Only in Montreal would an 0-4 start to the season push the general manager to hold an impromptu press conference to keep the sky from falling. That’s exactly what happened on Wednesday when Marc Bergevin surprised the media in a show of support for his team and an attempt to explain their dismal play so far.
Despite his best intentions to accomplish the contrary, Bergevin’s foray in front of the cameras only shone the spotlight even brighter on the issues facing the Canadiens and his own uncertain future with the organization.
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Perhaps it should have been owner Geoff Molson behind the microphone considering that the Canadiens’ missteps out of the gate coincide with Bergevin being in the final year of his contract with no resolution in sight. In any other market, the uncertain status of the general manager wouldn’t garner much attention, but in Montreal, it has already become a major distraction that isn’t going away anytime soon unless Molson steps up to the plate and addresses it.
Even though Bergevin’s contract isn’t directly impacting the Habs’ performance and he once again implored people to stop speculating about his future, that doesn’t mean they will no matter how hard he tries.
“Montreal’s a different market. The fans are passionate, you guys have your job–We’re a team, I’m part of the team, and I thought it was important to address you today with what’s happening. Nothing more to it than that,” Bergevin said to explain his unexpected media availability. “Montreal’s a different market. The fans are passionate, you guys have your job–We’re a team, I’m part of the team, and I thought it was important to address you today with what’s happening. Nothing more to it than that,” Bergevin said to explain his unexpected media availability.
His contract should have been dealt with already, one way or another. Instead, it will loom large over a team that doesn’t need any more adversity to overcome.
It was somewhat reassuring to hear Bergevin say that “in a perfect world” he wants to return next season at the helm of the Canadiens as he has refrained from taking a position on the matter until now. However, it’s unclear what this perfect world looks like and if it’s even possible at this point.
A Team in Transition
While talk of potential changes in the front office continues, the Canadiens’ on-ice product is also a work in progress, a puzzle that needs to be put back together just a few months removed from a run to the Stanley Cup Final.
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Without Carey Price, Shea Weber, Paul Byron, and Joel Edmundson to start the season in addition to the offseason departures of Phillip Danault, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Corey Perry, Eric Staal, and Tomas Tatar, this is a team searching for leadership and a new identity amidst the roster turnover.
“It’s not an excuse. We have to get through this difficult period just like a lot of teams who are missing key players. Yes, we miss them, but we got to find a way,” Bergevin explained.
Easier said than done considering the crucial pieces that are missing because, to put it bluntly, the Habs’ play through four games has been unacceptable. Sure, they have scored just three goals in that span and Jonathan Drouin is the only forward to find the back of the net, but it’s more than that. The passion and work ethic have been missing. Chemistry has been hard to come by and bad habits began to develop from day one in training camp, a worrying trend that didn’t go unnoticed by Bergevin. They are a team looking for answers and have yet to find any.
Too Early to Panic
As dire as the situation may seem, the Canadiens still have 78 games to work with to right the ship. They are not as bad as their record indicates, but the sense of urgency in their play needs to be ratcheted up several notches. After ten years on the job, Bergevin knows now is not the time to do something drastic that could make the hole even deeper to climb out of.
“I do like our team, there’s some pretty good hockey players downstairs that are not playing up to their potential and until they do, there’s nothing that I am going to do to make a change just to make a change. Change a fourth-line player just to say I’m making a change, I don’t believe in that,” Bergevin added.
It’s status quo for now which means that solutions are going to come from within the dressing room. The leaders will need to ensure that everyone is ready to compete from the opening faceoff while Jake Evans, Cole Caufield, Alexander Romanov, and Nick Suzuki must continue to grow into their expanded roles and handle their additional responsibilities in a high-pressure scenario.
The climb is steep, steeper than anyone could have predicted even though a Stanley Cup Final hangover was anticipated this season. Bergevin believes in his group and expects them to rise to the challenge. While his public vote of confidence was an admirable gesture, it may have ignited the fire surrounding him rather than put it out.
Melissa has been covering the Montreal Canadiens for The Hockey Writers since March of 2020. She is also THW’s Social Media & Marketing Manager as well as co-host of Chicks & Sticks, a weekly show produced by THW. In 2006, she spearheaded the social media initiatives for Tennis Canada and Rogers Cup and was the primary person responsible for their upkeep for over 10 years. She has written articles for multiple tennis websites and interviewed the likes of Roger Federer and Serena Williams. While her career in sports started in tennis, her first love has always been hockey. She has a journalism degree from Concordia University.