Being the general manager of any sports team comes with a lot of pressure, but being the GM of the Montreal Canadiens comes with even more pressure. You are basically put under a magnifying glass and every single Habs fan in the city is watching your every move. Any move that goes unapproved by the fans can cause an uproar and complete chaos instantly.
Well, during the summer of 2012, Marc Bergevin was put into that pressure-filled position after being named general manager and executive vice president of the Montreal Canadiens. The Canadiens had just come off one of their worst seasons in nearly a decade, winning just 31 games in the regular season and finishing last in the Eastern Conference.
Change was needed, and Marc Bergevin was chosen as the man to properly manage the Canadiens and bring them back into the playoffs. Since then, he’s made several trades and signings to help improve the team and give them the best chance to win. Bergevin was nominated as GM of the year for the 2013-14 season and finished second in voting. He’s made some brilliant moves that have paid off well for the Canadiens, but has made his fair share of mistakes as well.
So that being said, which deals went right? Which went wrong? We’ll let you know in the list below as we take a look at Bergevin’s 8 best and 7 worst moves so far as the GM of the Canadiens.
15. Best: Acquiring Phillip Danault From Chicago
With the Habs’ 2016 playoff hopes out of reach, GM Marc Bergevin cleared out some bodies prior to the deadline to try and get whatever he could for them. He sent forwards Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise, who were pending unrestricted free agents, to the Blackhawks for Philip Danault and a second round pick in 2018. If you analyze this trade at the time it happened, you could argue that Danault’s offensive production is really lacking. However, that hasn’t been the case for the Quebec native during the 2016-17 season. He has turned it up a notch this season with Montreal, with 25 points in 50 games. To put that in perspective, he had 10 in the first 53 games of his career.
Danault has turned into a reliable center for the Canadiens and has stepped up for them this season when they needed offense while Alex Galchenyuk has been out with injury. His production has been even greater than Weise’s, and he is much younger. Marc Bergevin deserves a lot of credit for pulling off this “under the radar” trade that has worked out very well for the Habs.
14. Worst: Signing Andrew Shaw For Six Years
Marc Bergevin sent two second round draft picks to Chicago for Andrew Shaw in a trade which took place at the 2016 NHL draft. Having won two Stanley Cups with the Hawks, Shaw brings experience, and is a guy who loves to battle.
The trade for Shaw isn’t the issue, it’s the contract that Bergevin gave to the Ontario native – as he was a pending restricted free agent when acquired. Shaw signed a six-year, $23.4 million deal with the Canadiens, which is a bit risky for a guy not known for putting up more than 40 points in a season. This is an annual average of $3.9 million, just $600,000 less than the Habs’ top goal-scorer Max Pacioretty.
The beginning of Shaw’s six-year tenure with the Canadiens has already been filled with some controversy after being suspended three games for an illegal hit in the preseason. He was also thrown out of his first game back, which did not result in suspension.
The Canadiens have to hope that Shaw doesn’t overdo his agitating style of play and acquire more suspensions down the line. Hopefully for them, he can use his physical style to an advantage, and continue to be a big playoff performer. For now, Shaw has 18 points in 36 games played for Montreal.
13. Best: Turning Raphael Diaz Into Dale Weise
In February of 2014, the Canadiens made a minor move which turned out to have a greater benefit for them. Bergevin traded defenseman Raphael Diaz to the Canucks for Dale Weise, who was basically seeing fourth line minutes in Vancouver. However, that all changed for Weise once he came to Montreal. The Manitoba native began to produce far more than he ever had when the Canadiens gave him more ice-time. He set a career-high in points with 29 – just one season after being traded. Weise established a full-time role on the Habs and sometimes even played on the wing for one of their top lines.
It was clear that Weise had been misused in Vancouver and Bergevin saw the opportunity to make a trade, knowing that he’d fit well in Montreal. With his numbers skyrocketing during his time with the Habs, it was certainly a low-risk, high-reward trade for Bergevin.
12. Worst: Re-Signing Alexei Emelin
In October of 2013, Marc Bergevin announced the signing of a four-year extension to defenseman Alexei Emelin worth a total of $16.4 million. Emelin is a big, heavy-hitting defenseman, but unfortunately isn’t the most gifted defensively and has often been exposed by other teams’ speed. This has made his contract seem like an overpayment by Bergevin.
The Russian defender has also struggled with injuries throughout his career and is yet to play in a full NHL season. Since tearing his ligament back in the 2012-13 season, Emelin has continuously struggled to get back to the same level he once was.
