If Marc Bergevin and the current Montreal Canadiens’ brass thought they were on the hot seat after the Habs’ first round exit by the New York Rangers, things just heated up a notch last night. PK Subban and the Nashville Predators are reaching the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in franchise history, while Bergevin and Shea Weber are off golfing and thinking about next season. It was another year of disappointment for the Canadiens, being knocked out in 6 games in the first round was far shorter than what Marc Bergevin and company had expected the Habs to reach in the playoffs. Had Bergevin kept status quo last summer and the Canadiens had reached the playoffs, some may have gave him the benefit of the doubt, as it was an improvement from last season’s collapse. However, was it not one of the main reasons of trading PK Subban for an older Shea Weber last summer, was that that the Canadiens were in a win now position and had acquired the more expensive and older, by 4 years, player.
It has been commonly said that every General Manager typically gets one coaching change during his tenure with a team. And Marc Bergevin used his free pass last February, letting go of his foxhole partner, Michel Therrien, and hiring former Bruins’ coach Claude Julien. Now don’t get me wrong, Julien is a better coach than Therrien, as proved by his Stanley Cup ring and multiple Team Canada gold medals. But didn’t we trade Subban because Therrien determined PK as uncoachable and unwinnable in his system? In short, Bergevin sided with his head coach by trading his star player, and within 8 months fired his head coach. How’s that for personnel management.
As I have said at the time of the trade, I have no problems with Shea Weber and I firmly believe he was an elite defenseman in the NHL. Age has taken its toll on Shea and he has become slower every given season. That said, Weber was one of the Canadiens’ best players in the first round (along with Radulov) and cannot be blamed for their first round exit. When your two top scorers, or supposedly goal scorers, Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk, combined for 0 goals in 6 games, it is difficult for any team to win a round. But this was the year for the Canadiens, as evident of how far the Ottawa Senators have reached. The Atlantic Division was wide open and with the Penguins being injury rattled, it very well could have been a Canadiens-Predators finals. And with the capability of Carey Price stealing games in and out, who knows if number 25 was on the horizon.
Bergevin is now entering his 6th off season with the Canadiens and this will be his biggest challenge yet (I feel like a tape recorder saying that again). The Canadiens are older, Carey Price’s and Max Pacioretty’s contract are expiring at the end of this and next seasons and there have been no clear sign of improvements from Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher and Nathan Beaulieu. As a matter of fact, all 3 players had disappointing seasons for their standards, with Galchenyuk and Beaulieu originally starting the year on the first line/pair and ending the season on the 4th line/healthy scratched. I would say that Bergevin will be on the hot seat this season, as just a playoff berth next season won’t be satisfactory to the masses. But then again, it is kind of scary that Bergevin’s 5 year extension hasn’t come into effect yet.