Montreal Canadiens: 5 Biggest Questions Surrounding GM Marc Bergevin
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The recent re-signing of Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban brought about a lot of respect in the hockey community for general manager Marc Bergevin.
Accounts that the two sides were far apart prior to the inking of the two-year, $5.75 million deal were even met with doubt by a large number of fans and analysts alike that the Habs could keep him. The deal, however, not only means that Subban will remain a Hab for at least the time being, but that Bergevin essentially won the standoff between him and his prized restricted free agent.
Of course, Montreal's 4-1 start and Andrei Markov’s unexpected resurgence as a power-play threat probably had at least something to do with Subban rescinding many of his demands. However, most will never know just to what degree. It’s one question of many Habs loyalists would likely love to ask the new GM.
Here are five others surrounding him:
Just What Is His Concept of Money Like?
Brandon Prust of the Montreal Canadiens.
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Sure, when one considers that Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty got $56 million over eight years following his holdout last season, Bergevin got a veritable steal for Subban.
However, in sharp contrast, he also signed starting goalie Carey Price to a six-year contract worth $39 million last summer ($6.5 million salary cap hit).
There is little denying Price’s value to the team. One need only look to his current stats for an idea as to just how much.
However, by the same token, one must think the value of a dollar is ever-changing in the fantasy world Bergevin has created in his mind.
At the very least, he must be living in post-World War I, hyper-inflationary Germany when he signed Price to his deal just one day after the Los Angeles Kings re-signed Jonathan Quick to a 10-year extension that averages out to $5.8 million per year.
Of course, the terms between the deals vary greatly, but at the end of the day, the Habs are giving their starting goalie, who has only one playoff series victory to his name, more money per year than a goalie who in a single postseason—a postseason Price and the Habs missed mind you—earned more.
Add to that the deal Brandon Prust got ($10 million over four years) after scoring just 17 points last season, and it’s easy to imagine Bergevin has a few screws loose. Or taking into account Prust’s chemistry with Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher, that he sees a few things we don’t.
Of course, if Bergevin is indeed psychic, let’s at least agree on the fact that opens the door for a whole new line of questioning.
Does He Have Enough Experience?
Pierre Gauthier, formerly of the Montreal Canadiens.
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And all deathly loyal fans got in return from that valuable “experience” were lousy t-shirts from Montreal’s pre-celebrated 2009-10 Stanley Cup “victory”…that they themselves had to print (something about the Habs not actually making the Stanley Cup Final kind of prevented shirts from being made available through the team).
And for the record, the team that made it to the third round of the playoffs that year was engineered by Bob Gainey, so Gauthier never really enjoyed any kind of success at the helm of the team, despite his relatively impressive resume (impressive compared to yours or mine, I mean, and not Sam Pollock’s).
On the subject of Pollock, his nine Stanley Cups as GM are a record, while none of his 12 total came as a player. As a result, the theory that Bergevin not winning the Cup during his playing career might point to a lack of managing ability does not hold water.
Nevertheless, short of winning the team a Cup, as long as Marc Bergevin is a rookie GM in this league, which, unfortunately for him, will last the length of his tenure with the Habs, Montrealers will question his every move and cite his lack of experience as a reason as to why any given one didn’t pan out.
Will He Use His Other Buyout?
Scott Gomez, formerly of the Montreal Canadiens.
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Buying out Scott Gomez was an arguably good decision. There was always the chance Gomez would return to the lineup and score 50 goals with the Habs this season, but seeing as he never before scored more than 33, an actual shark attack in Montreal was more likely to say the least.
Now that Gomez has signed with hockey's San Jose Sharks, presumably as happy as a clam—or as happy as a non-mobile, insentient life form can be—the attention of Habs fans now turns to the other compliance buyout to which the team is entitled.
Will Bergevin use it on defenseman Tomas Kaberle (salary cap hit of $4.25 million), who has essentially been replaced on the team’s depth chart by Raphael Diaz (and Alexei Emelin...and Yannick Weber...and Francis Bouillon)?
How about Rene Bourque, who despite showing signs of life early in this 2013 National Hockey League season, may never live up to the average of $3.33 million he’s owed in each of the next four years?
Or will Bergevin surprise everybody and not use it altogether?
Sweeping mistakes under the rug (even if Bourque and Kaberle weren’t his mistakes) would certainly be considered illogical in some circles. And we are talking about an organization that rehired Michel Therrien, after all.
Was Michel Therrien Really His First Choice as Head Coach?
Michel Therrien (left) and Marc Bergevin of the Montreal Canadiens.
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No one may really ever know the answer to this question.
Bergevin will likely never admit if Therrien wasn’t his first choice to the media. There really isn’t any kind of situation in which he should admit it to Therrien himself. And if Bob Hartley continues coaching the Calgary Flames to the ground, Bergevin may never even admit it to himself.
There is, nonetheless, the nagging issue of that report in late May that Hartley was on his way to becoming the Habs’ next head coach (via The Hockey Writers).
Meanwhile, unless Therrien continues to enjoy his instant success behind the bench, the issue of whether or not it was wise of Bergevin to rehire a coach that already failed in Montreal will always be the elephant in the room (unless the room is the Bell Centre and Guillaume Latendresse and the Ottawa Senators are playing).
What’s His Vision for the Team?
Montreal Canadiens (from left) P.K. Subban, Brendan Gallagher and Brandon Prust.
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The sum of all these points brings us to the very reasonable question of where Bergevin sees this team heading.
His moves have been inconsistent, and, yet, with the team at 6-2, they’ve undeniably been paying off to a certain extent.
For example, Therrien was unable to win a Stanley Cup with a team that included Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Max Pacioretty and Erik Cole are not Crosby and Malkin, in case that wasn’t clear. Still, Therrien has been admittedly awesome so far this season.
While the Gomez buyout was about as predictable a procedural drama, Bergevin did say at one time (via Arpon Basu, Twitter):
He’s a Montreal Canadien, so he’ll come here and we’ll see what happens. But I’m not buying him out.
(Of course, he really had to say at least something to that effect under the circumstances.)
Meanwhile, the Subban and Prust deals speak to greater inconsistencies in his management style, and not just looking at what each player was paid relative to his worth.
Montreal finished third to last in 2011-12. The team should hypothetically be in rebuilding mode. However, when one signs Prust for as much money as he did, it indicates a desire to “go for it” now and overpay for a simple final piece of a puzzle (rough edges and all in Prust’s case).
In addition, yes, the Subban deal was an absolute bargain in the short term. However, when he becomes a restricted free agent again in 2014, Bergevin will not only have to give him a significant raise, but presumably UFAs Diaz and Emelin as well, not to mention have to figure out what to do with Markov.
When he re-signed Subban, Bergevin was clearly maintaining a healthy, financially sound precedent that was established when Pacioretty and Price signed their second professional deals (cap hits of $1.625 and $2.75 million, respectively).
However, in the process, he screwed himself two offseasons from now, indicating he’s looking much more at the team’s chances in the here and now rather than a few years down the road.
So, one more question for Bergevin: Does he really see the Habs a contender this year or next? Because if he does, it’s definitely a welcome change of pace but one that might be rushing things just a tad.
Fans no doubt want a winner, but the team that Montreal has right now, despite the good start to the season, just doesn’t look it on paper. Maybe, as indicated earlier, Bergevin really does see things most don’t.