Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Panesar and Moustakas: Marc Bergevin's First Priority?

Marc Bergevin - Montreal Canadiens Introduce Marc Bergevin As General Manager
Your new favorite debate duo returns after a brief hiatus.

This week's topic? Marc Bergevin's appointment as General Manager and the many tasks on his plate.

Louis Moustakas: Hello my friend.

Well, unless you have been living under a rock without a wireless internet connection, everyone and their grandmother knows that Marc Bergevin has been named the Montreal Canadiens' new General Manager. '

While his appointment is a definite step forward, many challenges await the rookie manager. What to do with his impending free agents, namely P.K Subban and Carey Price? How does he rebuild the organization's waning depth? How does he re-structure the front office? Who does he add to the coaching staff? What to do with the team's egregious cap structure?

Needless to say, many key decisions need to be made.

With that in mind, what do you think Bergevin's first priority should be?

Kamal Panesar: Well that really is the million dollar question, isn’t it? There is the draft to prepare for, the hiring of a coach and filling out his executive staff, namely adding an Assistant GM (AGM). Out of all the task ahead of Bergevin, however, I feel that he needs to add an AGM as soon as he can.

The volume of work and contracts in front of Bergevin is staggering, and what better way to start tackling them than by bringing on board a right hand man.

While there are no shortage of AGMs out there, I think one man’s name naturally floats to the top of the list:

Rick Dudley.

Currently serving a term as one of several big names seconding Brian Burke in the Leafs’ head office, Dudley and Bergevin have a long history together. Also, I think that Dudley would welcome a chance to be more of a linchpin with the Habs rather than just one of many with the Leafs’.

According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, it now seems that the hiring of Dudley as Bergevin’s AGM is all but a fait accompli. The hold up? Brian Burke, understandably, doesn’t want Dudley to defect before the draft, but rather afterwards.

The last word was that the two sides are in negotiations, but draft or not, you’ve got to think that Bergevin wants to put his AGM in place asap.

Louis Moustakas: Staggering is the word. So much remains to be done.

As much as I agree that the front office team should be finalized as soon as possible, I feel that his first priority — at least from a player personnel perspective — is to sort out the Scott Gomez situation. The centre's contract weighs heavily on the team, both in terms of the salary cap and as a distraction.

Until this issue meets a certain finality, the organization will continue to be hampered by Gomez and his egregious contract. With so many impending free agents, the team's salary structure must be solidified rapidly. By leaving this unresolved, how can the organization possibly make informed decisions regarding its player personnel? It seems like you need to know where you stand before you can know where you are going.

In other words, before you even submit an offer to Carey Price or P.K Subban, the Alaskan forward needs to be taken care of.

Beyond that, ridding themselves of the Gomez deal would show Canadiens' fans that the organization is taking another major departure for the insuccess of 2011-12.

Kamal Panesar: Without a doubt, the Scott Gomez contract needs to be dealt with. This new regime simply can’t start the next season with him still on the roster, and expect anyone to take them seriously. That being said, while his cap hit is definitely a consideration, I disagree that it is a rush to get something done.


Well, because it is a given that Gomez will either be demoted to Hamilton or bought out, the latter taking place only if there is some kind of amnesty clause or period with the new CBA that should be implemented this summer. As such, why worry about taking care of that now?

I would just operate as if he is off the books — this, of course, assumes that the Gomez discussion was part of the hiring process and that Bergevin has Geoff Molson’s approval to demote him to Hamilton.

That being said, in my opinion, I think he must get an AGM, first, and a coach second. It’s amazing how quick things change too, since yesterday morning it was reported that Bergevin was working on bringing Dudley over and now, it seems that Joel Quenneville will end up being the coach.

If that’s the case, I like the move. But man, does this guy more fast or what?

Louis Moustakas: Operate as if he were off the books?

But he isn't! And assuming amnesty and assuming you will have X amount of cap space is a dangerous game, especially if your estimations are proven to be incorrect. In addition, with a new CBA on the horizon, such assumptions become ever more dangerous.

