the Wetenhall family decided to go with Reed as GM despite him having no actual general manager experience. Hired as the Alouettes’ special teams coach in 2015, Reed was also named co-Assistant Head Coach along with Noel Thorpe in 2016. Reed has been involved in the CFL for over 20 years as a player and coach, which does give him experience in many of the day-to-day aspects that a GM will face.

Reed was apparently given carte blanche to name his head coach and elected to stick with Chapdelaine, who took over as head coach for Jim Popp in the middle of 2016 and finished the season with a 4-2 record. No official word was given on the status of the other coaching staff members but the understanding is that Chapdelaine will be allowed to keep/hire whomever he wants without any interference from those above him.

The one message that resonated loudly from all three of these new hires is that a winning mindeset has to return to this organization and quickly. This Alouettes team has missed the playoffs for the past two years and for many, that’s two years too many. With the roaring success of the other pro sports teams in Montreal, the Alouettes risk being left behind in the eyes of the city’s sports fans.

That also needs to change quickly. Patrick Boivin needs to make Alouettes football relevant to this city again. He has expressed disappointment at the disconnect between the Alouettes and the other football entities in the province of Quebec, most notably at the collegiate level. This province is a football powerhouse and Boivin will need to tap into it more than ever in his new role.

Now that the chain of command has been established, the focus for Reed will be evaluating the free agents that he will want to remain with the team and getting pen put to paper. While Coach Chapdelaine will have to flesh out his staff (for starters, he now needs a special teams coach!) and decide who will best help him prove that his interim record and ability to lead a football team wasn’t merely a fluke.

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Today’s news was met with a LOT of relief and happiness with several Alouettes players, who took to Twitter to express their support of both Reed and Chapdelaine in these new roles:

Both Reed and Chapdelaine are very much player’s coaches and the hope is that with these two in place not only will certain players re-sign in Montreal, but perhaps free agents from other teams may take a chance and sign with the Alouettes.

It’s never easy replacing a giant and regardless of what you think of him, Jim Popp left some massive shoes to fill in the general manager capacity. Every move that Reed makes going forward will be put up against Popp, good bad or other. Let’s not forget that this will be only the second GM that this current version of the Montreal Alouettes has known.

Reed will have no choice but to rely on his instincts as a player and coach when it comes to making these tough decisions. But the Wetenhalls claim to have done their due diligence in choosing Kavis as the GM. This is very much a long-shot gamble and the word “rebuild” has hung over this team’s head since 2013 and will not disappear any less quickly with today’s appointments.

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My thoughts? While I would have preferred to have seen a more experienced name at the helm of this general manager position, my mind was put at ease in speaking to a number of people within the organization earlier today. While this isn’t the logical pick or the preference of some francophone media members (who looked to use today’s event to castigate the ownership for not hiring their preferred candidate), there is now a pecking order in Montreal and that was the desire of everyone involved.

There’s understandably a lot of doubt with the naming of Kavis Reed as the team’s general manager. He certainly sounds like he’s ready for the task. 2016 is the year of unlikely people being named to powerful offices with the request that they be given the chance to surprise you.

Consider this your chance, Wetenhall family. Your previous administrative decisions were less than inspiring. Hopefully those were the lessons that you had to learn in order to get this one right.

GO ALS GO!!!

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