The Problem isn’t Claude Julien, it’s Marc Bergevin

Claude Julien has been taking the blame for the Montreal Canadiens recent struggles. This criticism isn’t warranted, Marc Bergevin deserves the blame.

For the first time since 1939, the Montreal Canadiens have lost eight straight games, this time, at the hands of the Boston Bruins. With frustration comes impatience, and that has been the theme circling Montreal, which has been focused on, none other than the bench boss, Claude Julien. While frustration is warranted, Julien is certainly not the (only) man to blame for Montreal’s losing skid.

Claude Julien makes some questionable lineup decisions, whether it’s occasionally overplaying certain veterans, or underplaying some of Montreal’s skilled players. Julien doesn’t always do what people think is customary, but these decisions alone aren’t grounds for firing.

Systematically, Julien’s approach with the Montreal Canadiens seems to be the right one; a typically high octane, fast possession game is how the Canadien’s play. It actually works to their benefit the majority of the time.

There are games where the team plays as best as they can to the best of their ability, yet still, fall short. This is just the reality when a team is middling about in no man’s land, which is where the Montreal Canadiens are.

Julien is doing the best he can with what little support he has.

Maybe the expectations for Montreal this year were too high following the unexpected success of the 2018-2019 campaign.

In 2018, Phillip Danault and Tomas Tatar had career years. Brendan Gallagher scored the most goals he ever has in his career. Max Domi was shooting at nearly 20% during the first half of his season before tapering off offensively.

Jeff Petry saw his best season production-wise when Shea Weber went down with an injury. These players had key roles for Montreal, but their performance last year left the impression that they could replicate it again for the upcoming season. Obviously, that wasn’t the case.

At the beginning of the season, Marc Bergevin said he was confident that Montreal could compete for a playoff spot this season. What changes were made to Montreal’s roster that would suggest they would be better than last year’s rendition?

Was Bergevin expecting everyone who had a career year to repeat it? Or did he really think that the acquisitions or Keith Kinkaid, Nick Cousins, and Ben Chiarot were the difference between missing the playoffs or making them?

Surely it couldn’t be the latter.

The direction of the team remains unclear.

Bergevin seems committed to building through the draft and waiting for the prospects to make their mark on their team. With Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi on the team, and Cole Caufield, Alexander Romanov, Ryan Poehling and Josh Brook in the system, the future is bright.

However, Bergevin also seems adamant about keeping the veterans he has.

In a press conference last year, Bergevin emphasized to the media that this wasn’t a “rebuild” but a “re-tool.” This might not be the right approach to bring this team to the next level. Marc Bergevin *needs* to make a decision with what he wants to do with this team; if they are going to go for it and win now or rebuild. He cannot wait for Caufield, Suzuki, and Poehling to be in their prime, let alone in the NHL, while also expecting Carey Price and Shea Weber to be at the same level they are now, or even used to be.

The time for Marc Bergevin to do something was probably two years ago.

The team is now stuck in no man’s land.

Montreal is not anywhere near contention but isn’t nearly bad enough to be among the leagues worst.

It is now year eight of Marc Bergevin’s five-year plan and Montreal is on track to miss the playoffs for the fourth time in the last three seasons. Meanwhile, transparency between the Canadiens and the media about the team’s direction could not be more unclear.

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As Geoff Molson struggles to sell out the Bell Centre for the second straight year, an examination of what he wants to do with this storied hockey club going forward might be ideal. If the Montreal Canadiens maintain the status quo, they will continue to be a middling team, who will find themselves on the outside looking in.

The problem with the current Canadiens is not Claude Julien, it is Marc Bergevin.