Bergevin’s blunders hurting the team


Logan Flake, Satire Editor

Picture for a moment your ideal boss. What are some qualities that come to mind? Would you want a hard worker? Someone that does everything possible for the betterment of the company as a whole? On a very streamline level, would you at least expect someone competent? I’m sure we could all agree on that last trait at the very least.

Apparently, Geoff Molson, owner and president of the NHL hockey team the Montreal Canadiens, has a different vision for the ideal person to take the reins of an organization. He has, after all, kept one of the most arrogant and simply unsuited General Managers in the league, Marc Bergevin, employed.

Look, I’ve recently started trying to find positives in people instead of always signaling in on flaws. Outside of his job, I’m sure Bergevin is a perfectly fine guy. However, it’s completely impossible for me to overlook the stain he has left on the Canadiens organization over the last few years when measuring my opinion of him. This guy just hasn’t done a good job. Need proof? Here it comes.

Let’s break down Bergevin’s performance based on his resume in two of the most important parts of his job description: being in charge of the team’s trades and being responsible for the signing/resigning of players.

In the NHL, the role of a GM in the world of free agency and player acquisition through signings is simple: target the best players available that the team can afford financially and throw some money at them. Seems pretty black-and-white, right? Not for Bergevin. Here’s what he thinks he should do (in paraphrased form, of course):

“Do we REALLY need the BEST players available? I mean, do we really need them? The team is already so great as is! Let’s just throw lots of money at mid-30s depth players and decent guys that are starting to reach the end of their primes! Better yet, let’s sign them to long-term deals that are near untradable if they don’t work out for us!”

It’s this mindset that has lead to such esteemed additions to the team in recent memory as Karl Alzner, who was signed in the summer of 2017 to a 5 year deal worth $4.6 million annually, and has since turned around and produced only eight points in 53 games for the team. Did I mention that albatross of a contract will last Alzner until he’s in his mid-30s? How fitting. Let’s speed round through a few more “noteworthy” free-agency signings by Bergevin this past summer alone.

Ales Hemsky was signed to replenish the winger depth for the team which was weakened by some key losses that same summer (believe me, we’ll get to that). Though the deal was relatively tame financially, with Hemsky only earning $1 million for a year, the deal has paid the team no dividends at all. Hemsky hasn’t played a game for the team since Oct. 23 and has been dealing with nagging injuries ever since. Keep in mind that we’re now more than halfway through the season. I’m starting to think that Bergevin would have been better off allocating that $1 million towards extra pucks for practices or something.

The then 39-year-old Mark Streit was brought in to fill some holes at defense for the squad. To say that Streit was a force to be reckoned with in his tenure with the team is an understatement. The impressive two whole games that he played with the team before being let go for nothing, in which he racked up a whopping zero points, will never be forgotten in the history of the franchise.

Those are just two flop signings from this last free-agency period. This hardly even scratches the surface of Bergevin’s handicap when it comes to signing any real talent in July, however, in fact, the only real stars he’s been able to ice have been players that were already on the team when he got the job in 2012.

That segways us into the resigning portion of Bergevin’s position. I’m going to be honest with you guys when I say that for the longest time, Bergevin actually did a great job at bringing key players back. Just last summer, in the midst of one of the worst free-agency periods for the team in recent memory, Bergevin managed to bring back the then 22-year-old up-and-coming forward Alex Galchenyuk on a favorable three year, $4.9 million a year contract. Back in 2014, Bergevin was tasked with bringing back the then 25-year-old star defenseman P.K. Subban. He did just that, managing to keep Subban in a Canadiens jersey through an eight year, $9 million per year contract. A steep price to pay? Yes, but in a league where defenseman of Subban’s caliber is as rare as finding a Patriots fan deep in the heart of Indianapolis, I’d say it was worth it. Last but not least, Bergevin managed to bring back star forward Max Pacioretty on an absolute steal of a contract which pays him $4.5 million per year for seven years. Good stuff, right?

Yeah, that is pretty solid. Here’s the problem, though. Once Bergevin gets these players locked down, he then has no idea what to do with them. I compare Bergevin’s managing of assets to someone winning the lottery and then either never cashing in the winning ticket or trading it away for a large Coke from McDonalds. He’s sitting on these fantastic players that he could get the world for, and instead he either does nothing and holds on to them to rot in a system they don’t belong in or trades them for scraps.

For example, what’s Galchenyuk doing these days? Nothing too terrible, just playing a position he isn’t meant to play because nobody will give him a shot at his natural position of center, thus hurting his development. What about Pacioretty? That guy’s name is now all over the place in trade rumors as Bergevin has all but given up on him because of his slow start this season.

What about Subban?

Oh my god, the Subban trade.

I’ll never forget where I was when I learned that Subban had been traded. It was the summer of 2016, and I was at a physical therapy session to stretch out my hamstrings when one of the workers there (who I’d talked hockey with in the past) came up to me. “Hey, did you hear Subban got traded?” he said. I thought for sure he was joking. “What a funny meme,” I thought to myself. “He almost really got me with that one. Really got my heart beating a little bit.”

But he didn’t let up. He assured me that Subban had really been dealt in a trade that sent him to the Nashville Predators in exchange for Shea Weber. I wanted to die. I couldn’t believe that I was living in a world where such a cruel act could take place. P.K. Subban, a man who had racked up a total of 278 points in 434 career games as a Canadien, had been dealt just like that for a player of the same position that is simply an older, grittier and less healthy version of what Subban is.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind Weber. In fact, at the time of the trade, you could’ve easily argued that he was at the very least on-par with Subban in terms of talent. Here’s the problem, though. It’s been a few years since that trade, and now Weber is even older at 32-years-old (which is four years older than Subban, mind you). His age is definitely showing itself on the ice… or, should I say, off the ice. Weber hasn’t played a game for the Canadiens since Dec. 16 because of an injury. This season, he has 16 points in 26 games played. That’s not a terrible point pace for a defenseman, but his ability to produce offense for the team when he’s healthy means nothing if he can’t stop getting injured.

