A Sense Of Positivity And Hope

Geoff Molson had his press conference confirming the news that VP of Hockey Operations and GM Marc Bergevin, Assistant-GM Trevor Timmins and VP of public relations Paul Wilson had been let go, and that Scott Mellanby also wasn’t with the organisation as he resigned from his position. He also announced the hiring of Jeff Gorton as the team’s new VP of Hockey Operations, one of Bergevin’s old roles.

The search for a new GM will be starting shortly as Gorton is expected in Montreal within the next couple of days. He and Molson will be conducting interviews. Molson stated that no teams had been contacted yet to ask permission to speak to their staff, contradicting earlier rumours that they had asked the Tampa Bay Lightning permission to speak to Mathieu Darche.

There was a wind of positivity at the press conference as Molson did a good job at selling reporters his plan for the immediate future, from an organisation point of view. And he had them feed from his hand when he told them that the reason for Wilson’s firing was to create a better relationship with the media… smooth move.

Key points

Here are some of the key points from the press conference, at least from my perspective.

There is no doubt that Bergevin was stretched thin and looked exhausted by filling both roles of VP of Hockey Ops and the GM roles. Molson acknowledge that. He states that having two men for those positions will allow for better workload sharing, a necessity in this market.

Jeff Gorton

The team President also stated wanting to revamp and put more focus on drafting and player-development, particularly in the top rounds. That is a huge positive of course. He pointed to the two third overall picks the Canadiens have had since 2012, none of which are with the team today. He mentioned the 45 picks the team has made at the Draft since 2018 with 11 more to come, to ensure the development of those young players was looked after.

I love the announcement made today that the Canadiens are also revamping the medical staff and their procedures, and mostly by adding focus on physical and mental health off-ice, by creating a medical performance team. There have been several injuries in recent years, many of which saw some huge fluctuations and setbacks on the date of return to play. There have also been two recent cases of mental health and dependence issues with Jonathan Drouin and Carey Price.

Molson spoke a few times about adding diversity to the staff. This is another fresh and good news as I’ve been wanting them to hire Kim St-Pierre in a hockey role for a while now. Whether it’s her or someone else remains to be seen, but the newly inducted Hall of Fame would be a great addition to the Canadiens.

Molson says his role hasn’t changed and won’t change as President. Bergevin had full liberty of any hockey operations decisions and those will now fall on Gorton and the new GM. The only difference from the Bergevin era is that two men will be splitting the workload, below Molson.

Quest for new GM

While he’s not opposed to waiting to the off-season to pick the best GM candidate, Molson really seems to want to have his GM in place very soon. He spoke about the upcoming trade deadline and preparing for the Draft as reasons to finding his man sooner rather than later. He stated that there are a lot of good bilingual candidates right now. When asked if he would wait to the off-season to find a suitable GM, he provided the politically correct answer by not shutting that door. But you could tell that he wants this dealt with well before then.

But seriously, what a masterful decision Molson made by splitting the roles. He gets to tip-toe around the need for bilingualism for hockey positions by giving the title of VP of Hockey Ops to an anglophone (in this case the best available man no matter the language), while ensuring that the GM, who will be speaking to fans and media the most, is bilingual. Smart.

It will be interesting to see how Gorton and the new GM will divide their roles. It’s one thing to make decisions when they’re in agreement, but in events when they’re not, who will be making the final decision? Where does the role of one end and the role of the other starts?

Also, how will players react to the news of Bergevin’s firing. Let’s not forget that he’s the one who assembled that team and that he was very close to most of the players on this roster. And what kind of changes, which direction will this new management want to take with the team? So many questions, so few answers.

Either way, it will make for some interesting times for Habs’ fans in the upcoming days and weeks. And that, even if the team isn’t doing so well in the standings.

More reading…

A Close Look At Bergevin’s Time In Montreal

Molson’s Poor Actions and Top Candidates

Patrick Roy As New GM? Not So Fast…

A Close Look At Bergevin’s Time In Montreal

Well, it’s done. The inevitable has arrived. Marc Bergevin and Trevor Timmins have been fired by the Montreal Canadiens. While several fans and members of the media are doing a happy dance, I feel sad and dejected. Why? I don’t think that he deserved that, particularly not the way it has been handled. Left as a lame duck all season by Geoff Molson, news of his replacement and upcoming firing happened through the media, which is how he learned that his good friend and assistant-GM Scott Melanby resigned. Again, he didn’t deserve that.

But what’s done is done and we will keep on cheering the logo. All feelings aside, let’s take a closer look at the work done by Bergevin since being named General Manager of the Canadiens back in the Spring of 2012. When hired, he was taking over a team that had finished 28th out of 30 teams in the NHL, with a 31-35-16 record, for 78 points.

Here’s the overall record of all NHL teams since Bergevin took over in May of 2012. You will notice that I left out this season only because not every team has played the same number of games, so it would make the comparatives uneven:

2012-13 to 2020-21

We have to keep in mind that he took over a bottom feeding team, second last from the bottom of the league, to progress to the record shown above. Notice that the Canadiens under Bergevin are first (tied with Winnipeg) amongst Canadian teams. Why is it important? Because teams in Canada share the same struggles of having revenues in Canadian dollars and expenses in American currency, dealing with the same exchange rate.

Now here’s a breakdown of each season, with notes to accompany.

