May 2, 2012
Habs hire Bergevin as GM
By BRIAN DALY, QMI AGENCY
MONTREAL - New Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin hasn't lived in his homeland since 1984 but says the formula for success transcends borders.
"Build a winning team," the former Chicago Blackhawks executive told a news conference at the Bell Sports Complex, where he was introduced as the franchise's new GM.
The 46-year-old Montreal native also knows that language and politics are never far from the minds of discerning observers and even some fans in the hockey-mad city.
He said that he plans to get the last-place team back on the winning track with a new coach and a revamped roster while counting on home-grown talent behind the scenes.
"There is no doubt in my mind that we must rely on more Francophones within our organization," Bergevin said. "We only have one (scout) in Quebec. I can assure you there will be more than that next season."
Bergevin's predecessor, Pierre Gauthier, was lambasted for his personnel moves and his navigation of the sensitive cultural questions that only exist in Montreal. His decision to hire unilingual Anglophone Randy Cunneyworth to replace fired coach Jacques Martin backfired badly.
The move led picket-wielding demonstrators to gather at the Bell Centre and nationalist groups called for a boycott of Molson beer products.
The embattled Cunneyworth will return to his old job as an assistant coach -- for now -- but Bergevin says it will up to the new coach to decide whether to keep him.
Assistant GM Larry Carriere will keep his job, as will scouting director Trevor Timmins, said Bergevin.
"I've known Larry for seven years now and he's respected and very competent," he said. "Trevor has done excellent work in recent years and I can assure you he will be with me in Pittsburgh for the next draft."
Bergevin beat out Tampa Bay Lightning assistant GM Julien BriseBois and NBC hockey analyst Pierre McGuire for the Habs job. He served in several capacities in the Blackhawks organization over the past several years, most recently as right-hand man to GM Stan Bowman.
Bergevin was previously an assistant to Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville and also worked as a personnel director and a scout.
He played more than 1,000 NHL games from 1984 to 2004 for Vancouver, St Louis and Chicago, among other teams.
The Montreal franchise has won a league-leading 24 Stanley Cups and was the most recent Canadian team to do so, in 1993. But the club has missed the playoffs in six of the past 13 seasons.
Bergevin cracked jokes with reporters and gave off-the-cuff answers during his news conference, serving notice that his reign will be more colourful than that of the taciturn Gauthier.
Owner Geoff Molson said he was "very satisfied" with his decision to hire Bergevin.
In announcing Gauthier's departure in March, the beer baron delivered a sharp critique of the organization's recent history.
He cited a lack of stability on the ice and behind the scenes that dates back to his predecessor, American businessman George Gillett. Molson said Bergevin's plain-spoken style should have a trickle-down effect.
"Marc is a true leader, he is honest, he encourages communication," said Molson. "We wanted this type of GM who's not afraid to meet people in the hallways. It will break down walls to win."