When CBC’s Elliotte Friedman came out with the news that Montreal Canadiens’ President Geoff Molson was discussing with General Manager Marc Bergevin about his GM’s future, it sent a bit of a shockwave throughout the fan base and the media alike. Few GMs have been as controversial as Bergevin in recent years, particularly since June 2016 when he dared trading fan favourite P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber. The trade, as it is referred to today, drew the ire of many and when it turned out that the Habs clearly got the best in the deal, those disgruntled people grew even more angry. They would like nothing more than seeing Bergevin get fired and they have been calling for it to happen ever since.
Bergevin, who has a year left to his contract with the team, is known around the NHL as an excellent hockey man and there is no doubt that if he was let go, he would find a job very rapidly after. His record, while not extraordinary by any means, is good. His antagonists will point to his 9 years without much playoffs’ success. Hockey people will be able to see beyond that and break his tenure as Canadiens’ GM into two completely different phases.
- Phase one, trying to win and add to the core he inherited. Seeing that the leadership core wasn’t strong enough to get to the next level, he changed it considerably. Out went Subban, and later Max Pacioretty.
- Phase two was a turning point. By convincing Molson that a reset was necessary back in the summer of 2018, Bergevin sold his President the plan of building through the Draft. It’s a plan that needed patience as draft picks take time to develop. Bergevin also revamped his scouting staff, added Rob Ramage and Francis Bouillon to his player-development team, and hire Joël Bouchard as head coach of the Laval Rocket.
I find hard to figure out how Friedman would know that Molson and Bergevin are talking about the later’s future as I highly doubt that either man have told him that. But let’s play the game anyway. As the discussions are supposedly happening, Molson has three obvious choices:
1- As mentioned earlier, many are hoping to hear the news that Bergevin will be fired. If I’m them though, I wouldn’t hold my breath as they could be running out of air before that happens. While it is possible, it’s not a likely option, in my opinion.
2- Keep the status quo by letting Bergevin finish his contract, which ends at the end of the 2021-22 season. In a market like Montreal, it would be putting a ton of unnecessary added pressure on a job that is already one of the most stressful positions in hockey. Personally, I cannot see Molson doing that.
3- Extending Bergevin is, in my humble opinion, a very likely option. Oh you will have a lot of people unhappy about it but let’s face it: they’re not the ones running the team and paying the bills and fans will continue to support the team. Fans, with or without Bergevin as GM, cannot wait to fill the Bell Centre once again.
With the season that the Laval Rocket has had, there are speculations that Joël Bouchard will be very much sought after by NHL clubs. Much like Julien BriseBois back then, Bouchard is a known very smart hockey man. As the team is set on limiting their own field by setting a bilingualism criteria in certain positions like coaches and GM’s, the Canadiens simply cannot afford to lose too many top end French-speaking candidates to other teams. They give them their first chance, they need to keep them when they find good ones.
Of course, they could simply offer Bouchard the position of head coach in Montreal next season. But something tells me that Bouchard has higher career goals than coaching. He has also stated in a few occasions enjoying helping young players develop and that he couldn’t do that at the NHL level as it’s not a development league. The Canadiens risk losing not one, but two great hockey men who both happen to be bilingual.
A fourth option
The Canadiens have not one, but two great bilingual hockey men, something they haven’t had in a while. So why let one of them walk for nothing? Why not try keeping them both? I’m no betting man but if I were, I can see a fourth scenario.
Call it gut feeling, call it educated guess, or call it a wet dream if you must, I can see Bergevin… being promoted! WHAT? Yes, that’s what I said. I could see Molson relinquish part of his position to make room for Bergevin. But before you jump down my throat and try sending me to the coo-coo house, let me explain.
Molson would promote Bergevin effective next season as President of Hockey Operations, keeping his title of GM for one more season. Molson would remain as President and take care of the business aspect of the Montreal Canadiens, the Bell Centre and all of its marketing, including the towers. He would still be involved with anything monetary of course, but Bergevin would ultimately make every hockey decisions.
For the 2021-22 season, Joël Bouchard would remain as the Rocket’s headcoach for one more season. But he would take on double-duties, learning under Bergevin, by taking on Larry Carrière‘s old job as GM of the Rocket as well. Some claim he’s doing that already, but let’s make it official. Then on time for the 2022-23 season, Bouchard would be the Canadiens General Manager while Bergevin would focus solely on his Hockey Operations’ presidency.
I have had people pointing out that it’s unlikely that Molson would promote someone who hasn’t won Stanley Cups. In the past, I might have agreed but this is not 1980. There are 31 (soon to be 32) teams in the NHL and very few teams win the Cup. Can you imagine if only Cup winners received promotions? Teams need smart hockey men who understand not only the hockey aspect, but the reality of this new NHL under the financial burden of a hard salary cap. Bergevin has that. And to a point, so does Bouchard. I can definitely see the leadership of Molson and Bergevin at the top, with Bouchard calling the shots and picking his coaching staff. Further, he knows the young guys coming up and could help select the new coach in Laval with clear directives to follow. This shift of power could be very good for the organisation, folks. Go Habs Go!