Rabid Habs

The Forum: Is This The End of Marc Bergevin?

A regulation loss to the Coyotes and a drubbing at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs have brought about more than just calls from angry fans for the end of Marc Bergevin, as the media is now talking about his possible demise. We asked out contributors if they though this could be it for the Marc Bergevin era in Montreal.

Zach Vanasse (@ZachDropsTweets) – I maintain that Marc Bergevin will still be the Habs general manager through to the end of this season, at which point whether or not the Canadiens make the playoffs will determine his fate.

But none of that really matters. For all intent and purpose, the Bergevin era is done. Like a retreating army in the final throes of defeat, he still may do some damage on his way out, or possibly even win a few final battles, but the promise of the Bergevin era I bought into half a decade ago is long gone.

There will never be a Stanley Cup from this era. We’ve seen the high-water mark, a game 7 defeat of the Boston Bruins in the second round of the 2014 playoffs. That’s as good as it will get for the Bergevin term. He’s a man whose plan died some time ago, as evidenced by $9 million unused against the cap, and no plan B for the loss of Markov and Radulov. As I said on The Recency Bias podcast following the loss to the Leafs, and as had become apparent in the loss to the Coyotes a couple days earlier, this team lacks the talent to even make the playoffs this season. When Bergevin cruised into the GM job and was handed a third overall pick, plus Pacioretty, Subban and Price already in place, this current iteration of the Canadiens five years down the line would have been an unacceptable destination to arrive at, but here we are. Now we’ve got months to speculate about who is next.

Sean O’Neill (@TheONeillFactor) – I don’t often say this, but Zach is 100% correct.

As much as I would love for PK and the Preds to drive the final nail into MB’s coffin on Wednesday, chances are that Geoff Molson will stay in the foxhole with his GM until season’s end. In fairness, mid-season front-office shakeups rarely work out for the best, so the Habs best option at this point may be to merely play out the long, frustrating, dispiriting Bergevin era and clean house in the spring.

That being said, there are few things more dangerous than a desperate GM with $9 million in cap space and zero fucks left to give. Having already set the franchise back five years with his massive ego, disdain of analytics, and undying love for third-pairing defencemen, it would be a fitting end to the Marc Bergevin era if he went out guns blazing by trading some of the Habs few remaining prospects and picks in a feeble attempt to save his hide.

Kyle Roussel (@kyleroussel) – I don’t think it is the end. It probably should be, but firings are rare during the season. But what a mess we have brewing, all of it brought on by Bergy. Everything he has done recently has blown up in his face, and it’s made worse by the fact that so many of us saw it coming. From dismantling the D, to continuing to bumble with the center position, to handing out massive contracts, his work has left much to be desired.

Clubsportsstats pegs the Habs playoff chances at roughly 3% this morning. You might be tempted to say “Bah, there’s nearly 60 games left. Still plenty of time to turn it around!” Wakey, wakey! There’s a reason why they are usually so accurate! This season is close to done, whether we want to accept that or not. What a depressing thought considering Christmas is over a month away. Still, could Price return to form and single-handedly propel the Habs into a wildcard? Sure. But I think anyone with two functioning eyeballs can see that this team is deeply flawed. Onion-paper thin at C. Super slow and cement-handed on D. Leadership and character appear to be an issue, even though Bergy has made this his biggest priority since coming to Montreal 5 years ago. The coaching change has been a sideway step at best, which may be the most perplexing thing of all. The team’s structure is a mess, which is the first thing we were told Julien would fix. The powerplay still resembles a pile of vomit – Muller hasn’t fixed that. The D…well Daigneault continues to be totally ineffective. At the end, as Bergy said a couple years ago: “It’s on me” (interestingly, he’s now shifted that talking point to “the answers are in the room”). He’s behind ALL of those choices. He’s played all his cards: big trades to shake things up, and coaching changes. He’s next, and rightfully so. A once promising future has quickly been turned into a looming disaster.

Here’s another thing: this team has challenged for division and conference titles in recent years. Now he’s selling the team as being part of a cluster of competitive teams fighting for the playoffs. Not enough people have asked why that is. Why has this team fallen out of contention? The answer, of course, is that their strategy stinks, his moves have backfired, or been ill-advised to begin with.

What scares me is that if Price can salvage this team, Bergy will be given free reign to continue butchering this team’s present and future. Armed with a steady paycheck until 2022, Molson can’t be enthusiastic to pay him to stay home. But I hope Molson has the vision to let this play out and see this team for what it is – a weak team that was built on an antiquated philosophy. Bergevin seems to be out of options. I don’t know what Molson is thinking. The Habs have a playoffs-or-bust mentality, but to try that this year seems to be foolish. They have a window here to reassess the team’s future, and it’s not a bright one. To me it’s time to start tearing this thing down, and nobody should be safe.