As a whole, Weber has 58 points in 104 games as a Canadien. Not too shabby, right? Well, get a load of this. In 117 games, only 13 more than Weber, Subban has managed to tally 81 points with the Predators and has also made an appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals. A little less shabby now, huh?

We haven’t even talked about Weber’s contract yet.

I’m honestly surprised Bergevin didn’t negotiate this contract himself, but it makes perfect sense that he would choose to acquire a contract like this through trade. Weber is locked up on a deal that will pay him almost $7.9 million per year until he’s 40. With him always showing signs of slowing down, this deal is going to be absolutely impossible to move on from in the future. That means the Canadiens will likely be stuck with someone that won’t even physically be able to play for the team at some point in the near future and still have to dish him out almost $8 million. Good thinking, Bergevin.

Want a more recent trade as an example of Bergevin’s mismanaging of assets? Look back no further than last summer, when he traded away the 19-year-old blue-chip defensive prospect Mikhail Sergachev to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for the young-scoring winger Jonathan Drouin. All-things-considered, this really wasn’t an awful trade from Bergevin. It can really be argued either way as to which team ultimately won the deal, but I lean towards the camp that says it’s still too early to tell yet. What has been awful has been Bergevin’s treatment of Drouin since he joined the team. Just like Galchenyuk, Drouin, a life-long winger, has foolishly been called upon to play the top-tier center position for the team, something that has proven to be a disaster for all parties involved. Bergevin is so desperate to fill the void at center that his team has had for years that he tried to convert a scoring winger to fit the role, delaying any chance at proper progression in the process.

So far we’ve talked about some successful resignings, some not-so-successful free agent signings, and some excruciating trades made with Bergevin at the Helm. What about the players he hasn’t been able to bring back?

This was a key point of discussion last summer as both winger Alexander Radulov and defenseman Andrei Markov both needed to resign. Radulov was a gamble signing in 2016 by Bergevin that ended up working out, as the Russian forward managed to put up 54 points in 76 games in what was his first full season in the NHl since 2007-2008. Markov had been a Canadiens lifer up to that point, playing all 990 games of his NHL career with the team and accumulating 572 points in the process. Both of these players were key cogs in the machine that had lead the Canadiens to the playoffs in 2017 and deserved some monetary compensation for their efforts. So, what did Bergevin do?

He didn’t resign either of them, instead allowing Radulov to sign with the Dallas Stars and Markov, who had been with the team since 2000, to sign with a team in Russia.

While the Canadiens’ offense currently sits tied at 25th in the league with only 137 total goals scored as the team searches desperately for an offensive spark, Radulov currently has 21 goals and 30 assists for a total of 51 points in 54 games played with the stars. As the team sits tied at 6th in terms of goals allowed with defensive problems all over the place, Markov remains as nothing more than a distant memory in the minds of Canadiens fans.

That’s enough when it comes to failed signings. I can’t stomach any more talk of it.

If you know anything about the Canadiens or about the NHL at all, you know I’ve left out one major name so far in my discussion of the team. Yes, I’m talking about goaltender Carey Price, the face of the franchise ever since I started following the team. He’s good; darn good, in fact. But, can he carry the entire team on his back forever? The answer is no.

He sure did get paid like he can, though. This past summer, Begevin signed Price to an eight-year, $10.4 million per year contract extension, making him the highest-paid goaltender in the history of the league.

In many ways, Price earned all of that money and then some for his efforts with the team over the last few years. How the Canadiens play depends entirely on how Price performs, and the last few seasons have shown that. When Price got hurt in the Eastern Conference Finals back in 2014, the team collapsed entirely in front of backup goaltender Dustin Tokarski, and their magical playoff run ended shortly after. In the 2015-2016 season when Price went down with a season-ending injury, the team was hopeless, finishing 6th in their division and out of the playoffs with a 38-38-6 record despite the efforts of career backup turned starter Mike Condon. Even this year, under the influence of a down season from Price, the team’s record has followed suit, sitting at 6th in the division (deja vu) with a 22-25-6 record and all but crushed playoff hopes. I’ll be blunt with you: Carey Price is the Montreal Canadiens.

That must mean that I love the fact that Bergevin brought him back long-term, right? You couldn’t be more wrong. I love Price. He’s been my favorite player ever since I started following hockey. If the circumstances were different, I would be happy that he signed the extension. But times are bleak in the Canadiens fandom. The team is going nowhere fast in the hands of Bergevin, and all Price is doing by staying here is wasting away more years of his prime and keeping the Canadiens from destroying the team and rebuilding from the ground up behind young talent. It would have been best for both parties involved if Price had signed somewhere else last summer, but Bergevin is so blinded by a need to try to make his team look even somewhat competitive that he chose to sell the barn for Price and delay the inevitable.  

It’s time for Bergevin to face the music and admit to himself that the championship window for this current batch of players has closed. It’s time for him to bite the bullet and move assets such as Price and Weber for solid prospects and draft picks in an effort to eventually build a team that can compete once again. The longer Bergevin tries to grasp at the idea of making the playoffs with this current core of players, the longer I and thousands of other fans will sit in misery, dwelling on the past just like I had to do for the entirety of this editorial and wondering what could have been.