Bergevin Leaves Compelling and Complicated Legacy With Canadiens

Marc Bergevin is one of the most polarizing figures in the NHL and his nine-year tenure as general manager of the Montreal Canadiens, which came to an end on Sunday, divides people just as much as his personality does.

Regardless of public opinion, his time at the helm of the most storied franchise in the league was eventful, emotional, and memorable. Yes, it was time for a change and yes, there were a lot of mistakes along the way, even a few of the unforgivable variety, but Bergevin is leaving the Canadiens as a key architect in shaping the organization’s rich history.

A First Since 1993

When someone gets fired during a miserable season like the one that the Habs currently find themselves in, it’s easy to focus on the negative, but Bergevin is leaving a better team in the hands of his successors than the one he inherited in 2012.

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Back then, the prospect cupboard was bare and draft picks were scarce. Over the past five years, Montreal has made 45 draft selections. Now, it will be up to the new administration to ensure these prospects are developed properly, something that was a significant issue during the Bergevin regime. If a good number of those picks stick with the team long-term, his impact will still be felt for many years to come.

Marc Bergevin
Marc Bergevin spent over nine years at the helm of the Montreal Canadiens.

He also helped bring the Habs’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate closer to home in Laval and contributed to the inauguration of an ECHL team in Trois-Rivières, creating a much stronger three-tiered system at the pro level which facilitates player and roster management.

During the fall of 2020, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bergevin put together the best offseason of any GM in the league, acquiring Jake Allen, Josh Anderson, Joel Edmundson, Corey Perry, and Tyler Toffoli in a matter of weeks. His rewards? A third nomination for the Jim Gregory Award as General Manager of the Year and most importantly, a first Stanley Cup Final berth for the Canadiens in 28 years. Bergevin’s Habs also reached the Eastern Conference Final in 2014, won three division titles, and made six total playoff appearances during his reign.

He’s the longest-serving and arguably the best Habs general manager since Serge Savard presided over the team from 1983-1995.

A Players’ GM

To say Bergevin was close to his players would be an understatement. Nobody cared about them more than he did. He was their mentor with his 20-year playing career in the NHL serving as a valuable source of inspiration and comfort in the dressing room.

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More than once during his tenure, Bergevin became emotional when discussing how much his players mean to him. Most recently, he teared up talking about Carey Price’s decision to enter the NHL’s Player Assistance Program.  

Over the past few days, his players have reciprocated that love in kind. Brendan Gallagher, who was part of the Bergevin era from day one, delivered a powerful and heartfelt tribute to his former boss.

The Face of the Franchise

To say Bergevin poured his heart and soul into his job would also be putting it mildly. He worked around the clock and stuck to his convictions regardless of what anyone else thought. His commitment to making the Habs better never wavered even as the temperature around him rose, sometimes to unbearable levels. He took the heat away from his players and his coaching staff. It’s no wonder that he received more media attention than the Premier of Quebec.

More than nine years in the bright spotlight took its toll, however. He aged 20 years in half that time and was noticeably feeling the effects of burnout over the past year. Still, the team always came first because that’s how much the Canadiens matter to him.

Marc Bergevin Montreal Canadiens
Marc Bergevin has helped shape the Canadiens’ rich history. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

That passion allowed Bergevin to connect to the fanbase in a very meaningful way. They followed his every move and hung on every word. In some ways, he was larger than life and had a firm grasp of the market unlike so many who came before him. His touching parting statement speaks volumes about the relationship he has built with the city of Montreal and the people in it.

While the Canadiens and their fans are ready for a fresh start and a new vision to lead them into the future, they won’t be forgetting the man who guided them through the highs and lows of the past decade anytime soon if only because a big part of them is suddenly missing.

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