Here at EOTP, we often mention that things are never quite as good as they seem to be, and never quite as bad as they seem to be. The latter part of that axiom was trotted out hundreds of times during the 2011-12 season that saw the Canadiens finish 28th overall in the NHL, and last in the Eastern Conference.
During the last week of blowout losses, we've been saying it again, but for different reasons. Last year we looked to the future and saw that things weren't as dire as they looked, this year we look at the present and know that the Canadiens are one of the top teams in the NHL, and 40 games are more indicative than the previous 5.
But who built this top team? Marc Bergevin is the answer on the lips of the media, and of most fans. Certainly Bergevin has played a part. His competence is impossible to question at this point, with all but one personnel move looking very good. But he's been with the Canadiens for less than a year. There are many fingerprints on this team, and only a very few are Marc Bergevin's.
If you were to talk to a random fan of the Montreal Canadiens, or a member of the media, and ask whether Marc Bergevin was a good GM or not, I am sure you would be far more likely to get a yes than a no.
Ask the same question of Pierre Gauthier, and you will get a resounding no from nearly anyone. Ask the same of Bob Gainey, and you'll likely hear the same, but perhaps not as heavily stated.
Marc Bergevin has acquired the following pieces for the Canadiens: Michael Ryder, Brandon Prust, Jeff Halpern Colby Armstrong, Francis Bouillon, and Davis Drewiske. Ryder was a home run, Prust is a near home run, Armstrong, and Bouillon have been solid (Bouillon's over-usage is not his fault), and Drewiske seems to be solid depth. But what that amounts to in reality is one top 6 forward, three very good 4th liners, and a 6th and 7th defenseman. That is not the core of this team.
The core of this team, a winning team, was built by those who are so vilified in the city of Montreal, that saying the name Gauthier at all provokes spittle. I will be the first to say that Pierre Gauthier deserved to be fired. He did the last thing a person in a management position should ever do, he panicked.
But that panic, not Marc Bergevin, lead to the Habs picking Alex Galchenyuk 3rd overall, Sebastian Collberg 33rd, Tim Bozon 64th, Brady Vail 94th, Charles Hudon 122nd and trading Hal Gill allowed the Canadiens to pick Dalton Thrower 51st in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. I'm not about to extoll the virtues of tanking, because quite honestly it's a flawed strategy that only works in the minds of those who ignore franchises like Edmonton, Columbus, Florida, Atlanta, and more. However taking advantage during a losing season is something good organizations do.
The Canadiens have some of the best prospect depth in the NHL, but it is Bob Gainey and Pierre Gauthier picks that make up this depth, not Marc Bergevin's. While Bergevin was the GM of record during the draft, those are Gauthier's picks.
And even in the upcoming 2013 draft, Gauthier has left his mark.
Trading Mike Cammalleri to the Calgary Flames was awfully handled. Gauthier could have got more for Cammalleri if it wasn't handled so poorly, yet Calgary's awful season will net the Canadiens a high second round pick.
Trading Andrei Kostitsyn for Nashville's second round pick was equally deft, as Nashville is currently in lottery position. The Canadiens could have two second rounders between the 31st and 35th choices if things break right.
And this is just prospect depth that been built by the former regime, what about the team at hand?
Bob Gainey and Pierre Gauthier brought in the following players:
P.K. Subban, Max Pacioretty, Brian Gionta, David Desharnais, Brendan Gallagher, Lars Eller, Raphael Diaz, Alexei Emelin, Rene Bourque, Josh Gorges, Travis Moen, Gabriel Dumont, Yannick Weber, Nathan Beaulieu, Ryan White, Jarred Tinordi, Mike Blunden, Greg Pateryn, Peter Budaj, and Carey Price.
It's fair to say that Marc Bergevin's biggest contribution was addition by subtraction, getting rid of Scott Gomez, however that became an option because of the NHL and NHLPA, an option any sane manager would make. And let me remind you, Scott Gomez's cap hit is still counting against the cap this year while the Canadiens play without him.
Now I'm not saying that Gauthier was some misunderstood, brilliant GM. But the narrative surrounding the Gauthier/Gainey years is a false one. The net effect of that era is a positive one for this organization, one that was pretty obviously trending up the whole way through, even if neither were without colossal mistakes.
So before you fall over yourself bowing at the altar of Bergevin, keep in mind that you're thanking him for the team that was built by the people you've been spitting on for years.