Welcome To The Jungle, Marc Bergevin
George Prax on Wed, 2012-05-02 11:20
Jeff Goldblum called, he wants his glasses and face back.
It's been a long month since the Montreal Canadiens fired General Manager Pierre Gauthier at the end of March, with only a handful of games left in a regular season that was and felt much, much longer. The firing opened the organization up to a lot of speculation, as owner and team president Geoff Molson and special adviser (a former GM of the team himself) Serge Savard entered a long process to pick the person who would take this team forward in what can only be described as a rebuild. At the very least, a retooling.
There were plenty of names mentioned, including just about ever Francophone assistant general manager in the league. The likes of Julien Brisebois, Claude Loiselle, Blair Mackasey, Francois Giguere, and others were all in the running, along with a few others including Detroit's Jim Nill, who turned the job down last week, but in the end it seemed to come down to two names, one whom Habs fans know very well.
Until early this morning, it was down to hockey analyst and former coach Pierre McGuire, and Chicago's assistant GM Marc Bergevin. By the time most of us had our morning coffee on Wednesday, the job had gone to Bergevin.
In case you don't know who Marc Bergevin is, he has a pretty detailed resume of job experience in and around the NHL. The 46-year-old Montreal native was a defenseman in the league for 20 seasons, playing for Chicago, Long Island, Hartford, Tampa Bay, Detroit, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Vancouver before retiring in 2004 with 181 points, 1090 penalty minutes, and 1191 total games played. He never won any awards, other than two Calder trophies in the AHL, or had any breakout or standout years, but from most accounts he was a good player and a good leader. After all, you don't last 20 years in the NHL if you aren't good at something.
Shortly after his retirement, Bergevin joined the organization that drafted him, the Chicago Blackhawks, as a pro scout. He would take a turn as an assistant coach with the team in 2008 as well as Director of Player Personnel, and finally assistant GM last year. In that time, he helped rebuild the team and lead them to their first Stanley Cup in over four decades, when the Hawks finally won it all in 2010. Of course there was much more at play than just Bergevin's scouting, but again, he was certainly right at the thick of it all during that time.
Finally, today, he was named the General Manager and Executive Vice President of the Montreal Canadiens, opening the new chapter in his career and for the team as well.
But who this Marc Bergevin really is, what kind of manager, communicator and hockey mind he can be, and where he can take this team obviously remain to be seen.
The focus of the people in Montreal this morning is on the guy who didn't get the job (more on that later), and on the fact that Bergevin hasn't actually been a GM of any team, and only an assistant for 11 months. But based on everything written above, and the endorsements of a lot of people around the league, he definitely deserves a shot at molding this team the way he would. He's a Stanley Cup winner, he's experienced at nearly every level, and maybe more importantly, he is said to be intelligent, practical, calm and cool, and very well connected from his near-30 years in and around the league. None of us know what happened behind closed doors with Molson, no one knows what he's really like, but I have to say that I'm more than okay with this choice, at a glance.
What's really interesting is that for all the talk of what an undaunted pick Pierre McGuire or Patrick Roy would have been for the job, The Globe & Mail has described Bergevin as a "legendary prankster" and a personality that doesn't exactly fit the "idiom of the seventh floor of the Bell Centre. On top of that he's a Montreal native, one who never had anything to do with the organization other than knowing Scotty Bowman and Denis Savard, and of course speak French. It may be a big change from the decade of silent movies we got from Gauthier and Bob Gainey, but it may also be the change this organization needs. Case in point to the right.
At the very least, it's pretty clear that in picking someone who could end up being a colorful personality, not to mention one without any ties to the Canadiens, Geoff Molson is admitting that this organization needs a change in its culture, and that can only be a good thing.
Bergevin's focus will quickly turn from congratulations to the actual job of managing a team on the verge of being the Greece of NHL organizations. In the span of two months, the new GM will have to take care of a lot of things:
- Hire his new head coach. There has been loads of speculation as to who this might be, with the "sexy" choice being Patrick Roy. Personally I'm not sure that's the right move, but there's no telling what Bergevin might do. He could go with Roy based on a suggestion from Molson or Savard, he could go with someone he knows like Craig McTavish, who currently coaches' the Blackhawks' AHL affiliate, or former Hawks' coach and Habs defenseman Denis Savard. Hell, for all we know he might stick with Randy Cunneyworth, who still hasn't technically been fired. And I'd be okay with that too.
- He'll have to prepare for the draft. As far as we know Trevor Timmins still has his job as scouting guru for the team, and I have a feeling that isn't going to change, but the third overall pick the Canadiens will most likely make on June 22 is an important one, and could be an early defining moment of Bergevin's stint with Montreal.
- He needs to sign two of this team's most important players and pending RFAs in P.K. Subban and Carey Price. Subban is coming off an Entry-Level deal and should be an easy sign, but Price could very well be looking at a long-term, Pekka Rinne-like deal that could make him the highest paid Hab. He'd definitely deserve every penny. Either way, neither player should be an RFA on July 1st.
- Maybe most importantly, he'll have to deal with Scott Gomez. We've talked about the options in how to get rid of him, and it should be pretty clear at this point that they have to get rid of him. If they're going to change the culture in the GM's office, they need to do the same on the ice, and while it may be tragic, Scott Gomez represents just about everything that's been wrong with this team since 2009. Rumors are already circulating that Gomez's buyout will be one of Bergevin's first moves.
And that's just the beginning. We should have a clearer idea of where Bergevin wants to take this team later today at 2PM, when Molson and Savard officially reveal him as GM, but the one thing that Habs fans need to keep in mind is that it's going to be a long road ahead for both the new GM and the organization. We can't rush to pass judgment. Bob Gainey got seven years, Gauthier got two years plus all those years he spent as Gainey's right-hand man. On top of that, it's going to change the core of this team right off the bat, with many players locked into long contracts.
For now, Marc Bergevin has a vote of confidence from this writer and fan, and hopefully, he'll get the same from many more.