Montreal Canadiens AHL Affiliate | Laval Rocket News: Marc Bergevin’s Evaluation in Laval, Full Time GM Position, Burke, Mellanby
ROCKET SPORTS MEDIA | LAVAL, QC. — The job of a NHL general manager isn’t easy. They work around the clock to improve their team and the job comes with a lot of pressure, because every decision that is made is scrutinized by fans and the media.
The GM is in charge of roster moves, contract negotiations, managing salary cap, and ultimately is responsible of the coaching staff, scouting, and all other hockey operations staff. They also need to have a good understanding of what’s going on with the 30 other competing organizations. Pretty simple, right?
Oh, I forgot that for most teams, including the Canadiens, the general manager is also in charge of the same functions for their AHL affiliate. I wonder when they find time to sleep during the hockey season.
I think Marc Bergevin did a good job with the Montreal Canadiens this season. If we just isolate his work with the Laval Rocket, I wouldn’t give him a passing grade. The bottom line is that the team missed the playoffs for the seventh time in the last eight years, including the years that the AHL affiliate was in Hamilton and St. John’s.
In my opinion, the main reason that the Rocket didn’t make the playoffs was the lack of experience of the forwards. For the first game of the season on October 6th against the Providence Bruins, there were seven veteran forwards in Laval’s lineup: Kenny Agostino, Michael Chaput, Alexandre Grenier, Hunter Shinkaruk, Michael McCarron, Byron Froese, and Alex Belzile. To my eye, it is a respectable group of veteran forwards.
For the final game of the regular season on April 13th, of the group listed above, the Rocket only had Shinkaruk and Belzile in the lineup, while McCarron and Grenier were out with injury.
Agostino was recalled by the Canadiens on November 7th, after collecting ten points in 12 games with Laval. Chaput was with Montreal from November 20th to February 13th, and played six more games with Laval when he returned prior to getting traded to the Coyotes in the trade that brought Jordan Weal to the Habs.
Froese was traded to the Flyers on February 9th in the trade that brought Dale Weise and Christian Folin to the organization. McCarron played his final game of the season on December 29th after suffering a shoulder injury that led to a season ending surgery. At that point, he had 21 points in 32 games.
No veterans were added up front during the season to make up for the losses of those players. The departures were filled with players from the ECHL with little or no AHL experience. I believe that the lack of experienced forwards combined with the disappointing seasons from the veterans Shinkaruk and Grenier, led to Laval finishing 29th in the league for goals scored.
For the Rocket’s inaugural season, Larry Carriere was named General Manager of the team, while remaining part of the NHL management team as special advisor to the hockey operations department. In May 2018, when Joel Bouchard was hired as the new head coach of the team, it was also announced that Carriere would no longer be the team’s GM.
“Last year was the first year in Laval and we felt that it was important to have somebody on site because there were a lot of new issues with a new team and we weren’t sure,” said Bergevin at that time about Carriere’s move to director of player personnel.
“So we gave him the title. I think we did our due diligence. There’s three teams in the AHL who have a GM because teams are run by the big club. Larry is going to oversee a lot of scouting at the AHL level and at the East Coast league level because in the past I thought there was a lack there that we were missing.”
I think that the organization needs to go back to having a full time GM for Laval, someone who’s main focus would be to build a winning team. I’m not saying that the Rocket would have made the playoffs if the role was filled, but I think they needed someone responsible to look for talent during the season when the experienced forwards were lost via recalls, trade or injury.
Bergevin’s number one priority is and should be the Canadiens. In the off-season, he will focus on improving Montreal before he even looks in Laval’s direction. A full time AHL GM would be able to work in parallel and look for the AHL veterans that are needed by every team to be successful.
I think that the Canadiens should follow a similar model like the Lightning. When Steve Yzerman stepped down as the GM in Tampa Bay, Julien Brisebois easily transitioned into the role. Brisebois had been acting GM of the Syracuse Crunch, Lightning’s AHL affiliate, for six seasons before being promoted.
The Canadiens wouldn’t even have to look too far to find good candidates to hold that role. Scott Mellanby and Sean Burke were both recently interviewed by the Oilers as part of their search for a new GM.
Burke, currently a professional scout for the Habs covering the western regions, was on the Oilers short list. Prior to joining the Canadiens, Burke was an assistant General Manager with the Coyotes and has also held GM role with Hockey Canada over the last couple of years. Burke played 858 NHL games with eight different teams in his career.
Mellanby played over 1,500 games in his NHL career with five different teams. Following retirement, he worked for three years in the Vancouver Canucks organization as a special consultant to general manager Mike Gillis and the hockey operations department. Mellanby then spent two years as an assistant coach with the St. Louis Blues before being hired by the Canadiens as Director of Player Personnel and promoted to his current role as assistant GM since July 2014.
Both of them could benefit Laval immensely. With some of the top prospects that are expected to play with the Rocket next season and a coaching staff that will be entering in only its second season in professional hockey, the addition of an experienced professional hockey mind may reap huge benefits for the entire organization.
For Burke and Mellanby it would be a good experience to add on their resume as they progress in their respective careers.
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