It’s a tough time in Montreal right now. Twenty-one games into a season that opened with high hopes, from a franchise that viewed itself as a contender, the Montreal Canadiens are playing like garbage. They’re one of the bottom five teams in the NHL, and their season reached a new humiliation this past week: they became the first team this season to lose in regulation to the abysmal Arizona Coyotes, and then they got curb-stomped on national television by their oldest rival. We’re kind people, so we’re not going to dwell too much on something that I’m sure they’d like to forget, but it’s been really bad.
Man, that must just be awful, to watch your oldest opponent clown you and then to have their franchise centre—perhaps your team’s greatest lack—smile as he nails the coffin shut. I bet they’re really depressed about it. Let’s very sympathetically look at the front page of the Habs site.
Naturally, irate Habs fans have cast about for someone to blame, and they’ve come to a conclusion: general manager Marc Bergevin must go.
This is understandable. After all, Bergevin traded beloved superstar P.K. Subban for a contract that won’t end until 2072. He let his best left-shooting D walk to the KHL for literally no reason and then paid a whack of money to Karl Alzner, who is a large department store mannequin impersonating an NHL defender. He took a look at a team that wasn’t scoring enough and decided to let his second-highest scorer go to Dallas, because he seems to have decided it was time to get rid of all the Russians in Montreal.
He signed Carey Price to a contract that runs nine years into the future based on who Price was three years ago, and didn’t notice that Price’s body is held together by baling wire and Elmer’s School-grade Glue. He traded the best defence prospect in hockey for a scoring winger because the scoring winger was French and then played the scoring winger at 1C because he didn’t have a real 1C. He built a team that was shallow enough at the most important position in hockey that he felt obligated to do the thing in the previous sentence. He traded for Andrew Shaw because I guess the team needed an additional shithead, and one of the picks he gave up turned into Alex Debrincat. Who is a scoring winger, and who has as many points as Jonathan Drouin this season, despite being three years younger.
To gear up for what was allegedly a Cup run last season, he went out and acquired an entire line’s worth of sub-replacement level players, Andreas Martinsen, Dwight King, and Steve Ott. None of those players are even in the NHL this season. Notwithstanding this critical upgrade (?), the Canadiens lost in the first round to the New York Rangers, all of whose players are at least 70 years old. Bergevin’s farm system now consists of a) hoping Ryan Poehling will be good in four years and b) goalie Charlie Lindgren, who will only ever play when Price is injured, so like 45 times a year, and who got tuned up for the first five goals in that game above.
Unkind observers might say that the storied Habs now haven’t won a Cup in 24 years and that Bergevin’s handiwork seems to have them farther away than ever, with multiple albatross contracts for aging players running well into the next decade. Should Marc Bergevin be fired for this state of affairs?
Marc Bergevin is a problem solver. Have all of his moves worked out? Maybe not. But each makes sense when you consider what he was fixing. For example, the Drouin trade fixed the problem that he didn’t have a good young centre, if you ignore the 23-year-old American guy they keep burying on the fourth line. (Guess who has the higher career best in goals and points between Galchenyuk and Drouin. No, seriously, guess!) The Subban trade fixed the problem that someone on the Canadiens was likeable. The Antti Niemi waiver claim fixed the problem that no one had laughed at the Habs for like five entire minutes. Problem. Solved.
Are the problems that Bergevin fixes of his own making? Sometimes. Is his tenure a little bit like a man digging holes in the sand and then filling them up again with different sand that he overpaid for? Perhaps. But Bergevin has the decisive attitude needed to fix this team. He’s going to go out and fix this scoring C problem, by trying and failing to get John Tavares and then settling on Joe Colborne because grit. He’ll fix the defence problem, if the Alzner deal is any indication, by trading for Kris Russell. And when those guys don’t work out, he’ll be ready to make more bold moves to address them. And so on forever.
Marc Bergevin deserves a chance to fix this team, because, honestly, we all need comedy in our lives. He’s probably going to get it, too, because he’s signed until 2022 despite not actually having achieved anything in his tenure. Marc Bergevin’s deal is so bad for the Habs you’d think Marc Bergevin negotiated it. So be patient, Habs fans. Trust the process. Let him fix your team.
Or learn to live with it, because he’s locked you into this core for years anyway.