American community organizer and writer Saul Alinsky once said: “First rule of change is controversy. You can’t get away from it for the simple reason all issues are controversial. Change means movement, and movement means friction, and friction means heat, and heat means controversy.” If you follow the Montreal Canadiens up close, you will recognize that this quote is not only true, but it’s a way of life in a City where fans and reporters look for controversy even when there’s none to be had.
Canadiens’ General Manager Marc Bergevin is, in the eyes of a few, a very controversial man. Since daring to trade then fan favourite P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators, everything the man says or does, even the way he walks and breathes upsets a certain group. Fuelling their anger towards the man, team President and owner Geoff Molson decided to keep Bergevin in place after a dismal season a couple of years ago. Some were furious. Need proof? There are people who were up in arms because… he recently did a McDonald’s commercial! Yes, that’s right. But that’s fine. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. But deep down, it doesn’t make it right. We all know that.
Allow me to propose a new concept. Well, it’s not new but it differs from the petty battles we read daily. What if, instead of focussing on the the Habs solely, we took a few steps back to differentiate the forest from the trees? What if we looked at the ensemble of his work instead of “feeling” like he’s not doing his job? Let’s see where that leads us, shall we? No playing with numbers, no twisting things to make him look good or bad. Simple facts. While that may not change anyone’s mind, particularly those set in their way who have no intentions to think rationally, it will at least give a more realistic picture.
Bergevin took over in the summer of 2012, after the team finished 28th out of 30 in the league. Not including this season, his team has a 283-198-59 record from the 2012-13 to the 2018-19 season. Some will say it’s good, others will claim that it’s not. How does it rank in comparison to the other NHL teams? Let’s have a look, shall we?
- 2012-2013: Division title, 2nd in East to Pittsburgh, 4th overall
- 2013-2014: 100 pts, 4th in East, 9th overall
- 2014-2015: Division title, 2nd in East to NYR, 2nd overall
- 2015-2016: 82 pts (38-38-6). 22nd overall, Price played 12 games all year
- 2016-2017: Division title, 4th in East, 7th overall, 21 pts improvement
- 2017-2018: 71 pts (29-40-13) 28th/31 overall, Weber played 26 games on one leg
- 2018-2019: 96 pts (44-30-8), 14th overall, 25 pts improvement, Weber out 2 ½ months
It is important to acknowledge that in 2015-16, Carey Price only played 12 games all season, the team finishing with a .500 record. In 2017-18, Shea Weber broke his foot in the very first game against the Buffalo Sabres, played 26 games on one foot before being shut down for the season to get surgeries. Bergevin’s group couldn’t recup from it and finished with 71 points. In spite of those two major setbacks (two of the seasons when he missed the playoffs), Bergevin’s record as a GM places him 11th in the entire NHL.
Now consider that San Jose, Chicago and Minnesota are trending down, and that the Canadiens seem to be trending up based on the core that they have and their high end prospect pool. Eleventh in the entire NHL is quite amazing for a rookie GM… or any GM for that matter.
Speaking of prospects, when Bergevin took over for the Canadiens, the organization’s top prospects were:
|Jarred Tinordi||Michael Bournival||Charles Hudon|
|Louis Leblanc||Joonas Nattinen||Steve Quailer|
|Patrick Holland||Darren Dietz||Sven Andrighetto|
|Danny Kristo||Sebastian Collberg||Mark MacMillan|
|Morgan Ellis||Brady Vail||Dalton Thrower|
Now compare that to today. If one can’t see the difference, that person has some serious issues and should seek help. It’s nowhere comparable. Yes, Trevor Timmins was the guru before Bergevin, but it’s not until Bergy got to the GM position that he was given more free reign when it comes to the Draft. As a matter of fact, that’s when Bergevin took the podium on Draft day only to thank the host team and city, then let Timmins do the announcement.
Perhaps as important as the Draft, Bergevin has probably done his best work in the way of trades. He has completed several and has lost very few. But don’t take my word for it. Here are the trades that Bergevin has made since in place with the Canadiens:
He has lost very few trades and amongst the “big trades”, only one really is debatable: the acquisition of Jonathan Drouin for Mikhail Sergachev. Yes, force is to admit that the Habs got the best out of the controversial trade bringing in team captain Shea Weber. Oh he has lost a few but they were all minor trades. The risks that he has taken were, for the most part, all low-risk with potential high reward. The Semin, Streit, Hemsky, that Bergevin is blamed for were all one-year deals at low cap hit, not andicaping the team long term. His biggest mistake was signing UFA Karl Alzner to that contract. To that I reply: show me a perfect GM and I’ll show you a liar.
Now that you know the facts, you can make a more educated assessment of Bergevin the GM. It won’t come as a secret that I personally find that overall, he has done a good job, particularly for a rookie GM in a market like Montreal. He showed great adaptability by successfully making his team younger on the fly and fill-in the cupboards of high quality prospects, to the point where experts place Montreal between fourth to eight best group of prospects in the NHL.
With the Canadiens currently sitting seventh in the NHL in the overall standings, with a very young team and quality prospects coming up, things are looking up. Bergevin has proven to anyone who doesn’t have an axe to grind that Molson made the right decision by keeping him on board when many were out with pitchforks and lanterns calling for his head. Let’s enjoy the ride, folks! Go Habs Go!