Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Marc Bergevin is the Habs new GM

So the Habs finally hired their new GM, and his name is Marc Bergevin.

He's been with the Blackhawks since 2005 as a pro scout. So there's no need to look at who the Hawks drafted because that wasn't Bergevin's department (which is a good thing because they basically drafted Toews, Kane, Hjalmarsson and pretty well nothing else early on in Bergevin's time there).

As a pro scout, however, he would have had a say in the Hawks signing guys like Nikolai Khabibulin, Adrian Aucoin, trading for Martin Havlat (for Mark Bell, a 2nd and Michal Barinka), well also acquiring Bryan Smolinksi and Michal Handzus.

How much say Bergevin had in those moves is anyone's guess, but none of them really paid long-term dividends and he was certainly apart of the decision making process there.

It's worth noting he was also a pro scout as the Hawks stole Patrick Sharp and Kris Versteeg from Philadelphia and Boston respectively, for what equates to nothing. Fluke or not, those are two big-time steals that were huge contributors to the Hawks Cup triumph.

That said, the Hawks owe much of their success to drafting Jonathon Toews and Patrick Kane third and first overall respectively. That's something Bergevin probably wouldn't have had a ton of say in.

Bergevin would also see the Hawks go through two coaches -Trent Yawney, Denis Savard- before finally getting their guy in Joel Quenneville. Obviously those coaching choices are not a reflection on Bergevin, but it's like dating: you have to go through a few frogs before you find your princess/prince. We'll see if Bergevin learned anything from Chicago's hiring mistakes because finding a new head coach is one of his biggest priorities of the summer.
He might not have the best taste in glasses, but
Marc Bergevin has a solid hockey background.

Bergevin also served as an assistant to Quenneville so he's going to have a good feel of not only what he wants as a GM, but what he wants from his coach.

Even though he has no experience as an actual GM, you have to love his background of being a pro scout, an assistant coach and assistant GM.

However, he was also part of a front office this year that largely failed in identifying their team problems and properly fixing them. They wanted size and toughness and more scoring depth this passed summer so they decided to sign Andrew Brunnette and Daniel Carcillo along with Jamal Mayers up front and they gave Steve Montador an outrageous amount of money (4 years/$2.75mil per) to be a top four defenceman. He didn't even play 15 minutes a night this year though.

To patch up that defense problem at the deadline, they traded for Johnny Oduya at the deadline. Was he really the final piece to their defenses trouble in order to get them back to the Cup? I was never sold on that.

Up front they identified the need of a second line center, and they tried to fill it by acquiring Brendan Morrison. Again, is he the guy to center the second line of a Cup contender? I was really never sold on that either.

Does Bergevin deserve the bulk of blame for those moves? Not at all- that falls on Stan Bowman. But he was certainly part of the process to make those decisions.

If anything, we'll see if he's learned from those mistakes.

In Montreal he's taking over a team that has one of the best young goalies in hockey -who needs a new contract- an electric young defenceman who also needs a new contract. A top line power forward, a 25 year old 5'7 center who astonishingly put up 60 points (what do you make of that?), along with some other solid pieces that are locked up in Tomas Plekanec, Josh Gorges, Erik Cole -who was surprisingly great this year- a solid Ryan White and Alexei Emelin and some young guys on the way in Nathan Beaulieu, Louis Leblanc and Brendan Gallagher, among others.

He also has the third overall pick this year at his disposal (remember, that's where the Hawks really started their turnaround by selecting Toews), but not much cap room as $45mil of it is already committed for next year- although what happens with Scott Gomez could change that.

When teams and GMs build, they generally look for three strong pillars: a franchise goalie, an all-purpose D-man and a strong center. The goalie is already in place, and depending on what you think about Subban, that's probably already in place too. Now they have a chance to draft that center and this core in general is much further along then most people give it credit for. Especially if Andrei Markov is actually going to be healthy.
Max Pacioretty is a great building block up
front to start with.

There's some bad contracts in Habs land -Bourque, Kaberle, Gomez in particular- but the room for growth and potential to add and even just get better via internal improvement is all there for this team to succeed rather quickly, especially in the weak East.

Bergevin was associated with some questionable decisions this year -the Hawks were the best team in hockey for awhile in the second half of the year and failed to win the first round, regardless of the Hossa injury- but he saw the Cup process unfold and has a solid overall hockey background.

It's a good day if you're a Habs fan because it signals the start of a new era and if they hit on their draft pick -meaning that 3rd overall pick contributes this year- make a few savvy moves and clear some of their bad contracts they aren't that far off from a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. We'll see what they do next, a new coach and the draft are the follow up now.

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