By JAG – One way to look at the Bergevin legacy is through the eyes of a fan. But there are many kinds of fans, therefore, there are many fan perspectives. Here is mine!
One day, a long time ago, I broke a play, stole a puck, got on my first breakaway and shot my first puck at a goalie. Didn’t score, but man oh man, what a feeling! That’s how I fell in love with the game. Never really watched hockey as a child, never thought of a hockey career, just played and played, it was so much fun! It excited me and it provided more entertainment than TV, that’s for sure!
In my early teens, I started to watch hockey and became a Boston fan. Espo, Bucyk, Cashman and Sanderson were my heroes …. Bobby Orr was my super hero!
Then I got older and started reading about hockey, daily score sheets, stats and other reports became my reading fodder. Can’t help it, I like numbers and stats, I watched the games and checked the stats and I was entertained. The years went on.
I lost interest when the ‘’trap’’ era started, ouch! Hockey had become dull to watch and there were more entertaining things in my life.
Fast forward to today. Now I find that what goes on off the ice is as fascinating and entertaining as what goes on during the games…. And modern hockey is more exciting than ever. I constantly think of potential targets, by trade or otherwise. I study the draft. I spend hours on Cap Friendly, looking for who has cap problems, who might want draft picks, who might be available, salaries, contract status, who their prospects are, how they perform, etc, etc. … And then I play GM and build trades in my heads, I also sign free agents and I select at the draft. Occasionally, I have the immense fun of seeing some of my ideas actually become reality, it doesn’t often work but man oh man, what a feeling!
So, you guessed it, I’m a HOCKEY NUT, that’s all there is to it, that’s the kind of fan I am!
My Bergevin legacy
I could address his legacy from a statistical point of view, but this piece is about the fan experience and the fan experience relies almost uniquely on the eye test when watching the game and with a critical eye when watching management’s moves. The fan experience is about entertainment. The business of hockey exists because of its entertainment value …. And management moves can be as entertaining as watching a great goal being scored.
I have to say that I was mostly neutral when Bergevin was hired. Other retired players had become GMs before him with very mitigated success. I had been a fan of Bob Gainey the player and he turned out to be a dud of a GM. Scott Gomez anybody? So, I had a wait and see approach with Bergevin.
The first Bergevin trade that moved my needle was the Thomas Vanek trade deadline acquisition. I was at work watching the deadline on one of my screens and by 2:45, nothing had happened and I thought …. Meh …. it’s over. I went for an americano. I came back 20 minutes later to a Habs deadline coup! Mr. Bergevin had secured one of the prime targets available.
I was impressed. I like bold GMs, specially when the last few GMs you had were walking the line between wishy-washy and piece meal improvements. Good enough, middle of the pack had become the norm, miserable times for Habs fans!
In any case, let’s not get into a play by play of his managing era. Instead, let’s look at fun facts and revealing summaries about his legacy.
- Hired May 2nd, 2012, fired November 28th, 2021. If you read this aloud, it sounds like you’re reading a tombstone …. Creepy! Not entertaining at all!
- A couple of trades short of 100 in that period, that’s about 11 a year with a bunch of good stuff and some massive duds. Good place to start looking for puckgasm moments! (See puckgasm definition in Shea and me also by JAG)
- Second in voting for GM of the year twice, first in 2013-14 and second in 2020-21. Ironically, right after being hired and right before being fired.
- What’s even more ironic is that he was nominated at all! Considering the ‘’love’’ he received from the local press throughout his tenure, he must have had support outside of Montreal!
Going from good to great to Puckgasm value in the trade department. Thomas Vanek, Michael Ryder, Dale Weise, Max Domi and Thomas Tatar were all very good players that had a decent stay in Montreal and high entertainment value. Great deals included the acquisitions of Jeff Petry, Philip Danault and Nick Suzuki. All legitimate core players! Puckgasm value was reached with the Weber deal and the acquisition of Josh Anderson moved my needle big time. Special mention to the acquisition of Brett Kulak obtained for Rinat Valiev and Matt Taormina (wow) and Joel Edmundson for a 5th rounder (double wow!). Highway robbery it is!
So, from watching Dale Weise on the most unexpected sniping streak to Max Domi having a career year while seeing Tomas Tatar having a rebound year for the ages and watching Jeff Petry and Philip Danault grow in the players they are now, watching these acquired players and many others was a treat. Now, watching Nick Suzuki doing his magic and Josh Anderson doing his power horse thing, I get up from my seat every time!
