In my opinion, an NHL franchise should provide transparency to the extent that they can as one method of gaining the trust of its fan base. By avoiding broadcasting falsehoods, lies, and dubious claims, a team can bring fans closer. Too often, management’s goal is to steer the public view of their decisions in a positive way.
It’s a popular view among Habs fans that management simply says things to improve their public perception, particularly over the past few years.
Back in 2012 when Pierre Gauthier was fired, his downfall was his silence. The franchise released little information on many transactions. The trade of Mike Cammalleri during a game is an excellent example of what not to do. Cammalleri had made a public statement about displaying a losing attitude the day before the trade. The reasons for making the trade seemed obvious yet Gauthier denied it was part of his decision.
The trade sounded the end of the Gauthier regime. Marc Bergevin arrived as a replacement viewed as a younger, hipper and promising more transparency while building through the draft.
Bergevin made half-hearted attempts to stay true to his declaration of transparency but the franchise fell back to its habit of being tight-lipped. In doing so, the general manager squandered all of his goodwill by not being open as promised. His refusal to be more available to the media and his canned responses simply provided more fuel for criticism. It’s obvious that not all information can be shared but Bergevin seemed to use that as a shield to avoid justifying decisions.
In my view, Bergevin’s credibility crisis began after the Shea Weber – P.K. Subban trade. Had Bergevin given more honest answers at the NHL draft and in the days leading up to the trade he could have mitigated the ensuing fan backlash.
The value of truth and transparency can’t be overstated. Handling the situation in a suspect manner hurt Bergevin and the trustworthiness of the team’s message for many years. The Canadiens are now trying to rebuild their public image.
Now, most Habs fans view team communications with a significant level of skepticism.
Bergevin on RDS admits that he didn't explain his earlier moves well enough. He assumed people would just understand his hockey moves but now he understands not everyone has the info he had access to and now will focus more on explaining himself @AllHabs @HabsUnfiltered #Habs
— Blain Potvin (@Potsy_70) October 1, 2018
Since his disastrous 2017 summer, I believe that Bergevin has been far more open with the media. It would seem that Geoff Molson has mandated a new directive in an attempt to win back fans who have begun to show disinterest with their wallets. Transparency has been demonstrated with respect to information on cap hits and injuries.
Presently, the big public relations task for the Canadiens is to sell fans on ‘retooling’ the roster. After six years of grafting spare parts to an inherited core of players in a patchwork manner, Bergevin now looks like he has a solidified plan.
Had he been more astute in crafting his message from the beginning, fans may have been more open to this new path. Instead they understandably ask if this new plan is a last ditch effort to save his job.
Habs fans should not kid themselves, Carey Price has been the reason for any success the team had during Bergevin’s tenure. As went Price, so went the Habs.
Did Bergevin fail to provide a supporting cast for Price? Yes.
Will the general manager be able to do so under his new plan? Maybe not, especially if the youth movement takes more than a few seasons.
At 30 years of age, Price may begin a decline before the supporting group reaches their playing maturity. Pekka Rinne has proven a goaltender can be highly effective in his mid-30’s. However, Rinne clearly has a much better supporting cast.
Currently Price is facing two and three times as many high danger chances per game as Rinne. There is only so much a goaltender can do even if they are considered one of the best in the world.
As the team faces this test, it will be up to Bergevin to explain why the growing pains are due to the retool and not on Price. How the message is framed is critical.
If Bergevin, Molson and company want to regain the trust of fans, it is time to be more truthful and highly transparent. Fans just want a simple and honest message.