The highs and lows of the Marc Bergevin era in Montreal
The Montreal Canadiens made sweeping changes to their organization this weekend, firing general manager Marc Bergevin on Sunday afternoon.
It closes the book on an up-and-down chapter of Canadiens history that had a little bit of success, a lot of mediocrity, and a disappointing start to the 2021-22 season.
During Bergevin’s tenure the Canadiens compiled a .557 points percentage that placed them 18th in the league (including the Vegas and Seattle starts), accurately defining the past decade of Canadiens hockey. Rarely great, rarely awful, just always kind of existing.
When the Canadiens did make the playoffs they did find a bit more success, winning 37 games during Bergevin’s tenure, the 10th most in the league during that stretch. That includes a trip to the Eastern Conference Final during the 2013-14 season and a stunning trip to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final that was only made possible by the reconfigured divisions for that season (and a stunning playoff performance from starting goalie Carey Price).
[Related: Canadiens fire general manager Marc Bergevin]
Along the way there were a lot of trades and free agent signings that helped shaped the Canadiens.
Let us now take a look back at some of the moves that defined the Bergevin era.
Best move: The Jeff Petry trade
Honestly, this might not even be close. This trade turned out to be that good for Montreal. The Edmonton Oilers had no idea what they had in Petry (or maybe they just did not care?) and sent him to Montreal for a second-and fourth-round draft pick in 2015. All Petry has done since is become one of the league’s steadiest all-around defenders, blending strong defensive zone play, great possession driving ability, and top-pairing offense together to give Montreal one of its best players. He turned that into two long-term contract extensions with Montreal, netting him more than $58 million in total. While his current deal might not retain its value the entire way through, his initial six-year, $33 million deal was one of the league’s best bargains.
Honorable mentions: Signing Tyler Toffoli to a four-year, $17 million contract in 2021; trading Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise for Phillip Danault.
Boldest move(s): The week of June 26-July 1, 2016
This was quite a week in Montreal Canadiens history.
A quick rundown of everything that happened.
- June 24, 2016: Traded Lars Eller to the Washington Capitals for 2017 and 2018 second-round draft picks
- June 24, 2016: Acquired Andrew Shaw from the Chicago Blackhawks for two 2016 second-round draft picks
- June 29, 2016: Traded P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber
- July 1, 2016: Signed Alexander Radulov to a one-year, $5.75 million contract
Now that is an overhaul.
The Canadiens did end up making the playoffs that season, losing in the first round, but there are a lot of mixed results in here.
Signing Radulov turned out to be a steal for that season, but they were unable to keep him from leaving in free agency the following season.
Shaw was not bad, but he was not really somebody that moved the needle in a meaningful way, either. Plus, one of those second-round draft picks that went to Chicago? Turned out to be Alex DeBrincat.
Eller went on to be a key cog in the Capitals’ 2018 Stanley Cup win, while Montreal was unable to turn those draft picks into anything.
Then there is the blockbuster trade: Subban for Weber. That one sent shockwaves throughout the league and ended in a couple of years of speculation about Subban’s future in Montreal. In the immediate aftermath? It seemed like a clear loss for Montreal. Subban was younger, the better player, and had a better contract while Weber looked to be breaking down physically.
Subban went to Nashville and immediately helped the Predators reach the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.
But within a couple of years Subban’s play began to rapidly decline out of nowhere and Nashville was at a point where it was willing to give him away just to get out from under his contract. There was a strong argument to be made the past couple of years that Weber had actually been the better player, and then helped lead Montreal on its stunning Stanley Cup Final run a year ago.
Now, though, Weber’s career looks to be over and his contract still has another four years remaining with a $7.8 million cap hit.
Move that looked good and backfired: The Jonathan Drouin trade
After the 2016-17 season the Canadiens traded Mikhail Sergachev to Tampa Bay for Jonathan Drouin. I get the mindset here. Sergachev had big potential, but he was still a prospect that was an unknown. Drouin was a former top-three pick that had started to find his game in Tampa Bay, was still only 21 years old, and looked like he had a chance to be a big-time, impact player.
It just has not worked out.
Sergachev developed into a top-pairing defender in Tampa Bay for a back-to-back Stanley Cup winner.
Move that turned out better than expected: The Max Pacioretty trade
Pacioretty was an outstanding player in Montreal, and probably under appreciated for much of his tenure there. Trading him was no small choice. But if they had to do it, they did pretty good on the return getting Nick Suzuki, Tomas Tatar, and a secod-round pick in return from the Vegas Golden Knights.
Tatar (speaking of under appreciated and under utilized) was Montreal’s leading scorer in his three years with the team and part of a dominant line alongside Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher that was one of the league’s best.
Suzuki, meanwhile, looks like he has a chance to be a core player for years in Montreal.
Did Montreal win that trade? Probably not. Tough to win a trade where you are giving up the best player. But the Canadiens did well here.
Move that seemed bad and turned out bad: The Karl Alzner signing
Sometimes a move gets made and you just know, right away, that it is not going to work. This is one of those moves. Alzner was already looking like a fraction of his former self in his final year in Washington, while the NHL was pretty clearly drifting away from traditional stay-at-home defenders in favor of more mobile, puck-moving players. The Canadiens, undeterred by both of these things variables, powered forward with a five-year, $23.125 million contract. Alzner played just 95 games with the Canadiens over three seasons while his contract was eventually bought out.
Worst move: Drafting Logan Mailloux
Here is how Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson responded to this pick in the days after it was made.
When your owner has to say that, while announcing your top pick will not be attending rookie camp or training camp with the team, you know you made an awful pick and an indefensible decision.
Mailloux told teams before the draft that he wanted to be excluded from the draft following a 2020 conviction while playing in Sweden for taking and circulating a photo of a woman performing a sex act without her consent.
Despite that, the Canadiens not only selected him. They used their top pick on him. It was the cherry on top of a brutal offseason that saw the Canadiens lose Danault, Tatar, and Kotkaniemi, while Weber was lost for the season.