Canadiens Fans Don’t Get Any Answers on Bergevin’s Future

Love or hate him, there is no question that Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin had his fingerprints all over the Habs’ Stanley Cup Final run. He said he wanted a bigger and faster team that can play any way they want, and he went out and got bigger, faster players. The regular season was a challenge, but it all paid off for Bergevin in a glorious playoff run that ended in a 4-1 series loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Final. After nine seasons at the Canadiens’ helm, Bergevin has entered the final year of his contract – during his end-of-season presser, he was reticent about his future in Montreal.

The Tale of Two Bergevins

To best evaluate Bergevin’s’ nine-year tenure with the Canadiens, you almost have to split his term in two. From 2012 to 2017, a young, inexperienced GM was trying to build a team without starting from scratch. It seemed as though he wanted to dismantle the team he had, while simultaneously wanting it to be a playoff team, which just can’t be done. He had a good core of young players such as Carey Price, Brendan Gallagher, P.K. Subban, Max Pacioretty, and Alex Galchenyuk but failed to add to it to improve the team.

Marc Bergevin Montreal Canadiens
Marc Bergevin, Montreal Canadiens, 2019 NHL Draft (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With ample success in his first five seasons – including an Eastern Conference Final run in 2014 – Bergevin and the Canadiens seemed like they were poised to become a Stanley Cup contender. Alas, Bergevin had no idea how to build on his young core, and the team became stagnant and remained mediocre. He failed to acquire a top center to accommodate his top scorer in Pacioretty and failed to obtain an adequate backup for Price. By the time 2017 rolled around, the Canadiens were moving backward and the core was aging or had moved to other teams.

During Bergevin’s first five seasons, he made many mistakes: signing Karl Alzner to a terrible deal, letting fan favorites Andrei Markov and Alexander Radulov walk away then not replacing them with anyone significant, and never acquiring a top-line center. Then, in 2018, he decided to do a retool and concentrated more on drafting and development, and not spending money on UFAs. The on-ice results were not as good – Montreal made the playoffs only twice, both times during the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, the team was finally coming together with the correct mix of youth and veterans, culminating in the Canadiens making it to the Cup Final earlier than anyone expected. The 2018 version of Bergevin is what everyone wanted in 2012.

A Roller Coaster Season with a Heartbreaking End

The shortened 2020-21 season had plenty of ups and downs for the Canadiens and Bergevin. They started the season 7-1-2, but by the end of February, they were 9-6-5 and at the end of a five-game losing streak. Bergevin decided substantial changes were needed and fired head coach Claude Julien and associate coach Kirk Muller. A few days later, he also fired beloved goaltending coach Stephane Waite. Bergevin assigned Dominque Ducharme to the position of interim head coach, promoted assistant coach Alex Burrows from Laval to replace Muller, and hired Sean Burke to replace Waite. Then in March, when they were still finding their footing with the new coaching staff, the team was hit with COVID-19 and was forced to condense the schedule even more, playing – on average – four games a week to finish the season.

Although the Canadiens couldn’t find consistency during the regular season, they made the playoffs and faced the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round. Montreal went down 3-1 in the series, but won the next three games to move on to the next round. They won two more series and secured a berth in the Stanley Cup Final before losing in five games to the Lightning. The Canadiens beat all odds to make it to the Final, but ran out of gas near the finish line.

Bergevin’s Future in Doubt with the Canadiens

Next season will be the last one of Bergevin’s contract. It’ll be his 10th as GM of the Canadiens, making the longest-tenured GM since Serge Savard, who served in the role for 12 seasons from 1983 to 1995. There was talk during the playoffs that Bergevin was offered a three-year extension, but neither Canadiens’ owner Geoff Molson nor Bergevin ever confirmed this. Bergevin was asked about his future during his end-of-season presser, and his answer was very cryptic, almost like he wanted to avoid the question. Bergevin was asked by Eric Engels of Sportsnet if he’d like to continue, and Bergevin replied, “I have one year left on my contract, and I will honour that.”

“I really, honestly, it ended just two days ago, I haven’t had time to think about anything. I have another year under contract, so nothing’s pressing.”

Marc Bergevin

Bergevin is never one to talk about things that haven’t happened yet or that he isn’t directly involved with. Usually, this is player contracts or players on other teams. When talking about his own contract, though, he was even more tight-lipped, just stating he will honour his current obligation. This leads to much conjecture as to what happens next with Bergevin. Will he be back after next season, or will he move to a different role? He said during the playoffs that if the Habs won the Cup, he could retire; he also confessed that this season was a tough year for him mentally.

Whether Bergevin decides to return remains to be seen; however, there is a lot of work to do this offseason in a short amount of time. The expansion draft is on July 21, and then two days later is the entry draft, then, on the 28th of July, the free-agent window opens – not to mention the fact that he has to hire a new coach for the Laval Rocket and give Ducharme a contract extension. All this talk could be Bergevin’s way of pushing the spotlight off of him and onto the Canadiens, or he could not want to work on his contract until he feels the need to focus on next season preparations is over. As always happens with Bergevin and the Canadiens, there will be lots of speculation and rumours until something is announced.

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