Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Canadiens extend Marc Bergevin's contract to 2022.

NHL general managers are notorious, to the point of satire, for speaking of 'five-year plans' with respect to their teams, how they need that time to amass all the necessary pieces through the draft and subsequent development of prospects, before they can ice a team that's a legitimate contender.  In Québec, there is much mirth about the never-ending 'plan quinquennal' for the Canadiens since the mid-nineties, a rolling five-year period that has declared start dates but whose end date is ever further in the future.

Well, Marc Bergevin now has plenty of time to accomplish this five-year plan, having seen his contract extended by the Canadiens until 2022, which will be ten years after his hire.

We joke, but as fans of the Canadiens we can't be anything but pleased with the performance of the GM since he's been in charge.  Many of the glaring issues which I identified in an early post have been addressed effectively.  The Canadiens now have a team of bright hockey men in charge, with a strong leader for a team of equals, instead of the autocratic régime of Bob Gainey and Pierre Gauthier, stretched thin and making impulsive, ill-fated decisions.

The approach has been everything I could have dreamed.  The biggest priority has been instilling a winning culture in the team, from the top down.

Instead of knee-jerk decisions and panic trades, the focus has been on amassing prospects and spending a lot of resources on player development.  A whole new arm has been created under Martin Lapointe, relieving the pressure on Trevor Timmins, who had to wear this hat previously and keep tabs on prospects under Pierre Gauthier.  Now, he can focus on amateur scouting, and Martin Lapointe takes care of the players already in the fold.

To amass these prospects and players, Marc Bergevin, with the blessing of owner Geoff Molson, has beefed up the scouting departments, both amateur and pro.  Finds like Dale Weise and Jeff Petry can be traced to this new emphasis on pro scouting.

The organization is spending its vast revenue on the players, making sure they have everything they need, instead of funneling profits in the pockets of a rapacious owner.  The players notice, constantly referring to how good they have it, how everything is first-class.

And this bleeds through to the players' families.  We now see that they want to be in Montréal, they're not aching to leave at the first opportunity.  Jeff Petry's new contract came about in large part due to the support of his wife, who loved the new digs and wanted to stay here if possible.  We heard how Erik Cole's and Hal Gill's families were disappointed at having to leave.

These are just a few reasons to applaud the extension afforded to Marc Bergevin.  There is a sense that every resource, every effort is being expended to build a winning team, and a strong organization.  A plan appears to be in place, a systematic approach, rather than just a team treading water and waiting for happy accidents to occur.

A word about ownership, with President Geoff Molson providing a supportive, stable organization for the team to thrive.  He said at the outset that no expense would be spared to build a winner, and he's been true to his word.  Beyond the player salaries, which are governed by a cap and floor system anyway, ownership has invested heavily in the team, in terms of facilities and personnel.

But Geoff Molson has done more.  In every appearance, every public utterance, he has shown that the team is the first concern, not him.  He's not a grandstanding, meddling owner à la Jeremy Jacobs or Jim Irsay.  He's humble and deferential, and always speaks of the team, and the fans and the community's attachment to the team.

Seeing Johnny Manziel's latest escapade, I couldn't help be reminded how it was the Browns' owner Jimmy Haslam who made the decision to draft him, and how Jerry Jones admitted he needed to be restrained to prevent him from making a "big bold move" and picking Manziel earlier in the first round.

This kind of interference is unknown in Montréal, certainly when it comes to Geoff Molson, and his steady, understated leadership, as well as decisions such as recruiting and retaining Marc Bergevin, bode well for the future.

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