The Montreal Canadiens have fired general manager Mark Bergevin as the team finds itself caught in an ice struggle just months after the team advances to the 2021 Stanley Cup Finals.
The Canadiens announced Bergevin’s dismissal on Sunday as part of a major house cleaning. Assistant GM Trevor Timmins and senior vice president of public affairs and communications Paul Wilson were also fired.
The Canadiens announced that former New York Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton will serve as executive vice president of hockey operations as the team searches for a new general manager.
Cathal Kelly: Post-cup-run comedy of errors in Montreal lands on Canadian GM Mark Bergevin
“On behalf of myself and the organization, I would like to thank Mark Bergevin, Trevor Timmins and Paul Wilson for their passion and involvement with our club over the years,” Canadiens owner Geoff Molson said in a statement. “His tireless work has allowed our fans to experience many memorable moments, including last summer’s playoff run, which culminated with the Stanley Cup Finals.
“However, I think the time has come for a leadership change within our Hockey Operations Department that will bring a new vision and allow our fans and partners to continue their enthusiasm for a championship team.”
Molson is scheduled to address the changes at a news conference Monday at 11 a.m. ET.
Bergwin was in his 10th season as the team’s GM.
“Montreal is the city where I made my first skating advancement, and it’s also the city where I learned to lead the NHL’s most winning franchise,” Bergevin said in a statement. “This city and this organization will always have a special place in my heart.
“That said, and despite the fact that this journey is coming to an end, I am proud of the legacy I am leaving within the organization. The current team is far better than the results and I am confident that my successors will rise to the challenge. will be able to cope.
Montreal has a poor record of 6-15-2 this season and is ahead only of the New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference standings.
Bergwin’s long-term status with the team was a question ever since he entered the season on an expired contract.
Still, it wasn’t the start of the season the Canadiens were hoping for as the team went into the campaign with an unexpected run to their first cup final since winning it all in 1993.
Backed by a brilliant goal from Carey Price, the Canadiens returned to a 3–1 deficit to upset the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the playoffs. They followed Winnipeg’s victory in the North Division Finals and Vegas in the Conference Finals, before losing to two-time Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay in the final.
Instead, the Canadiens had an off-season to forget and began the campaign without Talisman Price and captain and defensive legend Shia Webber.
Price voluntarily entered a joint NHL and NHL Players Association support program during training camp. Price has since learned that he entered a residential treatment facility for substance abuse. Webber, meanwhile, is on the long-term injury reserve list with a foot/ankle injury and could be out for the entire season.
The challenges had already begun, when Bergevin lost two of his four centers to free agency.
In a surprise off-season development, Bergevin let banned free agent Jesperi Kotkanemi walk after matching a one-year US$6.1 million offer sheet, the promising young forward signed with Carolina.
The six-foot-two, 201-pounder Kotkanemi, who was third overall by Montreal in the 2018 NHL Draft, had five goals and 15 assists in 56 regular-season games last season. He added five goals and three assists in 19 playoff competitions.
“The amount of money a player should have on a one-year deal could affect our future,” Bergevin said at the time. “We have a structure, we have a salary range that we need to work with. And we have some young players coming in that we want to retain.”
The Canadiens lost Philippe Danault to unrestricted free agency at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings. To soften the blow, Bergevin acquired 25-year-old forward Christian Dvorak from Arizona in exchange for a conditional 2022 first-round pick and a 2024 second-round pick.
Montreal closed at least one of their rising young stars, signing Nick Suzuki an eight-year contract worth US$63 million. However, Suzuki has struggled to find the net this season and has scored just four goals in 28 games.
Looks like he’s not the only young Canadian to take a step back. Cole Cofield, when he joined the Canadiens as a rookie at the end of last season, had one goal and two assists in 15 games and returned from a stint in the minors with the American Hockey League’s Laval Rockets.
Meanwhile, the Hubs have suffered not only from Price’s absence, but also injuries from top backup Jake Allen.
The Canadiens brought in Montreal native Bergwin, 56, in May 2012 to replace fired Pierre Gauthier. The Canadiens were coming out of a disappointing 2011–12 season in which they finished last in the Eastern Conference and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
“We feel we have selected someone with the potential to lead our organization into the future,” Molson said at the time. “We were looking for a candidate with very strong leadership abilities, great communication skills at all levels, and a clear determination and commitment to winning.”
Montreal returned to the playoffs in Bergwin’s first season before losing in the first round to Ottawa. They made a big move in 2013–14, losing to the Rangers in six games before reaching the Eastern Conference Finals.
In Bergevin’s nine-plus years, Montreal made six seasons post-season and won seven series, including a 3-1 win over Pittsburgh during the playoff qualification round of the pandemic-disrupted 2019-20 season.
He wasn’t afraid to make a splash during his time at Hubs’ front office. His 2016 trade of popular defender PK Subban for Nashville in exchange for Webber stunned Montreal’s fan base and was harshly criticized by Canadiens loyalists.
Webber’s outstanding performances as team leader and defensive anchor in the years following the swap proved Bergevin to make the controversial move.
In the 2018 off-season, Bergwin traded top forward Max Pacioretti to Vegas, with Tomas Tatar, Suzuki and a second-round pick of 2019 in return.
Bergevin entered the front office after a long playing career when he was named a scout with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2008.
He was director of pro personnel with the Blackhawks in 2010, when former player Kyle Beach alleged that assistant coach Brad Aldrich sexually assaulted him.
Bergevin was not named in a scathing report released last month after an independent investigation commissioned by the Blackhawks in response to lawsuits by a former middle and high school student who was convicted of assaulting Aldrich in Michigan .
The report found that senior Blackhawks leaders met during the team’s race for the 2010 Cup title to discuss intervening allegations, then failed to act.
Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman and top executive Al McIsaac and Florida coach Joel Queneville, who coached the Blackhawks at the time, all resigned in the wake of the investigation.
Bergwin said during the Stanley Cup Finals media day that he was “not aware” of the sexual assault allegations.
“It came out recently. There was a meeting that I heard happened in Chicago. I was not part of any meeting and I was not part of any decision based on that. I don’t know what was going on at the time. You can go on record with it,” Berjavin said at the time. He hasn’t commented on the scandal since.