Bergevin’s Deviants and Foxholes

Courtesy: Graham Hughes (La Presse)

Courtesy: Graham Hughes (La Presse)

47 games into the season, with a whopping 50 points and rocking a 5-game losing streak, is there any member of the Habs that is drawing more attention than General Manager Marc Bergevin?

Bergevin has enjoyed a lengthy honeymoon as the top executive of the Montreal Canadiens. A charismatic figure, fans have come to enjoy his smirky quips and snappy suits. Bergevin is rightfully respected for his ability to find and win a deal, and turn a reject into a useful player.

His tenure has not been criticism-free. Very early he was questioned for his choice of Michel Therrien as coach, and those queries have not been silenced nearly four years in. Bergevin’s propensity to sign depth plugs, sometimes for longer term and more dollars than believed necessary or wise, can try the patience of the dedicated. A couple of bad contracts haunt him with ghosts named Corsi, Giveaway and Slump. Yet on the balance, those criticisms have not deterred from the general belief that Marc Bergevin is a competent GM who is taking the Canadiens in the right direction.

 

And then Carey Price Went Down

If we ever wondered about the definition of a Habs crisis, we’re not wondering any more… 47 games in and Carey Price has played 12. All of the indignation about not being just a Carey Price team is gone. His absence has proven some things that are hardly revelations for those who have been watching closely during the Bergevin era.

Three or four top-six players do not make a cup-hoisting squad… and General Managing is reportedly harder than PlayStation.

An ineffective power play gets pretty loud when you’re losing badly… and juggling your support staff won’t help if they submit to the same guy.

Player utilization that looks quirky when you’re winning reveals itself as pure insanity when you’re losing.

CHaracter is in the eye of the beholder… and it might be harder to live it than it is to require it of your underlings.

 

The Foxhole Presser

The tension had built significantly leading up to the famous Foxhole Presser. It was unfathomable to lose this long without change. The character had walked out of the room with the wins. Bergevin was fiddling.

If I were Marc Bergevin’s PR person my advice would have been something like this…

Look professional, but dial it down. You should NOT look like you spend more time talking to your tailor than other GMs.

Humble… the whole time humble. Lay off the quips, and this is NOT your day to talk about PlayStation. Put your caustic away. They don’t like that even when you wear your best oxfords.

Take responsibility. You’re the GM. It is your responsibility. All. The. Time. If you’re not getting it wrong, someone under you is. At least 5 times in this presser they should hear you acknowledge that this is on you. Because it is. And they expect you to own it. That’s not heroic. It’s the bare minimum.

Be sympathetic. Tell them about the cap, the dollar, the price of tea in China. Look exhausted and tell them how hard your job is. And then you can hope they buy it, or you can hope that Rob Ford has been elected mayor of Montreal.

Bergevin got most of that right. He might have overdone it and looked like crap. The paternalistic, “If you knew what I know you’d understand that crazy ass Tinordi trade” went a tad off script. But he was getting it mostly right… targeting the loins of those journalists who were so critical minutes before.

And then he lost it. The foxhole. Mother of All Things Sacred. The foxhole. The crowning glory of the presser was the foxhole analogy. If Bergevin was in one, he’d want Therrien there with him. By now the loins of his audience were already so tickled that no one countered. Perhaps it was fond memories of war movies. Perhaps it was the battered soldier in front of them. But no one countered that ridiculous analogy. No one mentioned that a foxhole is a defensive position, a place of serious vulnerability. No one reflected on how frequently a foxhole has been converted to a grave. No one pointed out that Bergevin is already in a foxhole, and that Therrien is, in fact, already there with him. And the strategy is failing miserably. And the grave is yawning.

For me the foxhole characterizes a core problem with this team. Fondness clouds assessment. The worse thing that can happen to any manager is a likeable performance problem. And one of the best things that can happen to a leadership team is a strong performer that is not always likeable.

 

Deviant is Not a Bad Word

Anyone who knows leadership knows a team made up of people who all think the same way is not a good thing. A strong team needs a member or two that think outside the box, who challenge the way we’re doing it and ask why it couldn’t be done another way. The best teams have at least one member who is not afraid to call out the elephant in the room, and take over the microphone when the emperor gets naked.

In leadership circles, we call such a person the team deviant. Such a person eliminates group think, and forces other options into the conversation. I had hoped Craig Ramsay would serve that role, but if he is, we’re not seeing the effects of it.

Who is asking why Galchenyuk is back at Wing despite diminished results there?

Who is asking about Desharnais’ TOI despite lack of success?

Who is pointing out that playing a guy who won’t shoot on the power play actually creates a four on four?

Who is questioning whether it is time to get some external help for the power play?

Who asks whether it is wise to dump Semin before there is a replacement to create a 2nd line threat?

Who challenges the assumption that Kassian’s time in Montreal has to be done… especially when the Right Wing position is so weak?

Who asks about the wisdom of dumping out the puck 40 times a game and retrieving it only 14, while wondering why the team looks exhausted?

Who contributes to the definition of CHaracter?

The list of questions is endless. And they exist on every team. But the problem is they don’t appear to be getting air time in the Habs leadership room.

Maybe there isn’t enough room for a deviant in a foxhole.

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3 Responses to Bergevin’s Deviants and Foxholes

  1. thanks for the clarification as some who wear rose colored glasses may have missed the obvious and why status quo is crap!!!

    Sam Armenio January 23, 2016 at 1:07 pm Reply
    • Thanks for the post, Lori. Good analysis of a rather disappointing presser. The foxhole comment was classic, and illustrative of what really ails this club- these two clowns (MB & MT) have been spending a tad too much alone time together in said foxhole! They are too chummy for MB to be able to be objective, and see how his bestie has screwed up this team. Enough of this BS! I don’t even care anymore when they lose.

      Bart Van Eyk January 24, 2016 at 3:57 pm Reply
  2. Thanks for the post, Lori. Good analysis of a rather disappointing presser. The foxhole comment was classic, and illustrative of what really ails this club- these two clowns (MB & MT) have been spending a tad too much alone time together in said foxhole! They are too chummy for MB to be able to be objective, and see how his bestie has screwed up this team. Enough of this BS! I don’t even care anymore when they lose.

    Bart Van Eyk January 24, 2016 at 3:56 pm Reply

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