With the end of the Bergevin era, Canadians call on Jeff Gorton to oversee the “new vision” – .

With the end of the Bergevin era, Canadians call on Jeff Gorton to oversee the “new vision” – .

MONTREAL – It was a seismic change that happened right under Marc Bergevin’s feet, and under his nose too.
He knew the end of his tenure with the Montreal Canadiens was approaching. He understood that by failing to secure a contract extension before the start of the season his days as general manager were likely numbered, and he had come to terms with that reality by watching the team that reached the Stanley Cup final last summer. wade into the worst start in its 111-year history.

But Bergevin didn’t expect the cracks to form as quickly as they did on Saturday, and on Sunday he – along with Assistant General Manager Trevor Timmins and Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications Paul Wilson – was pushed through them.

In a statement appearing on the Canadiens website at 3:09 p.m. ET, the announcement came that all three had been relieved of their duties with immediate effect.

Timmins had been with the team for almost two decades, overseeing the draft throughout and acting as AGM since 2017. Wilson had assumed his role in 2018 after working with the Canadiens for several years as a partner of the NATIONAL public relations. And Bergevin was brought in to lead the team he grew up encouraging nine years, six months, and 26 days ago.

The appointment of Jeff Gorton as executive vice-president of hockey operations on Sunday marked the end for the three men in Montreal.

Just before the Canadiens’ 6-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that team owner Geoff Molson had been granted permission to speak to former New York Rangers general manager. and, according to a report by Louis Jean of TVA later that evening, it was news for Bergevin.

He had recommended longtime Deputy Managing Director Scott Mellanby for the job and he and Mellanby both felt Molson was keen to move in that direction.

But what quickly became clear to the two men on Saturday night was that the Canadiens owner had opted for a different route.

Mellanby resigned 15 minutes into the Pittsburgh game’s first period, and as the night wore on it became clear that Bergevin’s fate was on the line.

Sources informed us that changes were underway as early as Sunday and that they arrived in the afternoon.

“On behalf of myself and the organization, I would like to thank Marc Bergevin, Trevor Timmins and Paul Wilson for their passion and commitment to our club over the past few years,” read Molson’s statement. . “Their hard work has provided many memorable moments for our fans, including last summer’s playoff race that culminated in the Stanley Cup Final. We wish them all the success they deserve as they pursue their careers.

“I believe, however, that the time has come for a leadership change within our hockey operations department that will bring a new vision and should allow our fans and partners to continue to cheer on a champion team. “

The Canadiens haven’t been one since 1993, and they look a long way from being one, sitting 29th in the NHL with just six wins in 23 games in what is sure to be a lost season.

But Gorton’s job will be to oversee their relaunch, starting with the task of recruiting – and eventually hiring – a bilingual general manager who “will bring significant hockey experience to the organization,” according to Molson.

The 53-year-old made his NHL debut as a scout with the Boston Bruins in 1992. He then rose through the ranks to assistant general manager and was eventually promoted to interim general manager after the Mike O’Connell fired in 2006.

Within days, Gorton oversaw what is widely regarded as the biggest draw in Bruins history – snatching Phil Kessel, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchard and trading Andrew Raycroft for Tuukka Rask – and made waves. when he signed Marc Savard and Zdeno Chara as free agents.

It was then that he caught the attention of one of the most astute executives in hockey history, Glen Sather, who ended up hiring Gorton to work for the Rangers immediately after leaving the Bruins in 2007. .

“The first time I really had anything to do with him we tried to sign Chara in New York,” Sather told Sportsnet on Sunday. “Jeff had the indoor track on him and took him to Boston, and I was surprised what happened. “

Sather was also impressed.

He later hired Gorton as a professional recruiter with the Rangers and quickly promoted him to assistant general manager. And in July 2015, Sather named Gorton his replacement as Rangers general manager.

Despite the dismissal of his protégé from that post in May 2021 – a move most people think Rangers owner James Dolan demanded – the 78-year-old senior adviser still believes he is uniquely qualified to take on the challenge at Montreal.

“I’m not going to explain what happened (in New York),” Sather said, “but what I will say is he’s a good man and I’m very glad he got it. the post.

“He communicates well with the people who work with him. He treats them well and has a lot of respect for them. He’s an interesting guy. He’s very respectful, very smart, and he’s good with numbers. He will do a good job in Montreal.

