BROSSARD – Geoff Molson has found his man.
Following a month-long search that included upwards of 20 candidates and dozens of phone calls and interviews, Canadiens owner, CEO and president Geoff Molson named Marc Bergevin the 17th general manager in team history on Wednesday.
“We were looking for a candidate with very strong leadership capability, great communication skills at all levels and someone with a clear determination and commitment to winning,” explained Molson. “Along with his strong background and extensive experience in pro hockey, Marc has strong beliefs about what it takes to be a winning organization.
“He believes in strong communication to ensure that success and trust is within the entire organization,” continued the Habs president, who called on Hall-of-Famer and former GM Serge Savard to help with the search. “He believes that everyone from the team contributes to winning. He believes that our team will be built for long term success through player procurement and development. And he’s a natural and credible leader who will have the respect of everyone in our organization.”
Just minutes into his new gig, the charismatic GM didn’t waste any time proving his new boss right.
“Thanks, Geoff for the nice compliments…a little overboard, but it’s ok,” joked Bergevin. “I’m just a piece to the puzzle; we’re all going to do this together. It’s about teamwork. I’m proud of this job, I’m going to enjoy it and I’m going to have fun doing it and I’m going to make people in Montreal proud.”
The Point-Saint-Charles native never had a chance to don the bleu-blanc-rouge during his 20-year career as a player, but growing up in Montreal in the ‘70s gave Bergevin some early lessons in Canadiens 101.
“It’s emotional for me. I mean, the Montreal Canadiens are the Montreal Canadiens. I left here in 1984, but this is who I am,” explained Bergevin, who racked up 181 points in 1,191 career games with the Blackhawks, Islanders, Whalers, Lightning, Red Wings, Blues, Penguins and Canucks. “I watched Stanley Cup parades on Ste. Catherine street as a kid. I grew up here and when you talk about hockey it’s the Canadiens.”
Having held nearly every job imaginable over his three decades in the NHL, including player, assistant coach, scout, director of player personnel and, most recently, assistant general manager under Stan Bowman in Chicago, Bergevin isn’t worried about taking the reigns as GM for the first time under the microscope in Montreal.
“I took this job because I know I’m ready. If I wasn’t ready for the challenge, I wouldn’t be here,” he stressed. “I’m not scared of things I don’t know because I’m going to make sure I surround myself with the right people who can help me make the right decisions. Communication is about listening. The more information you have, the better informed you’ll be when you make your decisions. I’ll take all the responsibility for my decisions, but it’s a team effort and we’ll work together.”
It may only be Day 1 of Bergevin’s tenure, but he already has some ideas he’ll be putting in place this offseason, namely adding more scouts in Quebec and locking down his All-Star goaltender as soon as possible.
“Today is my first day, so I’ll take my time and evaluate the players, but when you talk about the foundation of the team, Carey Price is one of the best young goalies in the National Hockey League. If you have a goalie like Carey Price, you’re ahead of the game,” confirmed Bergevin, who won the Cup with the ‘Hawks in 2010. “This team has a good nucleus. If you rebuild something, you start from scratch. I believe we have pieces here that are very good. Obviously, finishing 15th in the conference, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done but we have a good base. The foundation is there and then you can add up and construct instead of starting from scratch.”
Bergevin speaks from experience. From suiting up for Tampa’s first-ever team after expansion in 1992-93 to playing alongside Steve Yzerman and Paul Coffey in Detroit, he’s had plenty of on-the-job training in what it takes to win.
“To be successful in the NHL you have to have a mix of everything. When I played, I wasn’t the greatest player but I brought something to the table,” admitted Bergevin, who was known as much for what he brought to the dressing room as he was for his on-ice exploits during his career. “I believe everyone has to bring something to the table to be successful and the team comes first.
“You can have the greatest skills but if you don’t put the team ahead of yourself, you’re not going to win. That’s one thing I’m not going to accept and that comes before everything else,” he warned. “Skill, speed, playing defense, you can name them all, but at the end of the day, it has to be a team concept.”
That team-first approach is how Bergevin plans on making sure the only press conferences being held in Brossard this time next spring are about how the Habs are preparing for their opponents in the next round.
“This is who I am and what you see is what you get,” he concluded. “My job here is to make this team better and better and that’s what I’m going to do, starting today.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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