Canadiens Need to Clean House From the Top Down

The Montreal Canadiens just finished a western road trip that ended in a 1-3 record for a 2-8 record in October. The Habs are off to their worst start since 1941, and with injuries to Mathieu Perreault and Brendan Gallagher, it doesn’t look like they will turn things around anytime soon. They need to hit the reset button, bring new life to the team by changing management and finding a new philosophy.

Canadiens Bergevin in Last Year of Contract

Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin is in the last year of his contract, and so far, there’s no indication he will return next season. There was a deal in place during the playoffs, but it wasn’t signed. Negotiations started during the offseason, but the team reported that there will be no updates on his contract until the end of the season. Bergevin has stated he would like to come back “in a perfect world” but didn’t elaborate on what a perfect world would be.

Marc Bergevin
Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz)

Bergevin says he will honour his contract until it’s over, and so far, you could say that’s true. He signed Nick Suzuki to a long-term deal this month, which helps the Canadiens secure one of their top young players of the future. Other than that, however, he has not done much to address the team’s 2-8 start. He had a meeting with the team after their loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday. What was said surely went something like this: “You guys need to dig your way out of this.” Bergevin has stated many times he will not make a move just to make one, and it’s unlikely he will change his philosophy now.

Ducharme’s Job is Safe for Now

Head coach Dominique Ducharme is in a lot of hot water, and rightfully so. The team sinks or swims, winning (once) by a large margin or losing by one; there’s no in-between. The Habs’ special teams are atrocious, and there is a severe lack of consistency from the players who are playing as individuals instead of a cohesive team. This type of play falls back on the coaching staff, who are responsible for guiding the ship and inserting the right mix of players to do the best job in all situations.

Dominique Ducharme Voltigeurs

Dominique Ducharme now head coach of the Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

The Canadiens lack direction and identity, and Ducharme is the one who has to fix it and quickly. There is a lot of pressure on him, but as long as Bergevin is the GM, he probably will keep his job, at least until the end of the season. The organization is still paying former head coach Claude Julien until the end of this season, and Ducharme just signed a three-year extension. No GM will pay three people to perform one job, even if they have the money. If Bergevin feels there needs to be a change behind the bench, one of the associate coaches, Alex Burrows or Luke Richardson, would probably take over on an interim basis. Most likely, Ducharme will stay behind the bench regardless of how the team does, and if Bergevin doesn’t return, the new GM will hire his own coaching staff.

Canadiens Need a New Philosophy

Bergevin and his staff have been at the helm for ten seasons, which is a long time considering the Canadiens have only made the Stanley Cup Final once in that time. It’s not that Bergevin’s tenure has been a failure. He did win three division titles and went to the Eastern Conference Final once – and might have made the Final if Carey Price hadn’t been injured. He was nominated as the league’s top GM three times, and last season the team won the Clarence Campbell Trophy on their way to the Final.

Bergevin isn’t perfect, but he has been successful; the team only missed the playoffs three times in ten seasons. The knock against his legacy is drafting and development. He drafted twice in the top five, and neither player turned out to be anything special or help the team in any way.

Related: Bergevin’s Impromptu Press Conference Further Highlights Uncertainty Surrounding Canadiens

After ten seasons, even a good plan can get stale. Bergevin has done what he could and learned from his mistakes, but the team is no farther ahead than they were in 2017, despite their run last season. They still have no elite players, an ageing superstar goalie and no one in the minors who can come up and make a difference. Under Bergevin’s tenure, the Canadiens didn’t rebuild or go all-in either; that’s ten years of not heading in any direction, and even with seven years of playoff hockey, the team was never considered a contender. It’s time to move on and look at the team’s state through a new pair of eyes.

Canadiens Owner Needs to Clean House

Canadiens owner Geoff Molson needs to take a step back and reset or rebuild on the ice and in the front office. Bergevin had his time, he had some success and some failures, but that one trip to the Final is not enough to keep him after ten seasons. Molson needs to start from scratch with new management, put a new team in place, and let the Habs go in a new direction or at least have someone with a fresh perspective run the team. Bergevin’s group should have been moving toward becoming contenders this season. Instead, they look more like a rebuilding team that is nowhere close to a championship.

With new management, the Canadiens could evaluate their talent and decide to rebuild from scratch or build on what’s there and see how close they are to contending. On paper, they are not as awful as their record suggests, but until they are assessed by a new pair of eyes, we will never know. A new management team is needed, not just a GM but an entirely new group to run the club. Bergevin had an excellent run, created some good memories, and made some very controversial moves. Ten years, however, is a long time to tread water.

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