Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin did a masterful job crafting this team into a Stanley Cup contender, following a dismal 2011-12 season that saw the Habs miss the playoffs for the first time in five years. Bergevin was right into bringing back Michel Therrien to coach the Habs in 2012-13. He was smart to draft Alex Galchenyuk, while extending guys like Max Pacioretty, Brendan Gallagher and Jeff Petry to team-friendly extensions. For the most part, Bergevin has been a wonderful GM and deserves all the credit in the world for making this team an annual championship contender.
But no human comes without their mistakes, and Bergevin has made his fair share of questionable moves. His drafting has been abysmal as of late, he hasn’t always spent right in free agency and many of his trades have failed to pan out. Here is a look at the 15 worst moves (thus far), from the Habs’ general manager.
16. Forcing Markov To Leave
Andrei Markov has become a legend of the Montreal Canadiens. For nearly twenty years he was a mainstay on the Habs blue line, and was a great contributor to their powerplay. Despite having stayed with the team through thick and thin, Marc Bergevin opted to not give Markov another chance after his most recent contract expired. While it is understandable that Markov was definitely getting up in the years and his production wasn’t what it used to be, he was still a very valuable contributor to the Habs line up. Although it would have been great to see Markov hang them up as a Hab for life, the fans just won’t get to see that.
15. Trading Nathan Beaulieu
The Canadiens drafted Beaulieu 17th overall in 2011 (the year before Bergevin assumed the role as GM), hoping he could blossom into a top-four defenceman. Though the 6-foot-2 Strathroy, Ont. native has yet to fully reach his potential, he was a very solid second-pairing blueliner for the Habs. He brought good size/physicality and played a solid shutdown role.
Nonetheless, Bergevin gave up on Beaulieu and shipped him to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for a mere third round pick in 2017. Beaulieu only accounts for a $2.4 million cap hit, and this trade made no sense when you consider the Habs also lost Alexei Emelin in the expansion draft. The Habs enter 2017-18 without two of their top-five defenceman from a season ago. Considering they got very little value for Beaulieu, the Habs likely won’t ever be pleased that Bergevin made this deal.
14. Cutting Ties With Mike Condon
With Carey Price missing most of 2015-16 because of a sprained MCL, the Habs chose to hand over rookie backup Mike Condon the starting reigns for much of the season. That was confusing enough as is, considering the amount of quality backup goalies available at any given time. Unsurprisingly, Condon struggled with a 21-25-6 record, .903 save percentage and 2.71 goals against average. The Habs fell apart as a team without Price, and Condon certainly wasn’t to blame for that.
Nonetheless, the Canadiens placed him on waivers, where he was picked up by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Condon was then sent to the Ottawa Senators, where he posted a stellar 19-14-6 record. Perhaps they should have given Condon a chance remain Price’s backup, considering the disappointing season Al Montoya had in 2016-17.
13. Trading For George Parros
The Canadiens were desperate to add some size after a dreadful first round exit at the hands of the Senators in 2013. So Bergevin traded for 6-foot-5 heavyweight George Parros, giving away nothing more than a prospect and seventh round pick. Parros was to simply agitate the opposition while protecting Montreal’s smaller players, but he wasn’t able to do much of anything.
Parros – the guy with a slick moustache and cool rock star hair – would play just 22 games and finished with an assist. He also posted a whopping 85 penalty minutes, which obviously didn’t do anything to help the team out. Parros barely played and was frequently a healthy scratch. The Canadiens opted not to re-sign him at the end of the season, and Parros would ultimately retire.
12. Letting Thomas Vanek Go
The Canadiens picked up Vanek at the 2014 trade deadline, hoping he was the final piece to a championship puzzle. Vanek fit in nicely for the Habs, scoring six goals and 15 points in just 18 games. He turned out to be a big weapon in the playoffs, scoring 10 points in 17 games as the Habs fell two games short of reaching the Stanley Cup Final.
But Vanek was inconsistent during the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers, and it appeared to be a key reason why the Habs let Vanek go. When all was said and done, he joined the Minnesota Wild on a three-year deal. The Canadiens weren’t able to find a suitable replacement for him on the left wing, and their starving offence cost them a Cup in 2015 and a playoff berth in 2016. With plenty of cap space and few quality scorers, Bergevin had every reason to keep Vanek rather than let him go.
