He has said that he intended to honour the final year of his contract several times, often using those exact words. One thing has become abundantly clear over the last day: he probably won’t, and it’s no longer his call.
The exact details surrounding now-former Canadiens assistant general manager Scott Mellanby’s departure are unknown, but we can piece together another pieces reported by hockey insiders to paint a pretty clear picture. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said that Mellanby was suggested by Bergevin as his successor, and Pierre Lebrun said that Canadiens owner and team president Geoff Molson and Mellanby had discussions about a promotion (or even two), and that when Mellanby realized he was not going to be chosen, he chose to resign. Most of these details have been confirmed by others.
Louis Jean of TVA Sports said that Bergevin found out like the rest of us, which, if true is a pretty big knock to him. Not only did his closest co-worker leave his post, he realized that while he had every intention of honouring the final year of his contract, his intentions no longer mattered.
Molson has been clumsy since COVID hit. From his lack of transparency (which he previously promised) to taking a back seat for most business decisions, and weird battles on social media, to hand picking a select group of media to face questions surrounding Logan Mailloux’s selection, to an awkward fan address prior to the team’s home opener, to complete silence until this. We don’t know what Molson’s end game and plans are, but even his attempt to hire an experienced anglophone to help an inexperienced francophone seems clumsy, even if it is an inspired change that seems like it might work on the surface.
We likely won’t know exactly what happened behind Mellanby and Molson, and there are legitimate questions about how it was handled on a human level. Ultimately what made Mellanby a top candidate — his experience with the organization, and the grooming that Bergevin was clearly performing as Mellanby took an increased role in the day to day of the Laval Rocket — was doomed by the team’s poor performance.
Bergevin’s future in the Canadiens organization was always dubious at best, but the team’s poor start clearly has Molson thinking a clear break is in order. In the end, Mellanby’s ties to Bergevin may have hurt him more than the fact the Montreal-born former NHLer doesn’t speak French.
The Canadiens’ general manager tried to orchestrate every aspect of his exit over the last year, and maybe longer — even suggesting his successor. It’s clear now that the team’s poor performance means he no longer has that luxury. In fact, whether it’s Molson, or someone like Jeff Gorton making the final call, his fate is probably already sealed.