In a perfect world, Marc Bergevin would have an extension as general manager of the Montreal Canadiens. He said so himself on Wednesday at an impromptu press conference where the “hockey boss”, as he called himself, had to speak about what was then an 0-4 start.
In a perfect world, Sebastian Aho and Jesperi Kotkaniemi would be scoring goals at the Bell Centre for the Montreal Canadiens, not against them. Shea Weber would be patrolling the blue line. Carey Price making big saves. Phillip Danault would be taking faceoffs, and Corey Perry would be standing in front of opposing goaltenders.
Needless to say, the Canadiens would not have lost five straight games to start the season in a perfect world.
Bergevin isn’t the only member of the Canadiens organization to speak about a utopian world. Head coach Dominique Ducharme has used it in the past to describe the lineup decisions he has to make in an unideal world.
Streaks to start the season are no stranger to the Canadiens. After all, this is the same team that started 9-0-1 and 1-6-1 in back-to-back seasons. Even last season, they got off to a 5-0-2 start avoiding the regulation loss that has been so familiar over the last few weeks. In two of those three streaks, the coach that started the season did not finish it (and no, it’s not the streak you would think).
If, in a perfect world, Marc Bergevin remains general manager of the Montreal Canadiens, we need to understand why he does not have a contract extension. Logic dictates that either Bergevin or Geoff Molson have reservations. Either they can’t agree on terms of a contract, or aren’t convinced they want the relationship to continue.
Bergevin has already made several decisions that will dictate the future of this organization. From new contracts for the coaching staff in the NHL and AHL, to free agency and trades, and most recently Nick Suzuki’s contract extension. He says that he runs everything by Scott Mellanby and Molson, like he always has. None of the moves he has made have sacrificed the long-term viability of the organization.
Mellanby, for his part, has taken on more of a role as well. He and Martin Lapointe were the ones taking care of contracts for the Laval Rocket, by Bergevin’s own admission. Mellanby is the one who discusses with Trois-Rivières Lions general manager Marc-André Bergeron. Mellanby was the one who interviewed prospective Rocket coaches, including the eventual hire Jean-François Houle.
It is possible that it was all done that way because that’s what an assistant GM does. But Bergevin mentioned Mellanby in the same breath as Molson when it comes to discussing decision-making, and Mellanby pulled out of the Pittsburgh Penguins GM job search about a year ago.
Either way, the decision on who will be the team’s general manager will be made by Molson. The team’s owner has an opportunity to change the hockey operations structure by installing a president between him and the GM. He also has an opportunity — actually a requirement — to settle the uncertainty in the offices of the Bell Centre.
The team cannot continue going into the season without a direction going forward. A mid-season GM firing is never a great decision, let’s be fair. Most teams won’t let any external candidates leave in the middle of a season — something the Penguins had to deal with after Jim Rutherford resigned — so you may have an interim GM until the end of the season anyway. Either way, you would at least know change is coming.
Maybe Bergevin’s successor is already in house. If that’s the case, it may be worth it to make the move before the end of his contract and to give the next GM the trade deadline to kickstart their tenure.
In a perfect world, Bergevin would have a new contract. There would be no uncertainty. The team would be winning.
The world is not perfect and, as a result, decisions will have to be made sooner rather than later.