11. Signing Douglas Murray
Looking to add some beef on the blue line, Bergevin signed 6-foot-3 stay-at-home defenceman Douglas Murray to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million in 2013. With strong defensive play and plenty of playoff games on his resume, Murray looked like a bargain of a signing for Bergevin. But that wouldn’t turn out to be the case.
Murray struggled to find a spot on the roster. He played just 53 games and was inconsistent all-around, posting just two assists while struggling to play in his own zone. The Canadiens wouldn’t re-sign him, and it would be Murray’s last year in the NHL before he went to play overseas. Bergevin thought he found himself a suitable top-four defenceman, but Murray turned out to be a massive disappointment for the Canadiens.
10. Drafting Michael McCarron
Hoping he could get more size and scoring up front, Bergevin drafted 6-foot-6, 231-pound winger Michael McCarron with the 25th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. McCarron shined for the London Knights of the OHL and appeared to be a terrific find at the time. But four years later, we’re still waiting for McCarron to break out.
Thus far, McCarron has appeared in just 51 games and has two goals with seven assists. While the jury is still out on whether or not he reaches his full potential, we can only take a look at other studs that Bergevin passed on. He had the chance to draft standout defenceman Shea Theodore, who was taken after McCarron. Sidney Crosby’s linemate Jake Guentzel was also available, as was Anthony Duclair and 2017 Hobey Baker winner, Will Butcher.
9. Drafting Nikita Scherbak
Bergevin drafted Russian winger Nikita Scherbak with the 26th selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Scherbak was coming off a 28-goal, 78-point season with the Saskatoon Blades of the OHL, and looked like a nice find for Bergevin. But over three years later, Scherbak has shown zero signs of being a capable NHL player.
He was called up for just three games during the 2016-17 season, and registered a single goal. But considering the Habs have good depth on the wing in Ales Hemsky, Andrew Shaw and Brendan Gallagher, Scherbak has a long way to go if he wants to secure a roster spot. Bergevin had the chance to draft other high-end prospects who are on the verge of NHL superstardom, including Josh Ho-Sang, Brendan Lemieux, Brandon Montour and Christian Dvorak. But as of now, Scherbak has been among Bergevin’s most disappointing draft selections.
8. Giving Andrew Shaw Too Much Cash
Shaw was instrumental in helping the Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in 2013 and 2015. One of the game’s ultra pests, Shaw was good for 14-20 goals a year in the Windy City, which was impressive when you consider he was typically a bottom-six forward. But the Blackhawks – who have been hit hard by the salary cap over the years – had no choice but to trade Shaw and save cap space.
So at the 2016 NHL Draft, they traded Shaw to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for two second round picks. Shaw was then extended for six years worth $23.4 million. That’s a lot of money for a guy who never scored more than 39 points in a season. Shaw figuratively didn’t live up to the contract last season, scoring just 12 goals and 29 points in 68 games for the Habs. It doesn’t look like Bergevin is gonna get his money worth on this one.
7. Drafting Zach Fucale
Despite already owning a world class goalie in Carey Price and a suitable backup in Peter Budaj, the Canadiens felt the need to increase their depth in goal. So Bergevin drafted goalie Zach Fucale with the 36th selection in 2013. Fucale backstopped Canada to gold at the 2015 World Juniors and quickly made a name for himself. However, his NHL career has not taken off yet, and it’s unlikely he’ll ever flourish in Montreal.
Fucale hasn’t played a single NHL game yet, nor has he even made it to the AHL. The Habs just locked up Price to an eight-year extension that ensures he’s a Hab for life. Al Montoya is a decent enough backup, too. So why in the world did the Habs draft Fucale? Not just because he hasn’t progressed, but because there never was a reason for them to add him. This likely won’t go down as one of Bergevin’s better picks.
6. Not Firing Michel Therrien Earlier
The Canadiens could have considered firing Michel Therrien after yet another disappointing playoff exit at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2015. But the front office once again gave Therrien a vote of confidence, but we could at least justify the reason for him to stay on as bench boss.