Don't get me wrong, I understand the point of fleshing out the front office first. However, in terms of players, Gomez must be dealt with immediately.

Not only does dealing with this allow for clarity in terms of both the salary cap and the roster, but it also removes an important distraction. Why wait until near training camp to resolve this? Why not be done with the inevitable media storm his demotion or buy-out will provoke in the relative quiet of summer?

Plus, riding the organization of Gomez sends a message that the Canadiens are willing and able to use all means at their disposal to become better. That is a good message for UFAs.

As for the Quenneville issue, he somewhat looks on the outs in Chicago. Regardless, the question always is, can he speak French? If hired soon enough, he will have all summer to take a crash course.

Kamal Panesar: On Quenneville, yes, he does speak French and yes, he does seem to be on the outs a little with Chicago GM, Stan Bowman. That being said, he also has two more years left on his contract so Bergevin will have to do one hell of a sell job to get him in Montreal!

On the Gomez front, I agree that it must be dealt with, but I don’t think it should be Bergevin’s top priority right now. My point was only that you assume that he will either be demoted, with his salary off the cap, or bought out through an amnesty clause, with no cap hit.

Either way, it is (or at least should be) a certainty that he is not on the roster next Fall. And I wouldn’t necessarily advocate waiting till September to take care of the matter, I simply don’t feel that it needs to be done in the next 30 days or so.

For me, right now, you hire an AGM, you hire a coach, you fill out your executive staff and, in the process, you take care of player personnel. Honestly, I think signing Carey Price and P.K. Subban to extensions is more urgent than getting rid of Gomez.

Since there is no road-block to sending Gomez to the AHL, you operate as if he will be demoted to Hamilton, and act as if you have that extra $7-plus million to spend…and spend it!

What about the rest of you? What would your first order of business be?

Kamal is a freelance writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of HabsAddict.com, Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Hockeybuzz.com and featured columnist on PowerScoutHockey.com. Kamal is also a regular on-air contributor on TSN 990, CJAD, and LiveSport New Zealand.

Follow Kamal on Facebook and Twitter

Louis is an Associate Editor and Senior Writer at HabsAddict.com. Born in Chicago, Louis grew up in Quebec City where he earned Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration from Université Laval. He is also an occasional guest on CKCU's Red Zone program.

Find him on twitter @LouisMoustakas

(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)


Very interesting and well thought out points.

I go back to what Mr. Molson said when he fired Gauthier. The job is to bring this franchise back to its winning ways (paraphrase). Then comes in Bergevin and says he's but one piece of the puzzle. So really what are the priorities for the puzzle? IMO the players are the ones who will ultimately bring the success on the ice (to a lesser degree the coach as well). However choosing the right players is the function of the organization. Is the organization ready to do that? Can Bergevin and current management make the informed decisions on the correct mix of players? I'd say not today. For example if the current management team were to draw up the optimum roster they would need to check it against the coaches philosophy because a mismatch there and you are finished. So to me order of operations is get as much of the management team you require to create the player plan. Once that's in place move onto the players. When it comes to players all I keep seeing in these playoffs and over the year is goaltending wins. But in this case in order to protect Price we need to deal with Gomez as he chews up a lot of the available dollars. So Gomez is first because his salary paves the way for all other potential player decisions.

Sorry Louis but I think Kamel is correct.
Gomez is not a priority as long as Bergevin knows that sending Gomez to Hamilton is approved by Molson.
The only way you could deal with it now is to indicate that you will buy him out. If there is no amnesty clause in the new CBA we will have way too much dead cap space.

I think the priority for Bergevin besides adding a coach (AGM is already in place with Dudley) should be how do you plan to lure a top UFA player to Mtl? This will not be an easy task when you finished 28th overall.
Parise & Suter should be high on our list with the idea of having to overpay either in term, salary or both.
Why not target both and then figure out who to trade or demote later?
Demotion prospects: Gomez & Kaberle
Trade prospects: Kaberle (it's possible), Gionta, Plekanec, Markov, Bourque

I suspect we already have our Draft plan pretty close to ready with all the prep work done by Timmins.

