Marc Bergevin is quickly developing a reputation as one of the most flamboyant general mangers in the history of the Montreal Canadiens. It would be difficult for anyone who knows Pierre Gauthier, to think the former GM of the Habs would be caught in a video like the one Bergevin starred in following the Habs Game 1 overtime win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
As the Canadiens prepare for the Eastern Conference Final, the talk about Bergevin has quickly changed from the moves he makes in the press box to the moves he made to the Habs roster.
Bergevin was hired on May 2, 2012 shortly after the Canadiens crashed to the bottom of the NHL standings, and missed the postseason for the first time in five years. The Habs were far too easy to play against at the time, and simply not good enough to contend. The first player Bergevin brought in that offseason was Brandon Prust, a tough, perfect third line free agent from the New York Rangers.
A year later, Bergevin dipped into the free agent pool once again to bring in Daniel Briere, an aging scorer with an incredible postseason resume. Bergevin let Michael Ryder walk via free agency, and replaced the missing scoring at this year’s trade deadline when he acquired former 40 goal scorer Thomas Vanek at a bargain price from the New York Islanders.
Bergevin played hardball with Islander general manager Garth Snow, offering a mediocre package for such an impressive offensive player. Knowing that the Isles GM needed to move Vanek for something, as the Austrian winger becomes a free agent this July and already refused a lucrative contract extensions from Long Island, Bergevin would not budge.
Bergevin’s bold stance won out in the end, and the Habs grabbed a near point per game player for a decent prospect in Sebastien Collberg and a second round draft pick, a pittance for someone who can score like Vanek.
Earlier in the season, head coach Michel Therrien could not find room in the Habs lineup for Swiss defender Raphael Diaz, who would be a free agent this summer, so Bergevin decided to move him. When the trade was announced, Montreal had dealt a decent depth defenseman for a fourth line winger, and Habs fans questioned the motive. Canadiens fans asked why move Diaz, a guy who can handle third pairing minutes, for Dale Weise? Isn’t he just another fourth line guy like Ryan White, Prust, Travis Moen and Michael Bournival?
It seemed the Habs created a hole and didn’t fill another, but brought in another player who played a role that was already filled on the Canadiens roster.
Then, Bergevin made one final trade to replace the departed Diaz. He moved a fifth round draft choice for Mike Weaver of the Florida Panthers. Weaver was a very unheralded acquisition and was compared to Davis Drewiske who was brought in a year prior and hardly played at all.
It is one thing to question a trade or acquisition the day it happens, but as they say hindsight is 20/20, and Bergevin looks very good on second glance.
The Prust, Briere and Weise acquisitions have combined to make an extremely productive fourth line for the Montreal Canadiens. No, none of them were point per game players, Olympians or All-Stars this season, but try to convince the Boston Bruins that the trio was not a huge contributor to Montreal’s playoff success.
Just over two minutes had passed in Game 7 between the two rivals, when the Canadiens struck. Brandon Prust used his size and physicality to beat a pair of Bruins to a loose puck in the corner behind Tuukka Rask. When he gained control of the puck he slid it to Daniel Briere who seized the opportunity by firing a perfect pass to Dale Weise who was storming the Bruins crease. Weise tipped the puck into the Bruins goal and made it 1-0 Habs on each of the new Canadiens first shift of the game.
The camera did not find Bergevin after Weise scored, but he had plenty of reason to dance after that goal. Three of his biggest acquisitions combined to make it 1-0 early in Game 7 against the bitterest of a rival any team has in sport.
It was not the first time the line had struck in the playoffs. Dale Weise converted on several Briere passes already in the postseason, including an overtime winner in Game 1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and once again in Game 3 against the Bruins. The Habs fourth line, all Bergevin finds, have combined for four huge playoff goals, including a pair of game winners.
The high scoring fourth line does not even include Bergevin’s most offensive add in his short stint in Montreal. That would be Thomas Vanek, who leads the Habs in playoff goals with five as they head to the Conference Finals.
Vanek has not been dominant throughout the postseason, but the Habs would be in trouble without his contributions. Vanek had three points in the opening round sweep of the Lightning and twice scored a pair of goals against the Bruins. He brought an entirely new dynamic to the Habs forwards as he is one of the most offensively talented players in the league. Even when he is not scoring he is playing against the opponents best defenders and opening up opportunities for his teammates.
The most surprising contributions of all Bergevin’s additions have come from Mike Weaver. Next to nothing was expected of this shutdown defender, but he has become an invaluable member of the Canadiens blue line.
The Canadiens penalty kill unit was not great against the Lightning in round one, but was phenomenal against the Bruins in round two. Montreal only allowed three power play goals in the entire series against Boston, and Weaver played an enormous role on the shorthanded unit.
Weaver is the anchor of an ever changing third pairing on the Habs blue line. First he was paired with Francis Bouillon, then Douglas Murray came in to play, and now rookie Nathan Beaulieu is getting his much deserved chance.
Weaver has become the steady veteran presence of the pairing as Beaulieu dashes around the ice with his impressive blazing speed. Though Weaver’s offensive contributions are limited, he leads the entire NHL playoffs in plus minus. Plus minus is admittedly a finicky stat and often does not tell much of a story. It does however, tell you something when you are in first place.
Bergevin may not have displayed the best dance moves after a Game 1 victory in the first round. If his roster moves keep turning out this good, he will have plenty of time to practice his post game dance moves.