Remember when this site was one of the only places defending this guy? Let's not make the same mistake so many did, and assume disaster with so little evidence. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Once in awhile you need to take a step back and apply some criticism to your own opinions. Since the hiring of Michel Therrien by the Montreal Canadiens, the attitude on EOTP has been decidedly negative. In fact it's gotten so negative, that we've been writing off moves by the new Habs GM without even thinking. This looks pretty ignorant on the surface, and drives people away.
There's no doubt about it that Therrien's hiring poisoned the well for anyone who pays attention to advanced stats, but it was one hire in a situation that Bergevin had too few options to choose from.
From there we have a cacophony of former players being hired for various management and coaching positions. With this comes the assumption that they're all of a similar viewpoint on hockey and Bergevin is hiring people who won't challenge him. There's an assumption that every person hired by the Habs is one of an "old school" methodology, or to put it another way, ignorant of new methods to create a competitive advantage. I tried not to get drawn into this thinking, but when everyone around you parrots it, it's bound to happen.
However, this assumption makes no sense. Would it be preferable if Marc Bergevin had hired people from various backgrounds (managers, lawyers, math guys etc) to form his management team? Perhaps it would, but there's a grievous error in judgement going on to assume that just because so many of the hires by Bergevin are former players, that they all think the same.
Gary Bettman is a former lawyer. Former candidate for the Canadiens GM position Julien Brisebois was is a former lawyer, do you believe they share the same views on hockey? It seems to me that this is a large assumption based on almost no evidence.
Likewise we have no evidence that Bergevin does not have someone to run numbers for him, or use advanced stats. For argument's sake, pretend I was hired by the Canadiens tomorrow, who would care about a 25 year old with a Bachelors of Arts degree in political science? Yet I know my way around those stats, and currently work full time researching them for a post secondary institution. But the bottom line is, you wouldn't hear about that hiring, because those kinds of people aren't big names.
It does not take a mathematical genius to understand advanced hockey statistics. I haven't taken a math class since I was 17 yet the methodology isn't difficult for me to understand, nor are the concepts. What guarantee is there that none of Bergevin's hires, or himself, are familiar with the concepts?
Can anyone name the person or people who do analytics for Boston or Vancouver? What about Chicago? You can't, because those names don't attract attention or announcements. We don't know if those people are in place in Montreal already, and assuming they're not makes no sense. It's choosing to be negative.
There is no guarantee that this new regime will find success in the NHL, but there are good signs. Bergevin's hire of Sylvain Lefebvre shows a commitment to grooming a coach who can take over from Therrien. Bergevin saw a huge problem in the hiring process for coaches, and realized a long term plan was necessary. This is something that was an undeniable problem under the last regime. As soon as Gainey and Co. made a hire that could have rectified this problem, they let Tampa Bay scoop them.
Another problem that has occurred in the Canadiens org is prospects struggling in the jump to the NHL. As we discovered this year, the Canadiens are an excellent drafting organization, but too often prospects have been traded away too young, struggling with the pressures involved in being a Canadien. Patrice Brisebois, who felt more scorn as a Hab than almost anyone in the last two decades, was brought in to mentor the kids making the transition. Martin Lapointe has come on in a similar capacity.
These are two problems that are being addressed, those are positive signs of competent management. Identifying and attempting to rectify problems is a great way to start.
Remember how early we are into Bergevin's tenure before you tie the knot in that noose. One is reminded of nervous Nellies booing Carey Price after his first preseason game in 2009-10. Fretting about things we can't possibly know at this stage is akin to this behaviour. There's no way of ensuring success at this juncture, but assuming disaster is pointless.