When the Montreal Canadiens made it clear that Marc Bergevin would be returning in his role for the 2018-19 season, many were afraid that it would be the status quo for the Canadiens.
Less than a month after the end of the season, Bergevin has made significant and swift changes to his coaching staff, with more to come, and hinted at more changes to the amateur scouting after the draft.
Out are Sylvain Lefebvre, Jean-Jacques Daigneault and Dan Lacroix, perhaps the faces of fans’ frustrations about the organization’s coaching personnel. In is Dominique Ducharme, not as head coach of the Laval Rocket, but as an NHL assistant coach. Claude Julien says that he will be hiring a coach to handle the defence as well, meaning another addition is to come.
We don’t yet know who will replace Lefebvre as head coach of the Rocket, but this shakeup is a massive shift for Bergevin. He can’t really do anything to his NHL roster yet — and you know there will be changes, and perhaps significant ones there — but he’s clearly taking steps to improve the organization, not just hoping things will get better.
The last few transactions made by Bergevin have been to trade Tomas Plekanec for a second-round pick and two AHL players, acquiring a puck-moving defenceman in Mike Reilly, firing Lefebvre and changing his assistant coaching staff. Those are all reasons to be optimistic for the future.
Of course there is trepidation about what roster changes he will make, especially with rumours and speculation swirling around Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk. If Bergevin is prepared to make a big move, those are his two big pieces. But any general manager can make a bad move or a great one. He now has another chip with the third overall pick.
I’ve said in the past that Bergevin should not be the one to lead a rebuild, and I’ve also said that the next major roster move needs to work. And both of those things are still things I believe. But Bergevin is still here, and is still making decisions. If anything, the last two months have me more optimistic of him making good decisions instead of bad ones.
He knows what lies ahead of him. As general manager, he has now lost the entire coaching staff (Michel Therrien, Jean-Jacques Daigneault, and Gerard Gallant) he first hired at the NHL level, and fired the AHL head coach he appointed upon his arrival. He has no cards left to play. He can use “attitude,” “character,” or whatever buzzwords he wants to use publicly, but it won’t change the fact that his tenure hangs in the balance as it enters its seventh year.
The team has to win. Geoff Molson has made it clear that the result of the past year is unacceptable. The coaching moves made were the easy ones, and the right ones. The hard ones will come in June and July.
For the first time in a while, I feel like the organization is headed on the right track. The draft lottery is just the latest cherry on top. It’s now on Bergevin to keep it going.
This was always going to be a very important off-season for the Canadiens organization, and for Bergevin. Both are off to a great start.