One of the best ways to judge a company’s management team is by judging how they behave in a crisis situation. By any measure, this is a crisis of a year for the Montreal Canadiens and I’m not going out on much of a limb today to suggest that Habs’ management has failed miserably in trying to deal with this crisis.
Yes losing Carey Price for most of a season is going to hurt big time but how have Geoff Molson, Marc Bergevin and Michel Therrien attempted to grapple with this huge dilemma? One obvious solution would’ve been to try to get another starting goalie. They didn’t do that. Okay maybe no one was available or the price was too high.
But the problem isn’t just Price. It’s the lack of scoring. What did they do about that? Nada. Bergevin says you can’t make big trades in today’s NHL. I would amend that to – Marc Bergevin, YOU can’t make big trades in today’s NHL. So he decided not to trade for scoring talent.
Okay how about the guys you have. Throughout the monster slump, one of the forwards who shows spark more nights than most is Alex Galchenyuk. Yet he continues to play second fiddle to David Desharnais, a guy who has – how do I put this politely – slumped during the slump. That’s bad management, on the part of Therrien mostly.
Which brings us to the biggest mistake of this snake-bitten season – Bergevin’s famous ‘it’s on me’ moment. He said he would not be firing Therrien under any circumstances. I get it. He wanted to show he supported the team but with 20/20 hindsight, it was a mistake. Therrien’s a bad coach who’s making a mediocre team worse.
I’m not even saying ‘fire Therrien today’. It doesn’t matter now. The season is over. But my real fear is Bergevin will show the same macho stubbornness he showed in those last negotiations with Subban – they went to arbitration for heaven’s sake! – and keep Therrien just to show the fans who’s boss.
And ‘it’s on me’. Give me an effin break. The guy has a contract for several more years, so it’s not on him. If he had real cojones and really cared, he’d walk in Molson’s office today – or at the end of the season – and say – ‘If you want, fire me and I’ll rip up my contract and walk away.’
I was at an Evenko press conference a few months back, that’s the infamous one when Bergevin gave me ‘The Stare’, and the Habs’ all-controlling P.R. staff told the journalists there would be no questions about the Habs that day. And I spoke to a number of hockey reporters who were furious, noting that Bergevin gives them almost no access.
I thought of that last night when the camera panned to show us Bergevin in the luxury box upstairs with his new bushy woodsman hairdo and I thought – I literally haven’t seen this guy on TV for months. He should be out there day-in and day-out taking the heat. That’s the least he can do.
Instead he sends out his henchman Therrien who is….again I’ll try to be polite…..not the greatest of men. Like Wednesday night after the Habs somehow found a way to lose an entirely winnable game. They played a good game and lost, in part because Subban fell on a play with a couple of minutes left in the third, leading to the Avalanche scoring the winning goal. So Therrien benched him for the final two minutes. Read that again. He benched the team’s leading point-getter in the two minutes they had left to tie the game. Brilliant. Way to go Michel.
Then he used the post-game press conference to lay the blame for the loss entirely at the feet of Subban, at a time when the media is already revving up with all kinds of blame-Subban chatter. Nice. You’re a big man Michel.
Meanwhile probably the biggest culprit on that last goal was captain Max Pacioretty who was standing in front of goalie Ben Scrivens just watching the river flow, as Dylan might’ve put it. The same Pacioretty who has, as far as I recall, never been singled out during this horrific season by Therrien, in spite of the fact that he’s Minus-13 and has shown a quite astonishing lack of leadership both on and off the ice during this crisis.
I was chatting yesterday with an 81-year-old guy, a francophone, salt-of-the-earth type, and unsurprisingly, the subject of the Habs came up and he told me how outraged he was that the owners had increased ticket prices this season. He may have also mentioned the price tag on those watery beers at the rink. He felt betrayed and you know he’s not alone. That’s a dangerous thing and it’s something I’d take very seriously if I was part of that ownership group.
Bergevin and Therrien have treated the team’s fans with contempt throughout this season and the fans have every right to get right back at those guys with the same contempt. That’s not a state of affairs I’d be willing to live with if I was Bergevin and Therrien’s boss.
But is anyone mad as hell on the seventh floor of the Bell Centre? There is certainly no sign of that. No they’re just gearing up for another sold-out game at the Bell Centre Friday.
- Brendan Kelly