SEASONRESULTS
2012-2013Division title, 2nd in East to Pittsburgh, 4th overall
2013-2014100 pts, 4th in East, 9th overall
2014-2015Division title, 2nd in East to NYR, 2nd overall
2015-201682 pts (38-38-6). 22nd overall, Price played 12 games all year
2016-2017Division title, 4th in East, 7th overall, 21 pts improvement
2017-201871 pts (29-40-13) 28th/31 overall, Weber played 26 games on one leg
2018-2019RESET – 96 pts (44-30-8), 14th overall, 25 pts improvement, Weber out 2 ½ months
2019-202071 pts in 71 GP (31-31-9), eliminated Pittsburgh and were the better team vs Philly in playoffs
2020-2021Made playoffs in spite of difficult schedule due to COVID, lost in the Stanley Cup finals

His team made the playoffs in six of the nine seasons he’s been the GM. They have won a total of 7 playoffs’ rounds. To put that into perspective, it is the most amongst Canadian teams. That’s seven more than the powerhouse Toronto Maple Leafs.

Now if you bring me playoffs’ success, I’ll bring you Poile’s playoffs’ success (or lack of thereof) in 35+ years as a GM and remind you that Bergevin only has 9 years under his belt as a GM. Only 11 teams have reached the Stanley Cup finals during Bergevin’s reign. The Canadiens are one of them.

The Draft

Bergevin (and particularly Timmins) are getting a lot of criticism over the Draft, particularly for not drafting star players. Here is where the team ranked at the Draft, or rather where they picked in the first round at each of the NHL Drafts under Bergevin:

DRAFT YEAROVERALL 1ST ROUND PICK
20123rd
201325th
201426th
201526th
20169th
201725th
20183rd
201915th
202016th
202131st

Note that the 2015-16 (22nd – Price injury) an 2017-18 (28th – Weber injury) seasons were the only times that the Habs drafted below 15th overall under Bergevin. He did draft 3rd when he took over the team, but that was based on the team’s record that was under previous management.

Notable Trades

In his nine years as a General Manager, Bergevin has built a reputation as one of the best in the business when it comes to trades. Not only has he been one of the most active GMs on the trades front, but he’s won most of his major trades. He has also shown having the guts to pull the trigger on some huge trades, none bigger than the one he completed when getting his hands on Shea Weber. Here are a few examples:

To MON– Jeff Petry
To EDM– 2nd Rd Pick
– 4th Rd Pick
To MON– Phillip Danault
– 2nd Rd pick (Alexander Romanov)
To CHI– Tomas Fleischmann (pending UFA)
– Dale Weise (pending UFA)
To MON– Shea Weber
To NAS– P.K. Subban
To MON– Max Domi
To ARI– Alex Galchenyuk
To MON– Joel Armia
– Steve Mason (buyout)
– 4th Rd pick
– 7th Rd pick
To WIN– Simon Bourque
To MON– Tomas Tatar ($500,000 retained by Vegas)
– Nick Suzuki
– 2nd Rd Pick, later traded for a 3rd (Mattias Norlinder) and a 5th (Jacob LeGuerrier)
To VEG– Max Pacioretty
To MON– Josh Anderson
To CBJ– Max Domi
– 3rd Rd pick

And here are a couple of other examples of his assets management skills:

  1. Bergevin signed UFA Ilya Kovalchuk to a $700,000 one-year contract, then traded him for a third round pick. Signing him at that price was good, but what he did after was even better. He traded that third round pick to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Jake Allen. Yes, he turned Kovalchuk at rebate, into Allen.
  2. He traded for Marco Scandella and gave up a fourth round pick to get him. Only a few weeks later, he traded the same Scandella and received a second and a fourth round pick from St. Louis. That’s the same player, only week apart! He then traded back that second round pick to Tampa Bay and flipped it for a 2nd round pick the following year, and a 4th round pick. So Scandella cost a 4th, the Habs got a 2nd and two 4th rd picks for him!

Jim Gregory Award

During his time as GM of the Canadiens, Bergevin has been nominated three times by his peers for Jim Gregory General Manager of the year Award. While he has never won it, this is the most nominations by any GM during the nine years he’s been at that position, tied with Bob Murray.

3 biggest mistakes

In my humble opinion, Bergevin has made three major mistakes. One of them was to satisfy the language police. In order:

  1. Keeping Sylvain Lefebvre as headcoach of the farm team way too long. He wasn’t developing players, which makes you wonder if drafting was the issue or player-development. Things changed in 2018 after the hiring of Joel Bouchard.
  2. The signing of Karl Alzner as a UFA. That’s hindsight (all of them are), granted. People forget that he was the most sought after defenseman that year and seeing the success the Canadiens had later on with Ben Chiarot and Joel Edmundson, we can see why he thought Alzner would be a good fit.
  3. Trading Mikhail Sergachev for Jonathan Drouin. Acquiring Drouin was not completely, but in part a political move. Getting him was not the mistake in itself, but giving up Sergachev was paying too much. It looked closer at the time of the trade but force is to admit that the Lightning got the best in that one.

Legacy

Bergevin and Timmins are leaving the Canadiens with the deepest pool of quality prospects in recent memory. Already with Suzuki, Caufield, Poehling, Evans and Romanov, the list of quality Canadiens’ prospects in the pipeline is very impressive indeed. Further, the Canadiens still own 11 picks for the upcoming NHL Draft which will be held in Montreal next summer. To think that we he took over, these were to team’s top prospects…

2012 Prospects

Also, those who have had the opportunity to play with Shea Weber have learned a great deal from him, from the way he goes about training, his work ethics, his dedication to the game, the way he treats others, his professionalism and of course, his unmatched leadership. This is an element that fans tend to underestimate, but that are invaluable life lessons for young hockey players.

So long Marc. There is no doubt that the offers will be coming fast and furious as only a handful of media members and their disgruntled followers didn’t value your qualities and hockey mind. People in hockey know Bergevin’s value and wherever he goes, he won’t have to worry about handcuffing himself with the language his players and staff speak.

More reading…

Patrick Roy As New GM? Not So Fast…

Avoiding The Worst Case Scenario

Three Habs Who Could Be Traded?