Montreal Canadiens: 4 Reasons GM Marc Bergevin Has Toughest Job in Hockey
Marc Bergevin has the toughest job in hockey as general manager of the Montreal Canadiens, but there are reasons for the team's fans to be optimistic about his hiring.
The 47-year-old comes to Montreal qualified to help the franchise win their first Stanley Cup since 1993.
Bergevin helped build the 2010 Stanley Cup-winning Chicago Blackhawks team as their director of player personnel, and has already started off his tenure in Montreal well with an impressive draft class.
Let's look at why Bergevin has the toughest job in hockey, and why this will be the biggest challenge of his career.
History and Tradition
The Montreal Canadiens are the most historic franchise in the history of the NHL. They have won 24 Stanley Cups, which is by far the most of any team. The number of Hall of Famers that were once Canadiens players is also astounding.
This is the kind of history and excellence that each general manager, coach and player is compared to when they arrive to the team for the first time.
The fans expect success, and will rip you apart if you don't deliver. Winning in Montreal is the best scenario for any general manager, but at the same time, losing consistently in this city is the worst nightmare for any GM.
Having the weight of the team's rich history on your shoulder is oftentimes too much for a GM to handle. Since there is so much pressure to win and live up to the history of the franchise, it's also sometimes difficult for the Canadiens to attract big-name free agents.
The franchise's last Stanley Cup championship was in 1993, which was 19 years ago. The fans are tired of waiting for playoff success, which means Bergevin is under tremendous pressure to help the Canadiens regain the throne of professional hockey as soon as possible.
Bergevin (left) and Geoff Molson
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French-Canadian culture is a big part of the Montreal organization, and being able to communicate in French is something that the team values tremendously.
Last season when head coach Jacques Martin was fired, he was replaced by Randy Cunneyworth, who did not speak French very fluently. His hiring was not a popular one in Quebec, and the city's government was even displeased with the decision.
Team owner Geoff Molson addressed the issue in his statement regarding the Cunneyworth hire.
Although our main priority remains to win hockey games and to keep improving as a team, it is obvious that the ability for the head coach to express himself in both French and English will be a very important factor in the selection of the permanent head coach.
Bergevin will not only have to put the best possible team on the ice that he can, he will also have to try and bring the best French-Canadian players to the team.
He also must communicate to fans, media and other team members in two languages, which is something no other GM in the league has to do on a daily basis.
Constant Criticism from Media and Fans
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Whenever a general manager makes a trade, signs a free agent or hires/fires a coach, he will face a certain degree of criticism from the local media and fanbase. There's no better example of this than in Montreal.
Every decision is over-analyzed, and this can add a lot of stress to the general manager's job. After just one bad trade or free-agent signing, fans will often demand that the GM be fired.
Bergevin will have to face constant criticism after every move he makes. Some general managers can withstand this kind of pressure and thrive in this environment, while others crumble and don't last very long.
Thus far, it appears as if Bergevin is ready for the challenge.
Losing Is Not Tolerated
Former Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier
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If you don't win in Montreal, then the chances of keeping your job are quite slim. The fans demand immediate success, and when it's not delivered, the head coach and/or general manager is usually the one to blame.
Since 1995, the Canadiens have had five different general managers, including Bergevin. After Jacques Demers' departure from the team in 1995, Montreal has made 11 head-coaching changes. Jacques Martin was fired in December just two years removed from an unexpected run to the Eastern Conference Finals, even though his team was struggling because of injuries.
Bergevin will need to help the Canadiens rebuild quickly and climb back among the Eastern Conference's elite, or he could be replaced in just a few seasons.
The Canadiens also have some of the most, if not the most, impatient fans in the NHL. When you combine all of this with the lack of championship success the team has had recently, there is no question that Bergevin has the toughest job in hockey.