What a rollercoaster ride it has been for Canadiens fans since Marc Bergevin took over as General Manager of the team in 2012. In his first summer at the helm, Bergevin managed to lock up then 24-year-old Max Pacioretty to a six-year $27 million contract, 25-year-old Carey Price to a six-year $39 million contract, and 24-year-old P.K. Subban to a steal of a two-year $5.75 million bridge contract. Subban more than proved himself when he took home the Norris trophy in the first season of his contract, and in the second season of their contracts Pacioretty popped 39 goals and Price stole the show all season long en route to claiming the Hart and Vezina trophy.
With a young trio composed of an elite goal scorer, superstar defenseman and arguably the best goaltender in the league tied up to great contracts, the future of the Canadiens looked extremely bright at the conclusion of the 2014 season. Fast-forward four years, and the Canadiens have done a complete 180 and have entrenched themselves as one of the worst teams in the NHL with a bleak future. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly of Marc Bergevin’s tenure.
After finishing second in voting for the GM of the Year Award in 2014, it is clear that Bergevin was doing something right in Montreal. The Pacioretty and Price contracts in 2012 were phenomenal on his part. Acquiring Dale Weise and eventually flipping him for Phillip Danault both seemed like small deals but ended up being crucial moves. Claiming Paul Byron off waivers is potentially one of the best waiver claims of all-time. Taking a gamble on Alex Radulov wanting to return to the NHL paid dividends. Bergevin’s clearly had no shortage of seemingly genius moves during his time in Montreal.
Pacioretty’s contract is indisputably one of the best in the NHL. Since the start of the 2013 season, he’s ranked seventh in goals scored, sitting ahead the likes of Jamie Benn, John Tavares, and Brad Marchand and just behind Patrick Kane, Vladimir Tarasenko and Sidney Crosby. With a cap hit of $4.5 million a season, that’s less than half of what some of these players make, making him a bargain for cost per goal. He has been the most consistent goal scorer the Canadiens have seen in a long time.
At $6.5 million a season, Price has the fifth highest contract among goalies as of right now. Considering the level he’s played at since inking that deal, it’s no surprise that he’s getting a massive bump to $10.5 million starting next year. A lot of people criticized the amount of the extension, but Bergevin’s hands were tied. Price was going to get the money on the market, and the Canadiens would have been in shambles if he walked away.
When Bergevin shipped Raphael Diaz off to Vancouver for Dale Weise, nobody predicted that Weise would play such a pivotal role on the Canadiens. Pretty much the same could be said when Jeff Petry was acquired for a couple of low draft picks. Weise played the best hockey of his career during his short stint in Montreal, and Petry established himself as a legitimate top pairing defenseman. Bergevin has done a decent job of acquiring lower-end players for cheap and allowing them to flourish with the Canadiens.
No GM is perfect. Bad contracts are offered, poor trades are made. But the fact that the Canadiens are currently sitting with approximately $7.5 million in unused cap space while Andrei Markov and Alexander Radulov are playing elsewhere is abysmal. It just doesn’t make sense. How can you dish $4.625 million to Karl Alzner for five years but let Markov walk? Not only that, how does Bergevin then sit tight at the deadline instead of eating a couple of bad contracts from other teams in exchange for draft picks or prospects?
Radulov understandably went to the Dallas Stars, but with a ton of cap space how did he not up his offer to him to entice him to stay? He was one of the brightest spots on the team last year, and was the definition of character that Bergevin is weirdly obsessed with. Radulov brought a high intensity with his game and was proud to sport the Canadiens jersey.
The only situation that would make these moves sensible is that Bergevin is holding out hope that John Tavares hits the market this summer. Perhaps he knows something we do not. Every day that passes that Tavares does not sign an extension makes me believe that he wants to move on from the Islanders. If he does end up testing free agency, Bergevin will at least have enough space to muster up a legitimate offer for him. Sadly, the current state of the organization may not do much to lure Tavares to La Belle Province.
With that being said, since taking over in 2012 Bergevin has had a rough time picking quality players in his drafts. Aside from the selections of Lehkonen, Scherbak, Juulsen and Sergachev, Bergevin has had no luck so far. This does not bode well for the Canadiens’ future, and it only adds to Bergevin’s destruction of the franchise.
We all knew it was coming down to this, and nearly two years later it’s perfectly fine to say that the P.K. Subban trade was downright awful. This is not to say that the Canadiens would be better off with Subban today, because Weber has still played at an elite level. The only problem is that Bergevin essentially went all in with the trade and created an extremely short window, and two seasons later that window is now practically shut. Weber is turning 33-years-old this summer, and is already showing signs of regression. Meanwhile, Subban is playing arguably the best hockey of his career in Nashville at the moment and is just now entering his prime. There’s nothing else to it.
On another note, Bergevin has said that top centres simply aren’t available. The fact that the Canadiens haven’t had a true number one centre in over a decade is absolutely astonishing. Yet somehow, other teams are trading their top centres constantly. Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansen, Derrick Brassard, and Paul Stastny have all been swapped recently to name a few. Whether Bergevin was in on negotiations for any of these players or not, it’s downright embarrassing at this point that he hasn’t been able to fill the void down the middle either by trade or through the draft.
The blame on the demise of the Canadiens can’t be put anywhere else but on Bergevin’s hands now. The injuries and bad luck excuse is played out at this point. It can’t be coaching problems, since Michel Therrien was dismissed things have gotten even worse under Claude Julien.
Bergevin was blessed with a core of surreal young players when he showed up in 2012, and blew it up for absolutely no good reason. It’s not clear what his plan is going into the off-season, but it seems rather imminent at this point that Pacioretty is on his way out, and who knows who else. If Geoff Molson decides to stick with Bergevin, this is likely his last chance to prove that he can steer the Canadiens back in the right direction.