Montreal Canadiens Seek Escape From Basement Habitat

BROSSARD, CANADA - MAY 2: Montreal Canadiens General Manager Marc Bergevin and team owner Geoff Molson shake hands after a press conference introducing Bergevin as the new General Manager of the team at the Bell SportsPlex on May 2, 2012 in Brossard, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

The Montreal Canadiens added mostly depth signings through free agency, but through re-signings and staff shuffles, new GM Marc Bergevin has already put his stamp on the team.

At this point early in his tenure, the best attribute about Montreal Canadiens GM is that he's not Pierre Gauthier.

Gauthier, Bergevein's predecessor, was known for rash moves -- a pre-game assistant coach firing here, a mid-game trade there -- and curious decisions. Local beatwriters openly describe him as "a very weird man." His February 2010 ascent to the helm had the scent of being something Bob Gainey wanted but Habs ownership maybe didn't, and his performance in his two-year tenure suggests Habs ownership had good reason to doubt.

But that's all history now. Presumably there will be no panic firings, no interim replacements quickly undermined by language questions, and no ripping players out of the lineup during the second intermission.

As an apprentice in the Chicago Blackhawks regime that won the 2010 Stanley Cup, Bergevin was a hot hire. It did not take long after his May hiring to leave his mark on the Northeast Division's last-place team.

Bergevin's internal hirings have provided plenty of fodder for both suspicious and hopeful interpretations of his direction: Either he's hiring cronies, or he's hiring people he trusts. Blackhawks colleague and rink rat lifer Rick Dudley was brought in as assistant GM, and former player friends Donald Audette, Martin LaPointe and Scott Mellanby have been added in organizational roles. The hiring of ex-Habs coach Michel Therrien for a second turn behind the bench received a mixed reaction at best, and included more old pal additions in Gerard Gallant and J.J. Daigneault.

Offseason Changes / New Additions

But that's all navel-gazing and brain trust building. The true test comes on the ice, with the rosters Bergevin builds. So what has he done on that front?

Alex Galchenyuk was by most accounts an excellent selection in the third-overall slot of the 2012 NHL Draft. He missed most of last season with a knee injury, but he can be expected to contribute to an NHL lineup within a year or two.

Bergevin's early forays into free agency were less inspiring.

Grinders Brandon Prust and Colby Armstrong were brought into the fold -- Prust at the stunning rate of $10 million over four years, though Maple Leafs reject came in on a low-risk one-year, $1 million deal. Incumbent checking forward Travis Moen was extended for four years at an average of $1.85 million per year.

Those are all depth moves. Arguably pricey ones for a team that has lots of cap space devoted to Scott Gomez, Rene Bourque and Erik Cole, but depth moves nonetheless.

The best reflection of Bergevin's summer, or at least the way his summer best reflects a positive directional shift under his regime, is in his valuing of Max Pacioretty and P.K. Subban. Bergevin locked up the essential Pacioretty for a six-year, $27 million extension. Subban's extension has not yet to be reached, but based on club reaction to crazy trade rumors and supposed leaks, it's a good bet Bergevin recognizes Subban's importance to the Canadiens roster and, if Pacioretty's deal is any indication, has an idea of how to work some voodoo with the numbers.

It's still early in the Bergevin era, and he has plenty of inherited damage yet to undo or at least endure. But last year was a perfect storm of disasters, so the club may be closer to a return to the postseason than a 28th-place finish would typically indicate.

So far Bergevin's shown he recognizes the good pieces he inherited, and he's added a little traditional depth to supplement it. Depending on how much Therrien has learned since he last coached in the NHL, the Habs may be able to rebound right away and quickly put Gauthier's damage behind them.

For more on the Canadiens, check in with Habs Eyes On The Prize.

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