Canadiens Fire Bergevin, Timmins
Former New York Rangers GM Jeff Gorton has been hired as executive vice-president of hockey operations. He will play a significant role in selecting a new general manager and head scout.
Bergevin had been Canadiens GM since 2012 and is in the last year of his contract. Timmins spent 17 seasons with the Habs and was promoted to assistant GM in 2017, overseeing their amateur scouting.
Under Bergevin’s management, the Canadiens made six playoff appearances, reaching the 2021 Stanley Cup Final and the 2014 Eastern Conference Final. He made several noteworthy additions via trades and free agents. They include current Habs such as Nick Suzuki, Jeff Petry, Tyler Toffoli, Josh Anderson, Jake Allen, and Christian Dvorak.
However, the Canadiens have had their difficulties in recent years. They missed the playoffs in 2017-18 and 2018-19. In 2020, they qualified only because of a one-time-only expanded playoff format due to the cancellation of the remainder of the regular season by COVID-19. They qualified last season because of divisional changes in a COVID-shortened schedule.
The Canadiens are off to one of their worst starts in franchise history this season, in part because of the absence of superstar goaltender Carey Price and captain Shea Weber to injuries and Price’s one-month stint in the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program. The lack of leadership in the dressing room and on the ice has been a critical factor in the Habs’ struggles.
Bergevin, however, faced growing criticism from fans and pundits for the club’s poor effort in recent years. He’s also been taken to task for several questionable trades and signings, as well as the development of the club’s promising young players.
Some fans are still smarting over his swap of Subban for Weber, though that move ultimately worked out in the long-term for the Canadiens. Other questionable decisions include shipping Sergachev to Tampa Bay for Jonathan Drouin, signing David Savard and Karl Alzner, and passing on re-signing popular Habs like Alexander Radulov, Andrei Markov and Phillip Danault.
Sergachev (2016) is now starring with the Lightning. Ryan Poehling (2017) and Cole Caufield (2019) have shown varying degrees of potential but the jury remains out on whether they’ll reach their potential.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi (2018) was signed away by a one-year offer sheet from the Carolina Hurricanes in August. His struggle to meet expectations that dogged him in Montreal seems to have carried over with Carolina.
Canadiens owner and president Geoff Molson was criticized by the Montreal media for his unwillingness to publicly address his club’s poor performance through the first two months of this season. However, reports are emerging that he had been considering front office changes for some time. At one point it appeared assistant GM Scott Mellanby would either replace Bergevin or take over as overseer of hockey operations. Molson, however, decided to go in another direction, sparking Mellanby’s resignation on Saturday.
By hiring Jeff Gorton, Molson is bringing in an experienced and respected hockey executive. He rebuilt the Rangers during his tenure as their general manager from 2015 until fired last May. He signed Artemi Panarin, acquired Mika Zibanejad, Adam Fox and Jacob Trouba and drafted Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko.
Before that, Gorton spent eight years as an assistant general manager with the Boston Bruins. During several months as their interim GM in 2006, he acquired goaltender Tuukka Rask, drafted forwards Phil Kessel, Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic, and signed defenseman Zdeno Chara and forward Marc Savard.
Whoever Gorton hires as Bergevin’s replacement must be fully bilingual. Sportsnet’s Eric Engels recently speculated whether Roberto Luongo, Patrick Roy, Martin Madden Jr., Vincent Damphousse or Mathieu Darche will be among the candidates for the job.
It remains to be seen whether any of them get the job or if Gorton goes with a lesser-known option. Nevertheless, change is underway with the Canadiens, which will determine the future of head coach Dominique Ducharme and perhaps lead to some significant changes to the current roster in the coming weeks and months.