Despite struggling since his contract extension, the recent arrival of Shea Weber has seemed to help Emelin find his game. While playing with Weber mostly on the Habs’ top defensive pairing, the both of them have been able to combine as an intimidating force on the backend for the Canadiens. So maybe he’s finally starting to find his game.
11. Best: Drafting Alex Galchenyuk
Having a number one centerman is crucial if you want to get anywhere close to winning in the NHL. On June 22nd, 2012, shortly after a disastrous season for the Canadiens who finished near the bottom of the league, Marc Bergevin made his first draft pick as GM of the Canadiens, selecting Alex Galchenyuk third overall.
With his first pick in his first draft with the Canadiens, Bergevin got what the Habs had been looking for for years, a top centerman. It’s taken Galchenyuk a little while for him to finally earn that role, but many fans would argue that this was because of the misuse of the young forward by current head coach Michel Therrien. Regardless of what it may be, Galchenyuk has certainly shown this season that he belongs in conversation with the league’s best, putting up 27 points in 30 games played.
10. Worst: Bringing In George Parros And Douglas Murray
During the 2013 offseason, Marc Bergevin went out and tried to add some toughness to the Canadiens, something they had been lacking. Parros and Murray were brought in nearly two months apart. Parros had been traded to the Canadiens from Florida, and Murray signed a one-year deal as a free agent. Unfortunately, these two guys didn’t pan out as the Canadiens would have hoped.
Parros was injured after falling and hitting his head on the ice during a fight in the first game of the season with Colton Orr. His concussion forced him to miss twelve games, but then sustained a second one shortly after returning. In total he only played 22 games for the Habs, and wasn’t re-signed after the season.
As for Murray, he struggled to keep up with his opponents and wasn’t strong in his own zone. While only playing in 53 games for the Habs, his old age and lack of speed didn’t allow him to have the physical impact that GM Marc Bergevin would have hoped for. He finished a minus-12 for the Canadiens with 2 points in his only season with the organization, and wasn’t offered an extension at the end of the season either.
9. Best: Flipping Lars Eller For Two Draft Picks
Bergevin also made a second trade during the 2016 draft, sending Lars Eller to Washington for two second-round picks. Although the draft picks are in 2017 and 2018 respectively, this seems like a trade where Bergevin got more than he probably deserved. Second round picks have sometimes turned out to be gems, so who knows what the Habs will get out of this. It also gives them the flexibility to use these picks to trade for other roster players if they need.
As for Eller, he’s had a disappointing career after being a 13th overall pick by St. Louis in 2007. He typically finished around the mid-20 point mark, but his career high was 30 points in 46 games during the 2012-13 season. Considering his stats, it’s pretty remarkable that Bergevin was able to reel in two second round picks for the Danish forward. Eller has 15 points in 48 games in his first season with the Capitals.
8. Worst: Giving Alex Semin A Chance
During the 2015 off-season, Bergevin went for a low-risk deal in search of some offense. He signed forward Alex Semin to a one-year, $1.1 million deal. With multi 30-goal seasons in his career, Semin was bought out after putting up 19 points in 57 games with Carolina while making $7 million per year. Marc Bergevin decided to give the sniper a chance, hoping maybe this could turn into a steal if the Russian forward could get back to his 30-goal days. Unfortunately, Semin was terrible. He didn’t even end up lasting the season, playing in only 15 games before being bought out by the Habs. Bergevin’s low-risk attempt to add some offense failed miserably, but at least it didn’t cost him much.
7. Best: Claiming Paul Byron Off Waivers
Turning a waiver claim into a secret weapon for the Habs was one of Marc Bergevin’s biggest steals of his management career in Montreal. Claimed at the beginning of the 2015-16 season, Paul Byron wasn’t expected to be more than a depth player for the Canadiens. However, the five-foot-nine winger out of Ottawa, Ontario has found his role on the team by killing penalties and using his speed to burn his opponents.
Byron has been thriving in the 2016-17 season for Montreal. He’s been rewarded with more ice-time, including seeing some time on the Canadiens’ top line, which has given him the chance to showcase his speed and contribute offensively. Byron currently sits with 28 points in 47 games this season, which is pretty solid for a guy who was barely getting NHL playtime before being claimed.