However, the Habs had no reason to keep Therrien around for the entire 2015-16 season. They played worse every month once Price went down in November, and they should have fired him early in the new year. Instead, the Habs sunk to the bottom of the NHL standings and never recuperated. Finally, Therrien was fired and replaced by Claude Julien in Feb. 2017. Had Bergevin fired him earlier in 2015-16, the Canadiens could have been a playoff team. Therrien wore out his welcome well before the Habs terminated the contract.
5. Signing Daniel Briere
Even though it was clear that Daniel Briere was well past his playing prime, Bergevin couldn’t help but sign him to a two-year contract worth $8 million during the 2013 offseason. Briere was 36 years of age and was injury prone, so it didn’t make sense to give him that much money.
Briere obviously struggled with the Canadiens, scoring just 13 goals and 25 points in 69 games – though Montreal would reach the Eastern Conference Final in 2014. During the offseason, the Habs traded Briere to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for P.A. Parenteau and a fifth round pick. If Bergevin tried getting him on a one-year deal worth around $3 million, then the signing would have been justified. But he simply paid too much money to a past-his-prime player who didn’t do all that much for the team.
4. Extending Tomas Plekanec In 2015
Plekanec has been a fan favourite in Montreal for quite a while now. He’s been a super-steady top-six forward for over a decade. He’s hit the 20-goal mark 7 times, and was once a consistent 50-point guy. But Plekanec hasn’t been the same player for a while now. Coming off a 60-point season with the Habs in 2014-15, Plekanec received a two-year contract extension worth $12 million. Quite a bit of money for a 33-year-old who’s not even a first liner. Plekanec scored a respectable 54 points in 2015-16, but the first year of his latest contract wasn’t so good. He had just 10 goals and 28 points in 78 games.
Entering 35 years old this season, Plekanec is more of a third/fourth liner at this stage of his career. The fact he’s costing Montreal $6 million in 2017-18 isn’t ideal. It forced Bergevin to move on from some key role players, and it may hold him back from making a big move at the trade deadline.
3. Trading Josh Gorges To Buffalo
Gorges was a mainstay on the Montreal Canadiens blue line for seven seasons, as the physical 6-foot-1, 210-pounder threw his weight around to intimidate the opponents. Gorges was instrumental in helping the Habs reach the playoffs in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014. That included two trips to the Eastern Conference Final, as Gorges’ ability to shut down the opposition’s top stars carried Montreal to great lengths.
But after the 2014 season, Bergevin dealt Gorges to the Buffalo Sabres for nothing more than a second round pick. There was no reason to trade Gorges; as he carried a fair salary, was a good team player and solidified the defence. Montreal has yet to really fill the void Gorges has left behind, and he’s done just fine with the Sabres. This was a very porous move on Bergevin’s part.
2. Signing Alexander Semin
Remember the days when Semin was among the NHL’s top goal-scorers every year? He hit the 30-goal mark three times with the Washington Capitals, and even hit 40 with them during the 2009-10 season. However, Semins gradually declined and became more of a 20-goal man. After a failed stint with the Carolina Hurricanes that saw him get bought out (despite signing a five-year, $35 million contract with them at one point), Bergevin signed Semin to a one-year pact worth $1.1 million. Semin turned out to be a massive disappointment in Montreal, to say the least.
He played in just 15 games for the Habs during the 2015-16 season, registering just one goal and three assists. The Habs quickly moved on from Semin, who played overseas but has since retired. Yet another example of Bergevin not being at his best in free agency.
1. The P.K. Subban Trade
It was tough putting this number one the list, considering how big of an impact Shea Weber had for the Canadiens in 2016-17. Weber scored 17 goals and 42 points while finishing with a plus-20 rating, leading the Habs to the Atlantic Division title before bowing out to the New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs.
So far, the Habs haven’t suffered from the Subban trade. The problem is that they will soon, however. Consider that Subban is five years younger than Weber, and that he just took the Nashville Predators to their first ever Stanley Cup Final. Subban also has just five years left on his current deal at $9 million a season, while Weber is under contract for nine more years at a cap hit of just over $7.857 million. He’s now 32 years of age and is bound to slowly start wearing down, whereas the younger and slightly more talented Subban is just entering his prime. Not right now, but the Canadiens will soon regret this trade, which could very well define Marc Bergevin’s tenure as general manager.
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