So, in my view, when it comes to trades, Bergevin has fulfilled his end of the bargain and provided the fans with high level entertainment, on and off the ice …. And he’s done it in style! Fuchsia jacket and bow tie anybody?
Let’s look elsewhere for some good stuff. He left an above average number of draft picks for his successor. Picks excite the fans and provide entertainment. Positive legacy for sure. Other tidbits of positive legacy: Getting Paul Byron and Arber Xhekaj for free. Free is good! The many 5th to 7th picks that are flourishing against all odds bringing up players like Michael Pezzeta and Jake Evans. Underdogs are endearing and very entertaining.
There were a lot of ‘’4 quarters for a buck’’ type of trades not even worth mentioning. These all count as bad trades in my book since you’ve spent energy without moving forward …. And they had no entertainment value.
There were trades to bring in some testosterone, George Parros, John Scott, and so on …. And moves to bring in some fringe francophones, PA Parenteau, Daniel Briere, etc. Lah di dah, all band aid solutions! Crowd pleasing and politics should never drive your moves.
Zack Kassian signing, need I say more?
Drafting Logan Mailloux. The young man had publicly requested to be left undrafted …. And left alone! Drafting him was a disrespectful, testosterone/winning at all cost decision that disregarded the human suffering it caused. There is no hockey justification for that move, every body involved suffered in its wake and it has seriously delayed the healing that both the victim and Mr. Mailloux are entitled to. Very ugly indeed!
Not getting Andrei Markov to finish his career in Montreal lacked CLASS. Comparing Markov to a dog made it ugly.
The first six years of drafting and prospect management. Extremely old school, often unimaginative and sadly, stubborn to a fault. Changes in coaching should have been made in year three of his tenure. In my view, not developing prospects properly is the main reason why Montreal didn’t become a perennial contender during his tenure. Ugly indeed!
Bergevin was self-assured, sometimes arrogant, sometimes flamboyant. He loved his players and coaching staff sometimes to a fault. He was decisive, opinionated, successful in most of his endeavours and above all, he was massively entertaining! Geoff Molson and the fans got their money’s worth on the entertainment part of that deal.
Also, as a fan, how many times did you think to yourself ‘’He did what?’’ only to be followed by a big ‘’Yeah!’’ or a big ‘’Noooo?’’ depending on your where your heart sat at the time! Like it or not, haters and lovers alike were captivated and entertained. Contrasting with his predecessors, Hockey was entertaining during his tenure!
Granted, the Habs didn’t win a Cup during his tenure but he certainly laid a strong foundation for his successor. Kent Hughes inherited a well stocked organization. Numerous picks, quality prospects and promising young players abound. But short of winning the Cup, there where still extraordinary moments to be had. Starting with the Washington series that ‘’Stop sign Halak’’ stole fair and square and ending with the unexpected COVID fed playoff run two years ago followed by what would become his swan song, the 21 playoffs run. That 2021 playoffs run was nothing short of a nail biting, edge of your seat, heart stomping, nerve wracking Stanley Cup run for the ages! That’s when Habs blew my mind!
I kept expecting them to bend, break and be done with it! They never did, they willed their ways to winning against far superior opponents! New heroes were born seemingly every other game, great goals were scored, Clydesdales were astomping and the Habs kept winning and in dramatic fashion more often than not! A whole new generation of fans discovered what it is really like to be a Habs fan …. When they’re winning! That was the best Habs entertainment in more than a generation. Well done Mr Bergevin! And again, Geoff Molson and the fans got their money’s worth on the entertainment part of the deal.
So, there you have it, I liked Bergevin! He had panache and he delivered performance and entertainment on a regular basis. He left his team in a much better shape than he found it and his legacy will carry the Habs for years to come. Overall, he delivered more than I expected and I thank him for it!
I am convinced that if he ever wishes to be GM again, he will not have to wait long for a job. I also know he will be even better at it than he was with the Habs. It will be a lucky team that signs him!
As a parting note, while I was writing this piece, I had this silly thought. Picture this, if Marc Bergevin was a character in a movie, I think he would be Russell Crowe as Gladiator, standing alone at center ice and he would be screaming at all the haters in stands ….. and rightly so!
Were you not entertained?
Keep your stick on the ice!