So If you feel like you heard some faint swearing in the air, and it vaguely sounded French (though Quebecois only vaguely sound French), don’t worry, you weren’t alone.
The Montreal Canadiens finally admitted that their organization is a goddamn mess, and they promptly fired GM Marc Bergevin while restructuring their whole front office. Which is something they should have done the minute that ignoramus drafted Logan Mailloux, an admitted sex offender. Better late than never I suppose, but it certainly was an indication at just how oblivious and overmatched Bergevin has been at the job for a decade.
There is really now way to overstate just how terrible Bergevin was at the job. But because he spoke French (we’ll circle back to this), was gregarious with the media, he was able to skirt most of the criticism he deserved. T’was ever thus in hockey. Let’s start with the main headline. In 10 drafts, here’s a list of plus-NHLers that Bergevin was able to bring into the organization:
And that’s it. The jury is still very much out on Cole Caufield, though he looks more likely to be added to this list than not one day. The question marks next to Kotkaniemi and Galchenyuk are there because we still don’t really know if they are plus-NHL players or ever were. Galchenyuk most certainly isn’t now. Kotkaniemi may still yet be. The bottom line is that none of these three play for the Canadiens anymore, and their exits netted the Habs all of Jonathan Drouin and eventually Josh Anderson. Well done all around, really.
Here’s a list of every signing Bergevin made in his time, which includes every player brought in from outside the organization and players that were re-upped within. Try and find one brought in from the outside that made the slightest difference. Alex Radulov I’ll give you. I just happen to like Paul Byron, so I’ll be charitable and throw him on there just for funsies. And I’m fairly sure that’s it.
So maybe Bergevin was a master wheeler-dealer. Well again, that Sergachev-for-Drouin sticks out like an eczema-ravaged thumb, but let’s see if we can pick a few peanuts out of this pile of shit. The Jeff Petry deal in 2015 looks nice, give him that. For comedy’s sake, I’m glad the Zack Kassian for Brandon Prust deal happened, because you can’t really engineer a trade with two bigger jackasses who do nothing. Like, the fact that two GMs genuinely spent time constructing a deal between Kassian and Prust tells you most of what you need to know about hockey and the NHL. But it’s not really a feather in the cap.
The next season he traded for John Scott, which is a fireable offense in itself right there. We have to give him that he simply stole Phillip Danault from the Hawks for Tomáš Fleischmann, so well done there. But he backed that up by losing Lars Eller to Washington for two picks that became nothing, because Bergevin draft picks become nothing. It’s just the natural order. He also relieved the Hawks of the burden of paying Andrew Shaw for the draft pick that would become Alex DeBrincat. Luckily for Bergevin, the Hawks have always had a hard-on for re-acquiring players to distract fans from the fact they didn’t know what they were doing either, basically the “Let’s remember some guys” method of running a team (big shock, it doesn’t work).
Your mileage may vary on the PK Subban-for-Shea Weber trade. Habs fans will tell you they won it, though the Predators immediately went to the Stanley Cup Final with Subban, while Weber continued to be something of a metric black hole. Call it a draw. It’s still a debate whether Max Pacioretty really had to go, but he probably wanted to, and Nick Suzuki in return isn’t bad at all. The aforementioned Josh Anderson deal was a good one as Max Domi gets to play with all his other MAGA shitheads in Ohio. Getting Jake Allen to backup Carey Price was shrewd, but it’s on the fringes.
So add that all up, and what did Bergevin actually ever add to this team? Who is this team built around now after a decade? Suzuki and Anderson? Maybe Caufield? A 34-year-old Carey Price with a ton of miles on the odometer? That’s a ticket to nowhere, which is exactly where the Habs find themselves.
Bergevin spent nearly 10 years shifting around a bunch of flotsam in the hopes that Price would make it all work, which he sometimes did. The Canadiens managed some 100-plus point seasons, but all of them were mostly through the players that Bergevin inherited when he took the job in 2012—Pacioretty, Subban, Price, Plekanec, Markov, Gallagher. Only Price remains, Weber got hurt, but is there anything resembling even that core around?
Bergevin made a decisive move by removing noted dunderhead Michel Therrien and replacing him with Claude Julien, one of the better coaches around who always gets his teams doing the right things. He fired Julien in the middle of last season for Max Headroom lookalike Dominque Ducharme. And while Ducharme was able to ride a hot Price and a favorable draw (and a Golden Knights week-long dry heave) to the bastardized Cup Final last year, it’s important to remember his record was under .500 before the playoffs. As it is now.
This should have happened four or five years ago. And the Habs will likely make another wrong choice because they limit themselves to only candidates for GM and coach who can speak French. This is something the Montreal press has always claimed is vital, except if you talk to most Canadiens fans they just want someone in there who helps the team win. It’s always felt like the press just begging out of translation work. Crap like this:
Like, what the fuck? How many fans watch press conferences live? As much as we may joke, they actually do have jobs and lives. They’ll get to it when they get to it. And if you’re catering to the fan who is sitting around his basement with jars of his own piss adorning the walls anxiously awaiting a presser on a Wednesday to update on some call-up from Laval, you’re fucking doomed.
Again, most Habs fans, and far fewer of them don’t speak English than anyone in the press would like to pretend, are willing to wait an hour to have whatever comments a GM or coach makes translated for them. Habs fans would settle for a GM speaking Klingon if they could turn the Canadiens into a perennial power. Why limit the field of candidates to satiate a slowly less relevant press corps?
It’s been a mess for years, and the Canadiens don’t have to keep making it so. All that really matters, is that the GM and coach can communicate with the players and get their ideas across. And here’s a scoop, most of the players speak English. Those who don’t are from Europe, almost never France, so the mandatory French policy needs to be tossed on its ass. The fans will be fine. It’s the press who will bitch. But what else is new?