6. Worst: Signing Daniel Briere
Another failed attempt at adding some offense was signing veteran forward Daniel Briere to a two-year $8 million deal in July of 2013. The former 30-goal scorer was nearing the end of his career when signing with the Habs, therefore didn’t perform like he did during his prime. Briere also had a history of injuries during his career, and had suffered a concussion in his only season with Montreal which kept him out for nearly a month and may have affected his play. Giving this much money to a deteriorating and injury-prone player wasn’t a smart move by Marc Bergevin. Briere had 25 points in 69 games with Montreal, and was traded to the Avalanche in June of 2014.
5. Best: Bringing In Radulov For Some Offense
Bergevin took another risk just this past off-season, signing former NHLer Alex Radulov to a one-year deal worth just under $6 million. He received some criticism for signing the Russian forward, who lacked discipline when he was playing for Nashville before leaving for the KHL. However, Radulov has proven that he’s a changed man, and has been a major contributor to the Habs’ offense this season.
Radulov is currently second on the team with 37 points in 48 games and has looked exceptional for Montrael. Leading the team with 25 assists, Radulov is one of the most important players on the team right now and has proven that Marc Bergevin made the right choice in choosing him to help solve the Habs offensive struggles. It won’t be surprising to see him signing an extension with the team in the near future.
4. Worst: Not Saving The 2015-16 Season
The 2015-16 was a complete disaster for the Canadiens. Despite holding a 17-4-2 record at the beginning of December, the Canadiens still managed to miss the playoffs and finished with a record of 38-38-6. A serious injury to goaltender Carey Price is what started the downfall of the Habs season. The team simply couldn’t get it together and went on terrible losing streaks, setting records for the wrong reasons. Injuries to other key players like Brendan Gallagher along with some suspected tension in the locker room between coach Michel Therrien and some of his players are just some of the things that went wrong for the Habs last season.
Despite all the injuries and things going wrong for the Canadiens, it was up to the GM to do something about it to fix their season. Bergevin did come out to address the media publicly about the Canadiens’ season, saying he is to blame. However, one might argue that Bergevin didn’t take the opportunity to try and make a move or two to shake things up and maybe give the team life again. Whether it be firing the coach or a big trade, Bergevin needed to do something significant to save the Habs from embarrassment, but he didn’t, and the fans in Montreal had to suffer through a difficult season.
3. Best: Locking Up Max Pacioretty For Cheap
Another one of Bergevin’s best moves came in the first summer of his managing career with Montreal. He signed top scorer Max Pacioretty to a six-year extension worth $27 million, which averages $4.5 million per season. This is an incredible signing for Bergevin because it is extremely rare to lock up a solid 30-goal scorer nowadays for such a cheap price. This is no doubt the best contract he’s given to any player. Pacioretty has scored 30 goals in three of his four seasons since signing the extension, and will most certainly do so this season once again as he has 21 goals in 50 games already. His contract makes him practically untouchable and will save Bergevin cap space to sign other key players in the future.
2. Worst: The Blockbuster Trade
A shocking trade that no one saw coming happened in June of 2016, with the Habs sending defenseman P.K. Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber. This trade drove the hockey world crazy, especially Habs fans who were upset at Bergevin for trading someone who has done so much for their city. As good as Weber’s been for the Canadiens, I truly feel like this is a mistake for the long-term future of the Canadiens.
With P.K just entering the prime of his career, he can only get better, and at 31, Weber can only get worse. Statistically, both players are pretty much equal, however Weber seems more dependable in his own zone and that’s what GM Marc Bergevin seems to like most about him.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the future for both these players. With Weber signed until he’s 40, you wonder when age will start to catch up to him and his contract becoming a burden on the Habs. You also wonder how Subban will look in the next five years of his prime and if that’ll make the Canadiens regret trading him.
1. Best: Acquiring Jeff Petry At A Low Price
Marc Bergevin’s best trade, and his best move overall as GM of the Canadiens, came prior to the 2015 trade deadline when he sent a second round pick, and a conditional fifth to Edmonton for defenseman Jeff Petry. At the time, Petry was struggling playing with the Oilers who were near the bottom of the league. A more reduced, top four defensive role for Petry in Montreal has been the perfect fit for him and he has had an important role in the recent success of the Canadiens, especially defensively.
The 29 year-old Petry has 24 points in 49 games this season so far, and seems to only be getting better. He’s solid in his own zone and can contribute offensively as well, playing on the second powerplay unit. Bergevin paid a significantly low price for a solid defenseman, which looks like a steal today. Many teams look very hard for defenders like Petry and often end up overpaying. Who knows what he could get for him now.
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