Ian Boisvert (@BoisvertIan) – It’s a really tough spot, isn’t it? If you fire your general manager mid-season, you better have your next general manager ready right away. A rebuild cannot be stagnant, and if an interim general manager comes along because Geoff Molson fires Marc Bergevin mid-season, stagnation is unavoidable. You need to have the next general manager ready to step into the role immediately.

On the other hand, if you think Bergevin should be fired, how can you let him make it to the end of the year when the rebuild needs to begin right now? Put yourselves in Molson’s shoes: If you think Bergevin isn’t the guy to get this team back on track, why would you wait until the end of the year to can him? Why should Bergevin be tasked with cleaning up his own mess knowing full well that he’s not going to be responsible for how it turns out? That’s not to say that he’ll do an insurmountable degree of damage before the season is over, but the next general manager should be the one to put his stamp on the team from the beginning.

It’s absolutely a “damned if I do; damned if I don’t” sort of scenario for Molson. To be frank, I don’t think Molson, a business man, should be making hockey decisions for the Canadiens, but at this point, that’s neither here nor there.

So could the clock be winding down for Bergevin? Maybe. But I’ll bring this back to the last time we thought someone from this organization was on their way out.

How long were we saying “Michel Therrien’s time is up with this team!” before he was eventually fired? Months? A year or so? Then Claude Julien becomes available, and suddenly the script flips on Therrien. With this organization, I get the feeling that they only want to let go of the first vine after grabbing on to the next one. Because if I’m being perfectly honest, if Claude Julien is still coaching in Boston, Michel Therrien is still coaching in Montreal.

The same can be said, I think, about the general manager situation. The name everyone keeps bringing up is Julien BriseBois, but BriseBois is still under contract with Tampa Bay and their AHL affiliate for the rest of the year. When that vine becomes available, I wonder how long Molson will need to think about reaching for it.

Kyle Roussel (@kyleroussel) – Here’s another problem, given the Habs hiring criteria. Even if they do commit to a rebuild or extended retooling, the next guy is going to probably helm a bad team for anywhere between 2-5 years. That guy won’t survive the job long enough to see the fruits of his labour. So do you pray that you can pry BriseBois out of Tampa in the off-season? SHOULD you even do that? He seems like a great GM, but I see the next GM after Bergevin as a bit of a sacrificial lamb. I don’t know if I’d play the BriseBois card just yet. Which brings us back to Bergevin. Can Molson drive home the mandate of starting a reboot of the team? I think the key is in being honest with the fanbase. If this is the direction you think you need to go in, just tell us. I’m ready for it. I’ve been ready for it, but they won’t do it for some reason (probably because it means no playoff revenue for years).

This is a bit twisted, but nothing would make me happier than seeing Bergevin having to do a 180 on his current plan, unload big contracts, restock with prospects and picks, then fall on his own sword when the job is done in a year or so from now. Bergevin has done such a poor job of building this team that he ought to wear the dirt from the dismantling. I mean, the more I think about the way he’s gone about this, the more I dislike the group he’s put on the ice. I mean, just LOOK at the centers on this team relative to others. It’s really unsettling. Look at the slow, one-dimensional D. This group has a crippling lack of offensive awareness and mobility. How can anyone expect this group to deliver?

Is the plan really to wait for Price to come back and put out the fires with his godlike play? Can he even do it? The team needs 76-78pts in their final 61 games for a total of 93-95 points. That’s .623 – .640 hockey from NOW until the end of the season. All that for a chance to get in as a wildcard? From a team that has been shutout 4 times already, and held to 1 goal in 4 other losses? You have to wear quite the pair of bleu-blanc-rouge coloured goggles to think this is a viable plan. Somebody on the 7th floor has to recognize this and make a difficult decision.

Claudio D’Andrea (@cdbytor) – Let’s admit it, the Leafs did it right and the Habs dropped the puck big time.

While Toronto drafted well, scouted smart and built the right management and coaching staff, the Canadiens dithered. Under Bergevin, they have become aimless souls — a team lacking identity and one that doesn’t have a promising future.

Should Bergevin go? Of course he should. This is his team and he’s responsible for what he built — or rather dismantled.

Will he go? And when? Those are the big questions.

To switch metaphors now back from the puck to ball, the bigger question is one to ask Geoff Molson: “Do you have the balls to fire Bergevin now or are you going to hang in with him until the bitter end and deprive your fans of an entire season of meaningful hockey?”

One Comment

  1. EDML

    November 22, 2017 at 10:25 am

    The Habs were doomed when MB decided to hire Therrien as head coach. His decision not to fire Therrien further put the team down the black hole. The trade of Subban; the refusal to sign Markov; the signing of Alzner (deemed to be a younger Georges); and the trading of Sergachev sent the team spiral into a deep black hole. Hiring another old school coach Julien proved to be disastrous (so far). Molson probably would have stopped the damage if he fired both MB and MT at the same time. Now, he probably should fire MB and Julien and hire more credible businessman to replace him as the President.