By Bob Trask – The legacy left by a departing General Manager sometimes isn’t immediately obvious to the average fan. But when new management comes in and lays out their blueprint, some of the unknowns are brought to light. With apologies to Clint Eastwood this version of the Canadiens is a result of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of the Marc Bergevin era.
To his credit Bergevin refused to give up first round draft choices. The exception was Christian Dvorak but he already had a first rounder in the bag and was probably counting on giving up a late first round pick in that trade.
He also added multiple draft picks in multiple drafts, allowing the Canadiens to begin restocking their prospect pipeline. This was particularly evident after he started his reset in the summer of 2018.
On the trade front, he never lost in a big way and usually came out break even or slightly ahead. Once again there is that exception and in this case it is the Jonathan Drouin trade. The warning signs about Drouin’s ability to be a #1 center were already there but largely ignored. It was a gamble that didn’t pay off.
A big weakness in Bergevin’s approach was in his contract negotiations. The favoured few were rewarded with generous contracts that were out of line with their position, their abilities and/or the stage of career that they were at.
At the same time, the relationships with players like Markov, Pacioretty, Danault, Kotkaniemi and Tatar deteriorated to the point that none are suiting up in a Habs jersey. At the moment all the Habs have to show for that talented quartet is Nick Suzuki.
A second weakness was the apparent narrow focus when it came to building the club. This focus seemed to be on a big, rugged but immobile defense and forwards who played a defense first philosophy. Players who may have had skill but with flaws in their game had no place in the lineup.
Token efforts were made to address that problem. Cole Caufield is an example and if you want to stretch it, perhaps Mike Hoffman but on average the forwards are a group of grinders and backcheckers.
The ugly only fully revealed itself when new management took over. When it comes to running a hockey team the Canadiens were stuck in medieval times. Who knew?
Analytics are becoming a bigger part of the game every year but Bergevin stubbornly refused to build out that department. Teams like Toronto have upwards of eight people in their analytics department. What did the Canadiens have? One? And was the input, if given, even considered?
Using these tools in conjunction with input from pro and amateur scouts can help when evaluating the opposition for an upcoming game, when evaluating players potentially involved in a trade or UFA signing, when evaluating players available in the amateur draft and last but not least, when evaluating the performance of players when it comes to contract negotiations.
Moving on to the next big issue, the Canadiens have often been vilified for player development in Laval but it has been revealed the shortcomings started even before that. The department was staffed by two individuals or about half what a lot of successful teams employ.
And finally another weakness also seemed to be the “bicep club” mentality that populated the organization and almost smacked of nepotism. Dissenting points of view weren’t tolerated. There was lack of diversity in the organization. Everyone was singing from the same song sheet with little room for independent thought.
When you add it all up Bergevin’s stubborn adherence to the “old school” philosophy and his refusal to quickly address errors in judgment, such as the Sylvain Lefebvre hiring, has led the Canadiens to where they are today.
Hopefully some to the good that he put in place will offset the lack of progress in other areas and allow the new management team to turn the ship around sooner rather than later. From the blueprint they have laid out it appears that a lot of issues that have plagued the Canadiens will be addressed.