Is there a team in the NHL that has had a more eventful year than the Montreal Canadiens, both on and off the ice? The Arizona Coyotes were in the headlines for a bit about their unpaid taxes to the City of Glendale but that lasted all but a few days. Ever since making it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals, the Habs have been in a roller-coaster ride that has seen them take a deeper plunge than explorers trying to dig for the Titanic. A drama-filled few months that would make soap opera writers red with envy.
After a short break of reprieve for a few weeks during the Stanley Cup run, countless numbers of fans are back at being nasty on social media, and some members of the Montreal media are purposely pouring oil on that fire in hope to gain notoriety… and viewership, readership, listenership.
So it all started with this amazing Stanley Cup run. Everyone was happy (except those who wanted Bergevin fired), skipping in a flowery field, picking daisies… Life was beautiful, life was great. This team, lead by the four Clydesdales, was steamrolling over their opponents all the way to the finals. That’s when they faced a better team, who just happened to be $18 million over the cap, but that’s not important to them or to the league.
☞ June 18: The NHL announced that Marc Bergevin was one of three finalists for the Jim Gregory Award as the top GM for the 2020-21 season. He ended up finishing second in voting, a few votes behind Lou Lamoriello.
☞ July 7: The Canadiens lose the series 4-1 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in a surprise run all the way to the Stanley Cup finals.
But then, the sky turned grey, the wind started blowing and a cold front moved in rapidly. Little did we know, a storm was moving in. It was at everyone’s surprise, even meteorologists. A few drops of rain started falling, then the wind picked up, blasting through Montreal. And things started falling apart.
☞ July 9: Joel Bouchard leaves the organization and signs with the Anaheim Ducks to coach their farm team in San Diego.
☞ July 22: Marc Bergevin announces that Captain Shea Weber will not play next season and his career is in question.
☞ July 23: Left unprotected for the Seattle Expansion Draft, Carey Price is not selected by the Kraken. They picked Cale Fleury instead.
☞ July 23: Habs shocked the hockey world by selecting Logan Mailloux in the first round.
☞ July 28: Phillip Danault signs with the Kings while Corey Perry signs with the Lightning. The Canadiens sign Mike Hoffman and David Savard.
☞ July 30: Paul Byron undergoes hip surgery and will miss the first couple of months of the season.
☞ August 5: Tomas Tatar signs with the Devils.
☞ August 28: Jesperi Kotkaniemi signs a $6.1 million offer-sheet from the Hurricanes.
☞ September 2: Logan Mailloux is suspended indefinitely by the OHL.
☞ September 4: Habs don’t match Hurricanes’ offer to Kotkaniemi, trade for Christian Dvorak instead.
☞ October 7: Price voluntarily enters NHL/NHLPA player assistance program, taking a leave from the team.
☞ November 28: Assistant-GM Scott Mellanby resigns from his position with the Canadiens
☞ November 29: Geoff Molson fires Marc Bergevin, Trevor Timmins and Paul Wilson, and announced that Jeff Gorton will be taking over as VP of Hockey Operations.
In just five months, Marc Bergevin went from second best GM in the NHL (according to his peers and the Professional Writers’ Association) to being fired like a dog. The Canadiens went from Stanley Cup finalists, coming back from a 3-1 series lead against the Toronto Maple Leafs, sweeping the Winnipeg Jets, beating up on Stanley Cup contenders Vegas Golden Knights, to a team unable to field a healthy line-up, dragging into the league’s basement.
And that’s your year in review. Jeff Gorton is starting his search for a new GM, an Assistant-GM or two, and a Director of Amateur scouting. No announcement is imminent on those fronts. Trying to evaluate what he has on hands, he realizes what Bergevin was going through, with countless key players injured and/or missing due to COVID. But he’ll get there at some point. Bergevin has left him with a solid foundation since the 2018 reset… and Gorton knows it.