I agree with Kamal that Price and Subban being re-signed should be the priority but Louis brings up a good point that Gomez's salary makes that difficult.

Something about working on an assumption - in this case that Gomez will be demoted - just makes me nervous.

However if Bergevin were to want to gain fans confidence before settling all the managerial issues then dealing with Gonez should be his priority. The quicker he deals with the Habs biggest(?) issue the more the fans will feel he is steering this team in the right direction.

That's how I feel on the player front but the bottom line is the draft is just over a month away and as sure as I am that Timmins has been preparing like a madman it's imperative that Bergevin surrounds himself with his team ASAP. The problem is, I feel Dudley would be great and he may not be available until after the draft.

@sanman_11: Well said, my friend and I tend to agree. You've gotta start at the top (meaning management and coaching) before you can accurately decide on what your team is going to look like!

@HockeyHype: "Parise & Suter should be high on our list with the idea of having to overpay either in term, salary or both.
Why not target both and then figure out who to trade or demote later?"

Brilliantly said, and I agree with you. That is the way to run a team.

Of course, you're not going to go out and sign everyone completley blindly, without having some idea of what you're going to do with your current roster. But the teams that do well, like New Jersey and Philly, seem to sign whoever they want and worry about getting under the cap later.

Now, that being said, the Gomez issue was part of the hiring process, as Molson et al. wanted to find out what any incoming GM's plan was for Gomez.

So make no mistake, Bergevin already knows what he plans to do. And, imo, it is a) a trade, b) a demotion to Hamilton and c) a buyout ONLY if there is an amnesty clause or period, with the new CBA.

How freaking good would Suter look alongside, say, Subban?

@Sean: Yep, it seems like Dudley will come over to the Habs, but not till after the draft...and I can totally understand that, from the Leafs' side too.

As for Bergevin, I'm not sure he should care about/try to please the fans or win their confidence right now. And, to be honest, I don't think he will try to.

To do this job right, he has to already have a plan (which I'm sure he mostly does) and execute, regardless of what anyone says...mostly the fans.

I think, if you watch his interview on Tout le Monde en Parle, it was very telling when he was asked if having more French players was good for the team.

He answered (and I paraphrase) that NO, it makes NO difference to the on-ice product. He then followed that statement by saying that, of course, if good French/Quebec players are available, they would and will happily add them to the team.

That answer, on French television, is, imo, a glimpse into the way this man thinks (and needs to think).

I have no doubt that Bergevin will be successful in the role. Let's just give him to to put his plan together.

Either way, I think there is zero chance that Scott Gomez will be at training camp.


Thanks Louis and Kamal for the article, nice to talk HABS even though they are not in the show.


If we all agreed, there would be little point for this type of column, eh?

But, when you say that as long as Bergevin knows it's okay to demote Gomez, no worries.

I disagree. Who is to say who cap and demotion rules will change in the new CBA? And there is value in having EVERYONE know what will happen to Gomez.

It's good PR for the fans.

It's a good message to the rest of the league: the Habs will do whatever it takes to compete.


Thanks for the kind words.

Always fun to chat Habs, isn't it?

If, for some reason, they want to buy out Gomez, does the fact that he was injured to end the season hinder that decision? Wondering...

@Anon: Nope, his injury wouldn't affect the buyout. However I think there is no way they'll opt for the buyout. $3-plus million next year, $4-plus mil the year after, then $1.5+, and $1.5+ (in years 3 and 4).

It makes no sense to buy him out and have that dead cap space sticking around.

The best move is a trade (which is HIGHLY unlikely)...and second best would be to just demote him to Hamilton where his salary would not count against the cap.

First order is to figure out what Larry Carriere does? isnt he a frigin AGM? How many you need? Or is Larry like George Kostanza and just the travellin AGM with no real duties?
I was hoping team success would come first, but french speaking is still priority for being coach. Molson and Savard must have gone to same school as Don Cherry and Harold Ballard and change is just too scarey and as long as make money and have the frech content, mediocrity on the ice is acceptable.
Not another sports franchise like it is there?

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