The Montreal Canadiens are simply not the same team today as the one fans watched make an improbable post-season run less than half a year ago and over the weekend the team fired general manager Marc Bergevin after more than nine years with the organization.
“Despite the fact that this journey is coming to an end, I am proud of the legacy I'm leaving within the organization,” Bergevin, 56, wrote in a statement posted to the team’s website. “The current team is much better than the results show, and I am convinced that my successors will be able to rise to the challenge.”
Short-term, that legacy comment might be tough to hear if you cheer for the Canadiens considering five months ago your team was competing in the Stanley Cup Final, whereas just past the quarter-mark of 2021-22 the team ranks 30th in points percentage and are without their captain and franchise goalie.
Long-term, though, the outlook is brighter with Nick Suzuki, Christian Dvorak, Josh Anderson, Brendan Gallagher, Joel Armia, Jeff Petry and David Savard locked up through at least 2025, plus the team’s 2022 draft pick stockpile is in above-average shape with four additional picks currently available as assets.
“The last years have been high in both emotions and learnings,” Bergevin added in his statement. “You have witnessed my journey leading the organization. You won't be surprised to hear me say it has not been a long, quiet river, and at times, it felt like we were living in a TV show.”
And, like many TV shows, Bergevin’s moves ranged from good to bad to downright wild. So with that in mind and Bergevin’s tenure as Canadiens GM officially over, let’s look back at some of his best, worst and wildest moves whilst he sat in the team’s front office for nearly a full decade.
It’s pretty much a slam dunk answer that the best overall move Bergevin made for Montreal was acquiring Jeff Petry from Edmonton for second- and fourth-round picks in 2015 and eventually locking him up for an additional 10 cap-friendly contract years. Petry’s 170 points from 2017-18 through to the start of this season ranks 12th among all blueliners in the league.
Another great move from Bergevin was a deal he executed with his former team in 2016. No, the Canadiens weren’t able to re-sign Phillip Danault this past off-season, but that doesn’t negate what a great trade it ended up being for Montreal when Bergevin packaged Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise and sent them to Chicago for Danault and a second-round draft pick that became Alexander Romanov.
In 2018, with one year left before Max Pacioretty’s contract was set to expire, Bergevin looked to the future and received Suzuki and Tomas Tatar in exchange for the star winger. Pacioretty has continued scoring in Vegas, but Tatar provided solid depth during his three-year stint in Montreal and Suzuki is a key part of the franchise’s future.
Another recent move that has seen positive early returns was signing Tyler Toffoli to a four-year, $17 million contract two summers ago. The 29-year-old led the team in goals and points last season and is tied for the team lead in points through 23 games this season.
If you’ve happened to peruse social media over the years whenever Bergevin made a notable move then you likely read (and watched and listened to) copious hot takes lambasting Bergevin for his various decisions.
Obviously, not all criticism was warranted but one move that was universally questioned right from the beginning was when he inked Karl Alzner to a five-year contract worth more than $23 million on the open market in 2017. Alzner was a depreciating asset by NHL standards at the time and the experiment had somewhat predictable results. Alzner only played one full season in Montreal and was placed on unconditional waivers in 2020.
The 2012 NHL Draft wasn’t incredibly rich with NHL all-stars, and Alex Galchenyuk has played close to 600 NHL games, however his selection at No. 3 overall didn’t provide much relative value to Montreal. It was Bergevin’s first draft as GM. Galchenyuk reached the 20-goal plateau twice in his first four seasons, but never developed into the elite top-line offensive threat Montreal had envisioned he’d become after his junior career with the Sarnia Sting.
Galchenyuk was traded to the Coyotes for Max Domi straight up in 2018. In 2020, Domi and a third-round pick were flipped to Columbus in exchange for Josh Anderson. Essentially, in relatively quick succession, Bergevin turned 2012’s No. 3 pick into the player selected 95th overall in the same draft.
Speaking of third-overall selections, Bergevin took Jesperi Kotkaniemi ahead of Brady Tkachuk, Quinn Hughes and others in 2018. Considering how that saga eventually ended (more on that below) it could be considered another L.
Although there’s certainly high hopes for Cole Caufield, Bergevin’s consensus best first-round selection with the Canadiens was when he chose defenceman Mikhail Sergachev with the ninth-overall pick in 2016. Sergachev only played four regular-season games with Montreal before he was traded to Tampa Bay for Jonathan Drouin. Sergachev has averaged more than 30 points and 18:30 minutes of ice-time per season with the Lightning and helped them win two Stanley Cups. Meanwhile, Drouin has a paltry 12 total goals since the 2018-19 campaign.
The selection of Logan Mailloux with the team’s 2021 first-round pick at the NHL Draft this past July was also a head-scratcher – for an entirely different set of reasons – and worth mentioning here.
Mailloux was criminally convicted and fined by Swedish authorities in December of 2020 for distributing without consent a photo of a woman performing a sexual act. The teenaged defenceman, a player with the OHL’s London Knights, released a statement prior to the 2021 NHL Draft asking teams to not select him. Suffice it to say Bergevin taking a prospect under these circumstances – in the first round no less – was awful optics and Bergevin was publicly panned for it.
When you include draft pick swaps, Bergevin made around 100 trades during his time in Montreal and none were bigger or more out-of-the-blue than when he traded P.K. Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber – one of three blockbuster moves on June 29, 2016 that shook up the NHL landscape in an exhilarating 23-minute sequence.
The kneejerk reaction from a large chunk of hockey media and fans alike was to quickly dub the Canadiens losers in the deal. Subban, after all, was the 2013 Norris winner and a finalist again in 2015 before he set a career high in goals and became a three-time Norris finalist in his second year with the Preds. Subban’s stock dropped in the years following as Weber settled in as a leader in Montreal’s locker room, was named captain in 2018 and helped lead a run the Cup final before injuries forced him away from the game.
That was quite the week for Bergevin in the summer of 2016 since five days earlier he traded Lars Eller to Washington for a pair of second-rounders and spent a pair of second-round picks to acquire Andrew Shaw from Chicago. The picks Montreal received from the Capitals didn’t turn into any viable NHL-calibre asset and one of the picks the Blackhawks got turned into Alex Debrincat.
Two days after adding Weber, Bergevin signed Alexander Radulov to his first NHL contract in several years after a notorious split from the Predators and leaving for the KHL four years prior.
While the Weber-Subban trade will go down as his most notable and wildest overall, another unexpected action (or inaction) was Bergevin deciding to not match the offer sheet Kotkaniemi signed with Carolina in September, just prior to the 2021-22 season.
There seems to be talk annually about which RFAs might sign an offer sheet, but it’s usually just hot air, and when it's not teams usually quickly decide to match. Bergevin didn't, Kotkaniemi left and Bergevin ended up using a compensatory first-round pick to swing a trade for Christian Dvorak so one day, with the benefit of hindsight, that offer sheet fiasco could could go down as a win for the franchise and one of Bergevin’s final lasting marks on the team.