Rarely do we find such a wide gap of opinions about one man. Hero, zero, it depends on who you talk to. This particular hero is seen by some as evil, the vilain in comic books who is incapable of doing anything right. For many, this man lost all support back in June 2016, and no matter what he’s done after, he will never earn his stripes to be considered a hero. Thankfully, his Avengers-like peers know what this one is all about and see his super-powers. This is yet another proof that fans and media members don’t know quite as much as they pretend to know. Not all heroes wear capes, they say. Some wear a red suit… or so it seems.
Habs’ fans just don’t learn. Remember the outrage when Jesperi Kotkaniemi was drafted? We made a Wall of Shame with fans’ reactions. What about fans and media reaction when the Canadiens traded Alex Galchenyuk for Max Domi? Yup, another Wall of Shame followed. And I’m not even going to touch the worst reactions of all, when P.K. Subban was traded for Shea Weber. Then Max Pacioretty for Tomas Tatar, a “prospect” and a pick? Each time though, in spite of fans and media outrage, the Canadiens came out on top.
The NHL announced that Montreal Canadiens’ General Manager Marc Bergevin was one of the three finalists for the Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year Award. Lou Lamoriello of the New York Islanders and Bill Zito of the Florida Panthers are the other two nominees. The award, named after the late longtime NHL executive, is voted on by the 31 GMs, plus a panel of League executives, print and broadcast media following the Second Round of the playoffs.
Everyone around hockey, including Bergevin’s biggest pundits, were impressed by his work in the off-season. First, he traded Max Domi to the Columbus Blue Jackets in return for power forward Josh Anderson, and signed him to a long term deal. He then traded for the rights of pending UFA Joel Edmundson and signed him to a 4-year contract. He also address his backup goaltending problems by trading for Jake Allen and extended him on a two-year contract for a third less than what he was making.
He wasn’t done. Bergevin signed three other free agents. The most notable is Tyler Toffoli, who agreed to a 4-year contract at an average of $4.25 million per season. Toffoli finished the season with 28 goals in 52 games, a pace of 44 goals on an 82-game season. The Canadiens’ GM signed two veteran players to one-year deals: Corey Perry and Michael Frolik.
Before the playoffs, he also convinced blue-chip prospects Cole Caufield and Mattias Norlinder to sign their entry-level contracts.
They were many who wanted Bergevin fired during the season and in the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs, when the Canadiens were trailing that series 3-1. Some members of the media and fans alike could not wrap their head around the fact that this past season’s unusual factors were a huge contributor to the Habs’ struggles. The #FireBergevin hashtag was often trending on social media for the first time since the summer of 2018, until Geoff Molson gave his GM a vote a confidence at the time.
I took some serious heat from several fans when, on April 7th, I wrote on this very blog that Bergevin should be considered for GM of the year. Taking heat is a bit of an understatement. Some long time “fans” who have been wanting him gone since the summer of 2016 (THE trade) were laughing at me rather vehemently. I mean, it was going 180 degrees against the popular belief, against the desire of many to see him finally fired. Imagine the heat when CBC/Sportsnet Insider Elliotte Friedman announced that Molson and Bergevin were discussing his future. Those wanting him gone were hoping even more, while most of us were thinking that it was for a contract extension, as there’s only one year left to Bergevin’s current contract. I went further with a few potential scenarios.
Back at the top
It’s been a rollercoaster ride for fans this season, hockey-wise but also when discussing the role of Bergevin and his future. At least it has been amongst fans and many media outlets and personalities. People went from excited, to disappointment, to anger. Then back to excitement when the team made the playoffs, to euphoria when the Canadiens came back from a 3-1 deficit to prevent Toronto from winning a playoffs’ series for the first time in 17 years. The excitement for this team continued when the Habs swept the Winnipeg Jets in four straight games, earning a first trip to the NHL’s semi-finals since 2014. At the time of writing this, they are only seven wins away from winning the Stanley Cup!
So Bergevin went from having a great off-season, to being a genius, to being fired, then saved his job with the Toronto series, and now, top-3 for GM of the year. To be fair, that scenario was only in the head of fans and media. NHL executives and other GMs know the true value of Bergevin and other peers. In their mind, he’s an excellent hockey man and for the third time since taking over in Montreal, he’s nominated for GM of the year. Yes, third time folks. Go Habs Go!