The Montreal Canadiens have selected Chicago Blackhawks assistant GM Marc Bergevin as their new general manager, as first reported by Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune and later confirmed by the Canadiens, who have a 2 p.m. press conference on Wednesday.
And he speaks French!
Bergevin, 46, spent several seasons in the Chicago front office, including work as a scout and a stint as director of player personnel. He was an assistant coach under Joel Quenneville with the Blackhawks and played 1,191 games as an NHL defenseman from 1984-2004.
One by one, the other candidates for Pierre Gauthier's old job began being eliminated this week. Francois Giguere, former Colorado Avalanche GM, was told he wasn't in the running. Toronto Maple Leafs assistant GM Claude Loiselle was also out.
In the last few days, the focus has narrowed to Bergevin and NBC Sports analyst Pierre McGuire, as Michael Farber of Sports Illustrated reported they were "the only men given lengthy follow-up interviews after initial phone conversations."
Bergevin, a 45-year-old who was an NHL defenceman for 20 years, is known for his vast network of contacts and McGuire-esque encyclopedic knowledge of players, but he's only been an assistant GM for just over a year (he was a scout for their Cup-winning team), and as a legendary prankster and cut-up doesn't fit the gray-suit-and-milky-tea idiom of the seventh floor at the Bell Centre.
While it's not the audacious pick that McGuire or Patrick Roy would have been, or the paradigm-shifting hire that a Pat Brisson (Sidney Crosby's agent) or a Julien BriseBois (the 34-year-old wiz from the Tampa Bay Lightning) would have been, Bergevin's nonetheless an interesting hire.
He's a Montreal native, with a quirky personality and an eye for hockey talent. He becomes the second former Stan Bowman assistant to be hired by a Canadian team, after Kevin Cheveldayoff took over the Winnipeg Jets last summer.
But as Jonathan Willis noted in April on Cult of Hockey, there are some reservations:
Two items in particular stand out to me. The first is experience: Bergevin has only been an assistant general manager for a single year and only been in a top executive role for three. He certainly has a ton of knowledge from his playing days, but that's not a lot of time upstairs. The second is some concern about his ability to manage the salary cap; it was less than one year ago that Bowman said that Bergevin "is honest in admitting that he doesn't have a complete grasp of numbers and the salary cap, but he doesn't say, 'Oh, I can't do that.' He takes it as a challenge to learn it."
The attitude is certainly commendable, but at best that's a backhanded recommendation for a general manager. In the same vein, the travel schedule of Bergevin's junior team meant that his "formal education ended at grade 11;" while education isn't the deciding factor in what makes a good G.M. many other candidates come from law or business backgrounds and it's fair to suggest that this will be considered.
… I wouldn't feel comfortable hiring Bergevin for the top job at this point in time. He's still relatively new to the number two role in an NHL organization, and the fact is that the salary cap and the CBA are things a general manager should understand intimately first-hand. Stan Bowman's comments suggest that Bergevin is still picking that stuff up.
Keep in mind that he won't be flying solo. One imagines Serge Savard, an adviser to owner Geoff Molson during the GM hiring process, will continue to advise Bergevin.
Also keep in mind that although this season was a tremendous disappointment for the Canadiens, the cupboard isn't bare: They'll have $18.4 million in cap space this summer, even more if they make Scott Gomez's contract disappear; and they've got some solid prospects in the pipeline.
Congrats to Marc Bergevin.
Now, will someone please give Pierre McGuire a GM job, for the sake of all hockey media that appreciate a good sound byte and serene commentary on U.S. television?
(Incidentally, the cutline on the Bergevin photo seen here: "Coach Marc Bergevin, in Caesar garb, prepares the Primus Worldstars for their game against the Norwegian All-Stars December 21, 2004 at the Olso Spektrum in Oslo, Norway. The Worldstars won the game 7-5. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)")