Welcome To The Jungle, Marc Bergevin


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.



Derrick Newman's picture

Bringing some comedic relief to the organization might be what this team needs. It will be interesting to see how he handles the Montreal Media and how he re-shapes this team. I think it would have been way more interesting to see Pierre Maguire get the job and I have to wonder if he'll ever land another job in the bigs, because it seems that he truly wants a chance to prove himself as a GM given the interest he showed in both this job and the Minny job a couple years back.
Congrats Prax. Let's see how long your love for Bergevin will last...

George Prax's picture

I'm planning a McGuire post for later (not to take the spotlight away from Bergevin now), but I feel like McGuire didn't want it as much as he did the last time. He just moved his life away from Montreal to Connecticut, he has a good job that pays him a lot of money and lets him travel to every arena, and he doesn't have stress. I can see why he might not have wanted it as much. From what I can tell Bergevin is McGuire with managerial experience in this century anyway. I wouldn't say I love him but it's a good choice that won't make things too much of a circus (so long as Roy isn't the coach) but still changes the culture.

evilbobsaget's picture

Not the most obvious choice but his resume seems to be pretty good. He seems to have touched all the right levels a gm should have full knowledge of " Player, Scouting, player personel, ect.." Plus being the padawan of Scotty Bowman isn't too bad either.

I can only wrap this up by saying " Ca sent la coupe!!!"

George Prax's picture

haha of course! Thanks for the comment JC, been a while. Also, second GM that Bowman has created in as many years!

demez's picture

McGuire gets paid to criticize everyone in the league, other GM's included on a daily basis, I think that may have factored in to Molson's decision on whether or not that may affect his ability to get deals done. Bergevin is a prankster, he'll bring some life back to this dead organization. It's about time we join the modern times, maybe we'll even start doing crazy stuff like allowing our players to talk on Team 990, etc. Interested to see who they'll bring in as a cap/CBA expert. Would really like to see big bird as an assistant to whoever the coach will be.

George Prax's picture

I think McGuire wasn't hired because he's basically Bergevin without current experience. I love McGuire and would have liked to see him take the job, but the truth is he hasn't worked for a team since the 90s, and the Habs don't have the people to insulate him. Hope he gets that job eventually.

Tyg's picture

I personally had been pulling for Bergevin out of the list of candidates that were bandied about, so I find myself surprised that the Habs and I agreed on something, as did you and I. I suppose it was bound to happen.

Having watched the presser, I have to say the contrast between Gauthier and Bergevin is striking in its entirety. Personality wise the men are polar opposites. Gauthier was always more concerned about saying a whole lot of nothing and maintaining control. Bergevin is open and honest, engaging and forthcoming and seemed less concerned with not putting a foot wrong. How refreshing.

I don't know if it's the force of his personality like a much needed breath of fresh air through a stale room or if it's his experience, but I like a lot of what he actually said during the presser as well. Timmins is staying. Carriere is staying. Cunneyworth will get his chance to remain an assistant coach under the next head coach, whoever that may be. Scouting will be beefed up, including the Q. These are all important things IMO and helped to inspire some much-needed confidence.

I hope the Old Boys Club has finally been shoved out the door once and for all. Molson looks like he not only made a good choice, he even lightened up himself a bit with the reporters. I find myself taken a bit aback by all the openness, joking, good natured fun of this presser. I can't remember the last time it happened. How wonderful as a fan to watch it.

I have to think that potential that Patrick Roy would be hired as Head Coach just took a major hit under Bergevin, who is all about team first. Roy is an egotistical hot head who likes to be the center of all attention regardless of consequence. How many times did the Q sanction his ass this past season? I lost count. I just don't see the fit.

Will be interesting to see who Bergevin chooses from his vast rolodex. I hope he wears his toga around the office. Gotta love a man who can rock a toga!

George Prax's picture

I honestly thought that Gauthier and Gainey gave Molson a bad rap. The dude came in halfway through a season and Gainey decided to leave like 2 months later. He had no choice but to go with Gauthier and no choice but to give him some time. We forget this, but Gauthier only got 2 years, which is pretty short for a GM. Obviously he was with the team for a decade before that but it's tough for an owner to compare that, especially when he's there first hand versus armchair GMing like we do. He waited to see what would come of it, he fired the GM at the right time before he made any other stupid decisions (although I would have liked to see him go before he bitchslapped Cammalleri in hindsight), and he picked someone who will spice things up a bit.

And I hope you're right about your namesake not being coach, I don't think I'll be able to handle that lol.

demez's picture

I don't think he'd be stupid enough to hire Roy. It'll be a while more until a new coach is hired, heads will be rolling in a lot of organizations after all the first round surprise exits.