The knives are out and the cry on the street and among some of the more than a few members of the Montreal media is, “Fire Marc Bergevin!” Considering the fact that the Canadiens are about to miss the playoffs for the fourth time in the last five years, I get the point.
But let me take a contrarian view.
The Canadiens should not fire Marc Bergevin and here’s why.
In the twenty-seven years since they won their last Stanley Cup the Canadiens have had six general managers; Serge Savard, Rejean Houle, Andre Savard, Bob Gainey, Pierre Gauthier and now Bergevin. On average it’s one for every failed five year-rebuilding plan.
Because of the oft-stated need for a bilingual presence in the GM’s chair, every of the six came to the job with no previous experience in the role. Serge Savard was allowed to successfully grew into the role and gave the Canadiens two Stanley Cups. Houle was ridiculously inept and unqualified. Andre Savard was a victim of corporate expedience, Gainey was prone to irrational acts, Gauthier was a gatekeeper.
Every time a general manager is changed, team philosophy is altered. In other words, rebuilding begins anew. Over the last quarter century years we have basically had six rebuilding processes.
Bergevin started his tenure in the same way as the others. Initially he felt that with a couple of adjustments the team could be competitive. He had some early success but ultimately the Canadiens became pretty much what they had been over the previous quarter century, a mediocre team almost always in the middle of the pack. Realizing that, four years ago Bergevin changed course. He came to believe that the only hope for a strong future came through the draft. The Canadiens averaged six draft picks a year over Bergevin’s first five years on the job. Including this year, the Canadiens will have harvested 35 players the last three seasons including fourteen in June.
There is nothing sexy about rebuilding through the draft. It is a slow agonizing process requiring patience that fans don’t traditionally have.
The point I’m making here is, Bergevin has been learning on the job. I think he is more effective now than he was when hired in May 2012. If he’s fired, his replacement will of course have to speak french which probably means we probably bring another untested novice to the job.
Do we really want to another five year rebuilding programme?
PLAYING WITH THE LEAD
A two-goal lead has often been called the “most dangerous in hockey” because statistics indicate that it will be blown in an average of four of every ten occasions.
The Canadiens are poster boys for the stat. The Canadiens led 2-0 eight minutes into the game and blew it. It’s the fifth time in the last eight games they’ve given themselves the luxury of a 2-0 lead. They lost four of them. Their season record isn’t any better. Twelve games with a 2-0 lead – nine losses (3-6-3).
Max Domi has arrived at the party far too late. For the third straight game he showed the edginess and puck management that featured his game last season. He was physical, involved and used his speed in the right way. Domi’s two assists give him five points in his last three games. Coincidentally (or not) those last three games, Paul Byron has been his left winger.
In the four games since his return Byron has 2 goals, 2 assists and is plus-four. No need to point out it’s his best hockey of the season. Byron’s explosiveness, which was missing through those early nineteen games before he underwent knee surgery, has returned. Makes you wonder how different things night have been had he been healthy all year.
With the departure of Nate Thompson we are going to get a good long look at Jake Evans the rest of the season. This was his seventh NHL game. Only his second as a centre. Evans ice time against Vancouver was 9:57, most of it against the Canucks fourth line. I thought the line (with Weise and Lehkonen) handled their role fairly well. Evans set up Lehkonen for one of his two high-danger scoring chances in the game.
Different matter for Nick Suzuki. I don’t want to look for trouble but I get the sense that the pressures of his first pro season are starting to catch up to him. This was the third straight sub par game. Hardly unexpected. For the most part he’s weathered his long rookie season in spectacular fashion.
One might legitimately ask why Jonathan Drouin is even playing at this point. It’s evident his wrist is not completely healed. Once again he had his problems with his passing and shooting and he’s being, I think unfairly, criticized for it. Would it not be better for him to spend the summer rehabbing from the wrist surgery rather than forcing him to play through it during themeaningless remainder of the season?
The single point left the Canadiens in 23rd in the overall league standings. That translates to ninth in the draft lottery. If they were to finish there, mathematicians tell us they would have a six percent chance of winning the Alexis Lafreniere sweepstakes and a nineteen percent chance of drafting in the top three.
The Canadiens now have fourteen picks in this year’s draft. As it stands nine of them come in the first 105 slots – (Numbers 9, 38, 40. 59, 71, 91, 101, 105, 133, 139, 164, 189, 193)
ALSO WORTH MENTIONING
…. Against Vancouver the Canadiens produced forty shots on goal for the fourteenth time this season. It seems reasonable to me that they should win 75-80% of those games. In fact they are 6-6-2.
….The current state of the Canadiens is hurting their bottom line. Empty seats were obvious at the Bell Centre Tuesday night, and not for the first time. This was the 19th time in thirty four home games the Canadiens have failed to sell out.
….Part of the attendance problems are obviously based on ticket-buying entertainment value. The Canadiens have lost 21 of their 34 home games (13-15-6).
….When a team is losing and penalty killing is an issue, every call against the Canadiens is magnified. The Canadiens and their fans had reason to heap abuse on the game officials after Shea Weber was penalized for slashing when he was the one slashed late in the first period. Vancouver scored their first goal on that power play. The Canadiens penalty killing ranks 20th in the league.
….Is this a new Artturi Lehkonen we’re seeing? His previously seldom seen goalmouth presence was very evident against the Canucks. Both of his high danger scoring chances came from Gallagher-like goalmouth traffic jams. He’ll never match Gallagher’s skill around the net, but if he’s prepared to pay the price his scoring statistics will inevitably improve.
….When given the chance, and under the right circumstances, Jordan Weal can be effective. He sat out Saturday’s game in Ottawa. Back on the Domi line he posted the goal that gave the Canadiens their brief 3-2 lead in the third period. He has five points in the last five games in which he’s played.
….Once again the Canadiens lack of finish was on display. In high danger scoring chances they led the Canucks 13-8 including 7-2 in the third period. Weal had three of them. Lehkonen, Byron and Danault with two each.
The Rangers, who have won 11 of their last 14, are in town Thursday. Then it’s Carolina on Saturday. Then they enter the final stretch of the season during which ten of their final fifteen games are on the road starting next week with games against the in New York against the Islanders followed by Tampa and Florida.