With Boivin, Gainey, Gauthier and Jacques Martin now gone, a new era has truly begun for the Canadiens and fans alike. This is not an incremental sideways step like Gainey to Gauthier was, or like Martin to Cunneyworth was. Those were shuffled deck chairs. The front office clean sweep that was so badly and clearly needed is nearly complete, and a new culture is about to be implemented not a moment too soon.
Let’s just say it now, because it’s stunningly obvious: winning breeds fun. And so in that regard, Bergevin’s only true mandate is to turn the Canadiens in to a consistent winner. But beyond success on the ice, it would be wise for Bergevin and the brass of the Canadiens to recognize the many errors of the previous regime, specifically when it comes to how the organization presents itself. Under Gauthier, the Canadiens came to resemble a secretive cult shrouded in a veil of lead-lined curtains. Impenetrable, inaccessible, unlovable. Fortunately for the Canadiens, fan devotion is as close to an renewable resource as it gets, but they came to take it for granted. Under the previous regime, the outsiders were kept out, and sometimes even the insiders were kept out. I cannot think of a GM and Coach tandem so lifeless, drab and moribund like the Gauthier/Martin tandem was. The Canadiens went from a team that was once the epitome of class (there’s that overused word again), excellence, and flair. This is not to say that the Canadiens downfall is all Gauthier’s fault, or any one single person’s fault, but Gauthier, through his dour methods helped ensure that the Canadiens were a constant source of scorn, frustration and emptyness for its fans, and a laughing stock for everyone else.
If the team was winning, some of that would have been left by the wayside and forgiven or ignored, but in addition to being a joyless dud, Pierre Gauthier was also a bad GM who has his fingerprints all over one of the worst trades in NHL history, and is guilty of the worst player acquisition of this past season in the entire NHL.
With the newly hired Marc Bergevin, the Canadiens are getting a self-professed “people person” and someone with a legendary history of pranks. The man has presence, personality and at least for now, a desire to want to share that with his employer, and with Habs fans. This injection of flair and personality, although not mentioned on a job description, is an important part of reinvigorating a franchise that was getting by with glossy marketing. If teams get their identity from their leaders, then it’s no wonder why the Canadiens offered up so many poor performances void of energy, life and care over the past couple seasons. Marc Bergevin’s personality alone, if it filters down through the organization, will minimize, if not eliminate those corpse-like performances entirely. Of course, much of that will also depend on who he appoints as Head Coach, but that’s another story for another day. Or you can visit the links to the right and probably find that discussion.
A few years ago Bob Gainey described Montreal as a city with spice. What he meant in his statement was that this city has an energy and passion for Canadiens hockey that is unrivaled, a thirst that is unquenchable. Why the front office and coaching staff didn’t reflect that statement is anyone’s guess, but they went ahead and put people in place that were “professional” and button-up. They only said what needed to be said, and expressed it as frostily and formally as possible. Thankfully it looks like Geoff Molson is now trying to change that in a big way. Montrealers want to have fun. Montrealers love a good party, and love to celebrate. Montrealers detest a loser. Montrealers abhor the bland. The Habs should be fun. The Habs need to be fun. With such pricey and exclusive tickets, shelling out tons of hard-earned money to go to a Habs game often felt more like a task rather than something to be joyful about, because you simply didn’t know what you were going to get aside from the pomp of the ultra-loud sound system.
While nobody listed “energetic” or “ebullient” as qualifications for the General Manager’s job, a contagious sense of positivity, leadership and joie de vie will go a long way in putting this team back on the right path, and getting fans in a more upbeat mood. People tend to wholeheartedly support people that they like. Bergevin seems to possess all of these qualities, and seems to be a genuinely likeable guy, while his predecessor expressed none of those qualities and was almost universally despised. It’s no wonder why the Habs sunk to such low depths – and I’m not solely referring to their recent 28th place finish.
The Marc Bergevin era will one day come to an end, and what his legacy will be is anyone’s guess, but if he can make the Canadiens fun to watch and fun to follow once again, while ending the constant cycle of drama that engulfs the team, the epitaph will be infinitely kinder to him. By being personable, transparent and accessible, Bergevin is going to put a much different spin on how this team presents itself, and that’s a great thing on its own.
Just make sure the team wins, Marc. And don’t do anything stupid.