It has been a fairly long season for the Montreal Canadiens, however, this isn’t just the case on the ice as it has felt that way in the team’s front office as well with plenty of rumour circulation having flown by with regards to the status of certain club executives.
With this in mind, general manager Marc Bergevin is more than aware of the fact that his position with the organization has been questioned plenty by fans on the outside looking in given the poor nightly performances made by the injury-stricken Habs.
It was on Monday night at the Bell Centre playing host to the Florida Panthers that Claude Julien and his club were officially eliminated from playoff contention as goaltender Roberto Luongo blanked them with a 28 save performance while Aleksander Barkov and Aaron Ekblad led the way to victory as they continue to inch closer to postseason participation in April.
Some may be asking themselves why is it that a franchise with such history behind it has been struggling to such an extent over the course of the season and to be quite frank with you, there may just be a variety of answers to that question of yours.
For starters, the team ultimately had a change in leadership in February of 2017 when Michel Therrien was fired while being replaced by Claude Julien who had come over from the Boston Bruins to take back his old job and for the third time in his coaching career.
This was due to the Habs longstanding struggle to produce not just points but goals as well, therefore, on a constant streak of loosing with nothing to show on even the skills front. Several reports also indicated that this may have had something to do with problems which had arisen on occasion in the clubhouse between the long-tenured head coach and veteran defensemen P.K. Subban now with the Nashville Predators.
In mentioning the NHL Trade Deadline blockbuster involving Subban for Weber, truly not a single individual can say they had seen such a move coming as the 28-year-old native of Rexdale, Ontario had been the life and spirit of the Canadiens organization and on a variety of levels. This of course was all before having been sent out to Music City in Tennessee and to this day, still without an explanation of any sort which perhaps remains owed and at a later date.
Bergevin, who has been with the club since May of 2012, is also known to be the brains of operations behind the scenes of Canadiens hockey at the Bell Centre. What exactly do I mean by this?
When you look at NHL general managers from the outside looking in, what many realize and do so almost instantly is that unlike all other executives throughout the league, Bergevin is what can be referred to as a “big-time player”, seeking out the game’s best talents and brining them to Quebec to play on the biggest stage at Centre Bell, home to such a storied history since having opened in 1996.
Anyways, back to the open holes and their new fillers for the present time and possibly near future as well, Bruce Cassidy finds himself now replacing Julien behind the Bruins bench at TD Garden, meanwhile, defensemen Shea Weber has been holding down the fort on defence for Montreal.
Taking a step back to Bergevin, the main focus here, it would be more than a fair assumption to say that there was certainly some doubt about his status with the team given some questionable decisions which at time have shown as proof of just that, however, president and CEO Geoff Molson cleared the air on Saturday with the local media while sharing his confidence with both RDS as well as the Montreal Gazette.
In doing so, the Canadian businessman opened by mentioning the fact that a comprehensive assessment will be conducted at all levels of the organization during the offseason, but Bergevin will remain as GM.
Further more in regards to the play of his slumping organization, Molson said, “We all know it’s a very difficult season for us in all areas. Marc and I are talking about it all the time. He knows that team performance at all levels is unacceptable and we have a plan to fix it.
As he continued, Molson added on, “I’m talking about all areas: leadership, development, recruitment, players on the team. We need to improve, we must become better. We have not been able to do that this year. We will succeed, I trust Marc to manage this transition, but he is aware that it needs to improve.”
In closing, Molson wrapped up by saying he is confident the Canadiens’ fortunes can improve quickly, noting the Tampa Bay Lightning missed the playoffs last year and are now one of the best teams in the NHL with a 48-18-4 record, trailing only the Nashville Predators (46-14-10) in the overall standings through Thursday’s games.
Taking a look now at another trade Bergevin managed to pull off in the name of surprise, Nathan Beaulieu was dealt to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for left winger Nicholas Deslauriers who has since been locked up to a two-year extension.
This one was certainly done in Montreal’s favour given that Deslauriers surged immediately upon his recall from Laval as he scored eight goals with the Habs totalling for 12 points in forty-nine games, meanwhile, also recording four assists while racking up forty-nine minutes seated in the penalty box.
Now onto the more recent trades, Bergevin sent veteran goaltender Al Montoya to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for defensemen Brandon Davidson back in February amidst a persistent downfall in numbers when playing backup to Carey Price.
Since that time, Bergevin has only continued to do what he supposedly does best which is build depth to his roster and clearing space as he sees fit. With that in mind, he has traded Jakub Jerabek to the Washington Capitals in exchange for a fifth round pick in 2019 while he also traded Joe Morrow to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for a fourth round pick in 2018.
After letting this play out for just a short time, Bergevin also managed to swing a deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs, sending Tomas Plekanec and Kyle Baun north of the border in exchange for yet another draft pick as well as Rinat Valiev and Kerby Rychel who have continued to go up and down while seeing their majority of playing time at the American Hockey League level.
One more move to make note of would be the acquisition of Mike Reilly from the Minnesota Wild who has only shown improvements in places he once stumbled given he came from a team who happen to be one of the worst possession teams in the NHL to a team now looking to make a significant leap forwards.
Going into his seventh full season with the Montreal Canadiens, Bergevin is definitely aware of what has to be done in order to get a winner back home and producing and will aim to do just that with a reset over the course of the offseason which can hopefully lead them back to successful postseason play as they get set to miss the playoffs for the second time in three seasons when it begins in early April.
After falling 4-0 to Toronto on Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre, the Canadiens, who currently hold a record of 26-35-12, look to get back in the win column on Friday night on the road when they pay a visit to the Sabres at KeyBank Centre in Buffalo.
Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00pmET and can be seen on TSN2 and RDS, meanwhile, it can be heard on 98;5FM and TSN Radio 690 Montreal.