SBD/May 3, 2012/Franchises

New Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin A Big Hit During Introductory Press Conference

Bergevin is well-known for his irreverent sense of humor and eye for talent
Marc Bergevin "was introduced as the Canadiens' 17th GM" at a news conference yesterday afternoon, according to Pat Hickey of the Montreal GAZETTE. Bergevin replaces Pierre Gauthier, who was "relieved of his duties on March 29 after a two-year run that ended with the Canadiens finishing dead-last in the Eastern Conference" this season. Canadiens President & CEO Geoff Molson said that the decision to hire Bergevin "was made after a month-long search guided" by former GM Serge Savard. Molson said, "We had a long list of candidates and we were able to whittle the list down to 10 pretty easily." He added that there were "three candidates on the final short list and, while he didn't name them, the runners-up" were Lightning Assistant GM Julien BriseBois and NBC's Pierre McGuire. Molson said, "The decision wasn't easy, but we feel we selected an individual with the potential to lead our organization in the future. We were looking for a candidate with very strong leadership capabilities, great communication skills at all levels and someone with a clear determination and commitment to winning. We believe we found the right person." Bergevin said that he "hoped to have fun in the new job and make the people of Montreal proud." When asked how long it would take to turn the team around, Bergevin said, "I don't have a time frame, but my vision of this team is that it has a good nucleus" (Montreal GAZETTE, 5/3). Molson said yesterday that Bergevin "brought a lot to the table." Molson added, "Today marks the first step towards bringing back a winning culture to our organization" (TORONTO STAR, 5/3).

AN EYE FOR TALENT: NHL.com's Arpon Basu wrote Bergevin left his position as Blackhawks Assistant GM "to take what is arguably one of the most prestigious front office positions in all of sports." Bergevin is "held in high regard as a talent evaluator," and he will be "under some pressure to  perform in Montreal, with a fan base upset about the difficulties of this past season and eager for a return to the gloried history of the franchise" (NHL.com, 5/2). In Chicago, Chris Kuc notes Bergevin impressed Molson "enough during a lengthy interview process to take a chance on a candidate with no previous experience as a GM, and who served only one year as an assistant." Bergevin's "extensive experience in other roles, and the connections he made during a career in hockey, made him a viable option." He is considered one of the NHL's "all-time pranksters and the French and English speaker has endeared himself to many around the sport" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/2). Also in Chicago, Adam Jahns writes it is a "somewhat expected -- but still very substantial -- loss for the Hawks." It is their "third highly respected talent evaluator to leave to revamp another team." In Bergevin, the Canadiens "get someone who is easygoing and approachable." Blackhawks players "related to and liked him, which helped the organization in many ways" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/3). In Montreal, Dave Stubbs writes Bergevin seems "up for the challenge, and having been raised in this city, he understands the passion and the expectations -- outrageous as they can be -- of Canadiens fans" (Montreal GAZETTE, 5/3).

A MEDIA DARLING: The GLOBE & MAIL's Roy MacGregor notes Bergevin has "been a media delight since his playing days." The "smiling, winking man who wears his heart on his sleeve is replacing a man who many believe kept his in a safety deposit box." The style change is "instantly welcome" (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/3).YAHOO SPORTS' Nicholas Cotsonika wrote Bergevin "won his introductory news conference" yesterday. Mostly in French, a little in English, the new GM "cracked one-liners and made jokes as he outlined his vision." Cotsonika wrote, "He's funny. He's outgoing," but winning news conferences "means little without winning games." However, style "might mean more in Montreal than any other market, thanks to its unique blend of history, pressure and politics, and style can have a practical impact on your chances of success" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/2). The GLOBE & MAIL's Sean Gordon writes Bergevin’s "irreverence and candour constitute the starkest possible contrast with the taciturn Pierre Gauthier." And launching a "culture shift was the point" (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/3). The GLOBE & MAIL's James Mirtle wrote Bergevin "may just be the complete opposite" of Gauthier, as his "reputation for years has been as the funniest man in hockey" (GLOBEANDMAIL.com, 5/2). ESPN.com's Scott Burnside noted being the GM of the Canadiens is "different than almost every other posting in sport." There are contracts, drafting models and free agents "to consider, but the story of the Canadiens, especially as they exist now, is bigger, more complex." In that regard, Bergevin "seems well-suited for what will certainly be a difficult task" (ESPN.com, 5/2). In Montreal, Mike Boone writes under the header, "A Good First Impression Of New GM." After a "slightly nervous start, Bergevin charmed a jam-packed room at the Brossard training complex." Boone notes Bergevin's "good humour was infectious" (Montreal GAZETTE, 5/3).

A CHALLENGE AHEAD: SI.com's Michael Farber noted with the "looming possibility of the NHL's return to Quebec City, the Canadiens had become vulnerable in the nebulous area of hearts and minds in the province." Bergevin can "repair some of the superficial damage, but this franchise needs something more than cosmetic surgery" (SI.com, 5/2). In Toronto, Steve Buffery notes the Quebec media "seems largely thrilled over the hiring" of Bergevin. The media's enthusiasm is "interesting, because if the Canadiens’ management had hired any other guy with such limited front office experience to run the storied franchise, and he didn’t speak French, it would have been ripped from now until next Easter." Buffery: "But because he speaks French, it's a fantastic hiring. Whatever. Bergevin’s first order of business was to demote interim head coach Randy Cunneyworth, a terrible person given the fact that he speaks English only" (TORONTO SUN, 5/3).
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