A rival executive with whom we touched the base texted, “Jeff is brilliant. Very bright. Thoughtful, always has a plan.

“Jeff takes his time, takes the emotion out of it, does the right thing,” continued the executive. ” He is calm. Dislikes attention or the media.

Gorton’s predecessor wasn’t a big fan of that either, but reflected in his final statement as chief executive on Sunday: “I never thought, in my life, that I would get more visibility than the premier (of Quebec). “

Where Bergevin and Gorton diverge is on emotional detachment. Bergevin focused his emotions on his bulging biceps throughout his time in Montreal, and they got the better of him in some negotiations that went wrong, but also served him well in building strong relationships with almost everyone. around him.

The team have enjoyed great success under the 56-year-old over the first five years, qualifying for the playoffs four times and earning him GM of the Year nominations on two occasions. But it went through great turmoil from early 2017 to spring 2018 and left it hanging on a thread.

It was then that Bergevin presented a plan to reset the roster, gaining Molson’s endorsement and what was to be job security until the end of this season.

The work accomplished since is commendable. Last year, with ceiling space to burn and the economic conditions brought on by the pandemic creating an opportunity for Bergevin to strike, it earned him the most first-place votes for the 2021 Jim Gregory Award, which eventually went to New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello.

It was arguably Bergevin’s best job as the Canadiens’ general manager. He traded and hired Jake Allen to play behind Carey Price, traded for defenseman Joel Edmundson and forward Josh Anderson and signed long-term contracts, extended longtime Canadians Jeff Petry and Brendan Gallagher, recruited agents free Tyler Toffoli, Michael Frolik and Corey Perry, and rounded out the list by adding Eric Staal, Jon Merrill and Erik Gustafsson before the trade deadline – all moves that, as he put it, “got us going. move closer to the ultimate goal ”.

“But we failed to hoist the Holy Grail,” Bergevin continued. “Despite this, I am proud of what we have accomplished as an organization. I sincerely hope that this goal will be achieved as soon as possible.

“Montreal is the city where I took my first steps in skating and it is also the city where I learned to lead the most successful franchise in the NHL. This city and this organization will always have a special place in my heart.

Bergevin knew time was running out for his time here, but didn’t know it would go by as quickly as it had over the weekend.

Timmins was “completely shocked,” he said, when the phone rang on Sunday and Molson was on the line.

“I spent 10 years in Ottawa and 20 in Montreal and have never been fired from a job in my life,” he told Sportsnet on Sunday night.

His hard work on the project was often hampered by both Bergevin and previous CEOs who made executive decisions on the ground, and it was at least partially undone by faulty development practices that plagued the organization. for years.

Ultimately, whatever good discoveries the 53-year-old made beyond the first round – and there have been many over the years – were made up for by first-round failures.

Yet Timmins selected Cole Caufield, 15th overall in 2019, and Kaiden Guhle 16th overall in 2020, and both decisions were widely welcomed. He also made several other quality choices over the years that are likely to have a more positive influence on how his time with the organization will ultimately be evaluated.

Timmins’ sacking, however, comes just months after the selection of a player who asked not to be drafted in 2021.

Bergevin clearing decision to take Logan Mailloux with the 31st pick after the player was accused in Sweden of violating a woman’s privacy and distributing a photo of her engaging in consensual sex with him, let Molson apologize a few days later.

It was a public relations disaster overseen by Wilson. The withdrawal of him, Timmins and Bergevin from the organization on Sunday at least suggests that Molson is not done.

The owner will surely be asked about this when he meets the media for the first time on Monday this season.

Meanwhile, Molson admitted – days after Mailloux was drafted – that he was aware of the decision that was being made and grossly underestimated how it would be received.

“It was an error in judgment,” Molson said.

It was one of the many that were made with him at the top of the hockey operations chart, and perhaps one that made him realize it was time to put somebody in the Gorton’s experiment.

While the Canadiens will likely secure a top-10 pick in the 2022 draft, to be held in Montreal, Gorton will bring his solid amateur scouting background to the process.

He will also help usher in a new era by bringing in what is likely to be a rookie GM and, as Sather said, “he will surround this person with great people.”

“He knows everyone in hockey,” added Sather. “He’s going to find the right guy.


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