A recurring image that defined last year’s hockey playoffs — Mark Bergevin, dressed like a bodybuilding Santa Claus in his plucky red suit, bites around the press box as the mask slipped through the spectacular trough of his nose.
The Montreal Canadiens’ general manager became a visual metaphor for how it’s possible to turn your fortunes around in the NHL. One day, you’re a puppet ruining the most storied franchise in the game. The next day, you’re a genius who roped-a-dope the entire league.
Even if you don’t like hubs (and if you’ve never lived within Montreal’s city limits, you have no excuse not to do so), it’s hard to jump into the Stanley Cup Finals on that ride. was not.
But the problem with winning is that it throws the return into reality in sharp relief when you shouldn’t.
GM Mark Bergevin outside in Montreal as canadiens shake the front office
Since that final, the Canadiens have been doing one of those Marx Brothers tumbles down an endless ladder. Every time you think they’ve hit the bottom, you realize there’s just one more flight left.
On Sunday the whole mess landed on Berjavin. He and some of his capo got the chops. Even the comus guy embraced it.
Like most coups, it gets a little tough to follow unless you’re paying close attention. The Canadiens’ press release announcing Bergevin’s departure focused on the search for a new GM.
You had to get down a few paragraphs before you realized that former New York Rangers boss Jeff Gorton has been hired as the head of Hockey Ops to “assurance continuity” in the interim.
Montreal is not recruiting a replacement for Bergwin. Gorton’s place. Unfortunately, he is also an American.
What the Canadiens are looking for is a helper from Gorton who understands French and will agree to speak French to all French-speaking people covering the team. (Knowing a bit about hockey would be great, but that may not be mandatory depending on how French you are.)
Do you think this is a good idea? See. If only you owned a Molson.
As good as the Canadiens’ playoff run is, it doesn’t get so bad overnight. It takes a village of dumb tricks and terrible luck.
It’s hard to pick out the worst of the early warning signs that 2021-22 was about to happen through Montreal’s ‘Glass Darkly’ edition of 2020-21.
Was it veteran defenseman Shia Webber’s career-threatening injury? Goaltender Carey Price’s leave of absence? Losing a playoff hero and banning free-agent Jesperi Kotakanami to the Carolina Hurricanes? (Worse than losing young Finn after being mocked by Storm about it—a cat-who-sees-on-king situation if ever there was one.)
Or was it the Canadians cashing in on all the good they had earned by drafting a man who had been implicated in misdemeanor? Despite the fact that the pick, Logan Meloux, tried to remove himself from the draft before anyone could take it.
Yes, it was probably the last thing.
A few months later, Bergwin was forced to break out and work her way out of the Chicago Blackhawks sex scandal. He was a member of the Chicago executive committee at the time of the 2010 Kyle Beach scandal.
Having been robbed of three major talents and taken on the guise of being a pariah franchise (until Chicago freed Montreal from that burden), the Canadiens fell for the first time in the season.
It’s hard not to link this somehow to last week’s decision by Quebec Premier François Legault to strike down a committee whose job would be to find ways to revive elite hockey in the province. If your most elite team is kicking around most nights, it really doesn’t work wonders for national morale.
Though not declared dead yet, the body of the management started trembling on Saturday. Out of nowhere, Bergevin’s longtime advisor, Scott Melanby, stepped down. Here the effect of the butterfly at work can be gauged.
Had Bergevin decided not to return to the Canadiens this year, it would have put Mellenby in a position to take over his job. Maybe this has convinced Melanby to interview him for GM jobs elsewhere.
Then the Canadiens went on their unexpected run in the Cup.
Everyone probably seemed a fool after Bergevin decided to stay. Which will get even worse when the wheels start coming off Enough,
A sudden reversal of hockey fortunes may have prompted Montreal owners to begin looking for someone to replace and/or ride the herd over Bergevin. Say, a director of Hockey Ops. Say, someone who looks more like Jeff Gorton than Scott Mellenby. Which in turn could cause Mellenby to leave in a huff.
We all know for sure that Montreal’s leadership was mortally compromised by the departure of Melanby on Saturday. The Canadiens’ proposed fix for a problem that was not yet official had already begun to leak across the Internet. By Sunday, restarting looked as if it was the only option.
If the Canadiens had been consistent losers who had not made a surprise final, the change could have been systematic. If the team’s bullshit has and has always been bullshit, who cares? This can be bullshit for a while.
Now succession is moving like an out-of-control satellite. Which masochist wants Bergevin’s old job, knowing the guy promised that he might choose to drive himself out of town rather than stay put and put up with more of this crap?
The longer it takes to find a new GM, the longer it takes the people of Montreal to grasp the fact that their team is run by a guy from Massachusetts.
A Stanley Cup finalist four months ago, the Canadiens are currently having a bad week in the NHL from being finally dead. More importantly, it doesn’t look like they’re going to get much better any time soon.
But the situation was as bad as it is now.
While losing is the closest cause of all these problems, unexpected victories created a situation where losing (which Bergevin and the Canadiens had been doing for years) could create such panic.
This would make Montreal a victim of Newtonian physics – because for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.