Those who know me well also know that I’m not François Gagnon’s biggest fan but I can certainly recognize when he does some good work. He recently interviewed Montreal Canadiens’ Executive Vice President and General Manager, Marc Bergevin, text published on RDS.ca, he was able to ask the right questions. I suggest you read the article if you understand French (you can read his significant quotes below, already translated for you.)
PENTICTON, BC. — Bergevin is a smart man, with a vision and in every interview, at every press conference, it’s easy to recognize that he knows where he’s going with his team and he has the ability to resist temptation in order to stay on target with his goal, which is to build a winner for years to come. He understands the value of draft picks and good prospects’ development, as proven by his comments.
“If we had 10, 12 or 15 more points in the standings, maybe I would be thinking of altering my plan. I said maybe. But as happy as I am to be where we are in the standings, I know very well that three, four or five losses in a row would bring us around the eighth place. And we should be panicking then either. There are very good teams losing three or four in a row in the NHL today. It’s so tight that I have no right, as a GM, to jeopardize the future of the team for short term help. Especially that at the start of the season, we figured that we would be part of a group of teams fighting until the end for a playoffs’ spot.”
Realism, refusing to get carried away by a winning streak (or losing streak), understanding that an NHL season is long and that anything can happen. We can understand why Serge Savard and Geoff Molson picked Bergevin and it goes a lot further than the fact that he’s bilingual.
But fans are too often impatient, especially in Montreal where we were spoiled in the past, where the fans had to suffer through a couple of decades of bad decisions without any serious hope for a Stanley Cup. We lose patience and we want it now! Everything is analysed, scrutinised, we want a big trade, a big name.
“A blockbuster is nice, but how many did you see this year? And last year? I think that the last big trade that changed the image of both teams involved was three years ago (June 23 2011) when the Flyers and the Kings traded Mike Richards and young (Brayden) Schenn and (Wayne) Simmonds. My stamp on the team will be the youth that will make it. (Brendan) Gallagher, (Alex) Galchenyuk and (Michaël) Bournival are here. (Jarred) Tinordi, (Nathan) Beaulieu and other good young players are developing in Hamilton. They will be here one day. Let’s not forget about the other ones that I went to watch at the World Junior Championship. It will take longer, it’s true. Because the road to Montreal for those young guys will need a detour through Hamilton. And it’s okay that way. Because what we are building, we are building on a strong foundation. We are building for long term. I’ve never seen a young guy being brought up too late on an NHL team. But I’ve often seen very good young players being brought up too soon and wasting their talent and their career. I’m hoping that our fans understand that.”
For those who take the time to listen to Bergevin, we can easily see that he’s been saying the same thing since day one, when he was given the position of GM. He preaches patience, he has carefully analysed the prospects and he know the core, as much for the current team as for what’s in the minors. He knows that there are holes to fill and he is having discussions with other GMs around the league. But he won’t panic. If he makes a trade, it will be to improve his team not only for the short term, but for the future.
“If you’re asking me if I talk to other GMs, it’s evident. We talk every day. Some names are mentioned from time to time. But does that mean that a trade is imminent? Absolutely not. It’s my responsibility to improve the team. I look at every way of doing it. But in my eyes, it’s by the draft and development that the big improvements occur. Not with flash fixes. “
Because he says building through the draft, some fans question the acquisitions he’s made this past summer. Bergevin still wants to give the fans a good product immediately while keeping an eye on his team’s future. A hot topic has been the one of local product Daniel Brière, who signed a two-year contract worth four million per season, and who has had more than his share of difficulties.
“We were expecting more from Daniel. It’s evident. Many factors slowed him down in the first half of the season. The adaptation is slower than I expected. The good news is that Daniel normally is a slow starter. I really think that he will turn things around in the second half and that he will be a precious asset in the playoffs. Look at what happened with David (Desharnais) and Max (Pacioretty) at the start of the season. Things didn’t go well at all. We trusted them. Michel worked with them. We gave them the chances and time to get out of their slumps. I’m anticipating the same thing with Daniel.”
He recognizes that the Brière topic is sensitive and that he hasn’t produced to expectations. He admits that up until now, it looks like the signature is a mistake but he remains positive and hopes that his player gets out of it. Whether he thinks it or not is not important as he supports his player in front of the media, while acknowledging that he can give more. But when we talk about Douglas Murray and George Parros, Bergevin changes tone when some suggest that they were mistakes.
“I sometimes wonder if people thought that we were acquiring super-stars in Murray and Parros. We needed a big defensive and experienced defenseman to help solidify our defense. We needed to add some weight on the fourth line to face the bigger, tougher teams. Murray is giving us exactly what we expected of him. In Parros’ case, injuries kept him from giving us what we expected. We wanted a guy who would dress from time to time, playing a couple of times per period. George would have given us that had he not gotten injured.”
As far as I’m concerned, it’s hard to go against what Bergevin is saying. The Habs could have kept Tinordi with the team but as he mentions in the article, he wants to ensure that he develops well so that he’s fully ready when we call on him. Same thing for Beaulieu and other prospects. Better playing big minutes in the minors than playing very little in the NHL and the organization is convinced that everyone will benefit from it at the end.
So, dear fans, unless an offer comes up that he can’t refuse, an offer that would improve the team for many years, don’t hold your breath for a big trade and even less for a big name rental player. Read rumours if you must but please, keep your feet well-grounded before raising your hopes up and listen to the GM’s words. He’s the one deciding.
I’ve been asked recently if Bergevin will be a buyer or a seller at the trade deadline on March 5th. I believe that he will be neither. If he gets an offer that makes sense hockey-wise, he will do it but I highly doubt, according to his own saying, that he will sell-out his pending UFAs or that he would trade his picks and/or prospects to get some temporary help.
En français: Marc Bergevin : Un homme et son plan