Perhaps most satisfying in this is the knowledge that Geoff Molson and Serge Savard took their time and did their research. They seemed to investigate every lead. In addition to Bergevin, McGuire, and Brisebois, they looked at Jim Nill, Pat Brisson, Vincent Damphousse, Blair Mackasey, Ron Hextall, Luc Robitaille, Claude Loiselle, Patrick Roy, and undoubtedly a number of others we may not have heard about as part of the process. And they settled on Bergevin, a guy with the experience necessary to succeed in the role.
Bergevin, 46, is a native of Montreal and former National Hockey League defenseman who played 1,191 games split between the Chicago Blackhawks, Vancouver Canucks, Tampa Bay Lightning, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues, Detroit Red Wings, Hartford Whalers, and New York Islanders (but never the Canadiens). In an interview in 1992, he actually comically stated that growing up as a Habs fan, he never felt he was "good enough" to play for the Canadiens:
He retired in 2004 and joined the Blackhawks staff, first as a Pro Scout, then an Assistant Coach, then the Director of Player Personnel, and finally Assistant General Manager last summer. Though he has never been at a team's helm, he has experience in all relevant areas, and as such I named him as my pick for the GM job (outside of Jim Nill) from the search's get-go.
Rick Dudley, currently serving in Toronto's front office, knows Bergevin well, and stated that in his eyes, Bergevin is in the top 1% of talent evaluators around the league. While the Habs have been blessed with a pretty good set of eyes on the prospect front in Trevor Timmins, the team's Pro Scouting has been spotty over the years, so Bergevin will be a welcome addition to the management team. Bergevin has a strong book of contacts around the league and is well-liked and respected, important traits iin a General Manager. Plus, on a personal level, he is known to have a good sense of humour with a joker/prankster reputation, which may be a welcome change from the dry Pierre Gauthier.
Speaking of the management team, what we don't know yet is what will happen to the rest of the front office. I hope Trevor Timmins is given the respect he deserves and that the club keeps him in his post, but this will have to be discussed with Bergevin. There is also Larry Carriere to consider, currently in the role of Assistant GM, but it is customary for a General Manager to bring in his people to surround him. Thus, it isn't impossible that there may be movement on that front in the coming hours or days as well. Stay tuned, but for now, this is a move in the right direction to restore the Canadiens as a Glorieux organization.
And as if the appointing of a new GM wasn't big enough news, SportsNet's Louis Jean announced on radio this morning that the Habs would buy out Scott Gomez's contract. But not so fast. First, Louis Jean claimed Dave Morissette of TVA Sports was his source, and Morissette is far from a credible or reliable news-breaker. Further, the NHL buyout period doesn't open till June 15th, so there is no sense in making such an announcement today. Not only that, but the current NHL CBA expires at season's end, and who knows what buyout clauses may be included in the new convention. So don't buy this one, Habs fans. It is possible the brass has concluded Gomez won't be back, but how they'll get rid of him remains to be seen.
UPDATE: Some early takes on Bergevin:
- Pat Brisson, a good friend of Bergevin's, and influencial NHL agent whose client list includes Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, the Sedin Brothers, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Kane:
"One of his biggest strengths is that he knows what he knows, and also knows what he doesn't know. When he doesn't have an answer, he'll look to find it quickly. He has a great personality, which is something the Canadiens really needed. He's gone through all the steps, from being a player for 20 years, to being an amateur and pro scout, to an assistant coach and assistant GM. It's like as if the Habs hired someone out of Harvard. I'm very happy for him and proud of him."
- Stan Bowman, Chicago Blackhawks GM, who last summer made Bergevin his assistant:
"It's never easy to lose someone of Bergevin's calibre, both professionally and personally. It is a tremendous opportunity for him and his family. He has played a significant role in our success over the last several years as a member of the front office and coaching staff. I want to personally thank him for his dedication to our organization and certainly wish him all the best in Montreal."
- Darren Dreger, TSN Hockey Insider:
"Tough task of first firing coaching staff. Can't leave Randy Cunneyworth and Randy Ladouceur hanging. The Leafs haven't yet been asked by the Canadiens about speaking with Rick Dudley (Assistant GM since last June), but expect Dudley and Martin Lapointe (Pro Scout in Chicago since 2009) to be among Bergevin's early hires."
UPDATE: MARC BERGEVIN PRESS CONFERENCE
If his inaugural press conference was a first test, it seems Marc Bergevin passed with flying colours. He was funny, making jokes that included:
- "I played for 8 NHL teams. I changed teams so often that my luggage was usually a team behind."
- "Thanks to Geoff Molson for his praise, even if he went a little overboard."
- (journalist says, "I sent you an e-mail a while back, not sure if you got it.") "It's probably in my Spam folder."
Signed to a five year contract, Bergevin repeated consistently that it's only his first day on the job and thus he couldn't comment much about specific players, though clearly indicated that Carey Price, as one of the game's top young goaltender, was a cornerstone to build around and would be a top priority this summer. "When you have goaltending like that, you're a step ahead of the game."
Some other "reveals":
- Randy Cunneyworth has been relieved as Interim Head Coach and returns to the Assistant Coach role (along with Randy Ladouceur). A new Head Coach will be hired, and it will be that person's decision as to who they want beside them on the bench.
- Bergevin likes Trevor Timmins's work, and Timmins will still be at the Habs' draft table in June.
- Bergevin calls Larry Carriere a good and respected person who knows his hockey. Says Carriere will remain a part of his staff, but that he isn't opposed to bringing in absolutely anyone else that could help the organization in any capacity. Wants to build a team around him, and decisions will be by committee. First step is to analyze people who are currently in place.
- Bergevin says that yes, it is important for there to be French players on the Montreal Canadiens. Says number one goal is to win, but there are good Francophones around the NHL. Indicates that the QMJHL is in the team's backyard and there is presently just one scout there; that has to and WILL change. Having more scouts in the area decreases chances of the team missing out on homegrown talent.
- Confirmation that the TVASports story about Scott Gomez this morning is pre-emptive and garbage. No decisions have been made about Gomez yet, and Bergevin, who repeatedly reminded reporters that it's his first day and he only saw the team play twice this past season, will evaluate all cases in the coming days and weeks. In an interview with RDS, Geoff Molson added that money isn't an object when it comes to re-structuring the team (specifically in regards to Gomez). Says there is a Salary Cap, but will do whatever it takes to win.
- Bergevin feels there's a good nucleus in place, but talked a lot about a team mentality requiring all sorts of players, with everyone contributing. Says he won't stand for individualist approaches; everyone needs to put the betterment of the team first. Can't build a team with all toughness or all skill; need the right amount of everything.
- Bergevin says the Head Coach will be a group decision, but he wants someone who is well-respected and a natural leader. Looks at Joel Quenneville as an example. It's important for the head coach to be bilingual.
- With regards to the upcoming draft, all options are on the table. The pick could be used, traded, or anything else, whatever Bergevin and staff feel is best for building a winning team. He doesn't believe in rushing prospects to the NHL; if they're ready, then no problem, but doesn't like promoting a player too quickly.