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Canucks vs. Canadiens; two teams in turmoil set to meet in Montreal

November 29, 2021, 2:21 PM ET [592 Comments]
Carol Schram
Vancouver Canucks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Monday November 29 - Vancouver Canucks at Montreal Canadiens - 4:30 p.m. PT

In-season changes in the general manager's chair are pretty rare, but we saw the third one of this young season go down on Sunday when the Vancouver Canucks' next opponent, the Montreal Canadiens, sent Marc Bergevin packing.

For more on that, here's the overview which I wrote for Forbes yesterday:

Monday's matchup was going to be interesting anyway, with the Canucks and Canadiens travelling on parallel paths of disaster in the early going this season. And while Montreal was almost inevitably going to have a tough time due to the absences of Shea Weber and Carey Price, there are certainly some other issues that fall at management's feet.

Bergevin was praised around these parts last year, when he snapped up Tyler Toffoli at a decent cap hit. But his salary-cap picture crushed him this summer, when he was unable to retain impending UFA Phillip Danault or come to terms on a reasonable deal with Jesperi Kotkaniemi before he signed that offer sheet with Carolina.

Perhaps the biggest reason why the Canadiens made this move now is because Bergevin balked at signing a contract extension of his own after the run to the Stanley Cup Final last summer. Whether he was holding out for more money or was truly considering making a move to another team, as Larry Brooks of the New York Post reported, Habs ownership had come to terms with the fact that Bergevin would not be leading the team next season. So, it was best to cut the cord as soon as possible, rather than giving him time to try to trade his way out of this season's mess.

Meanwhile, Elliotte Friedman's chatter on Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday made it pretty clear that the Canucks organization *is* looking at making changes, but doesn't want to rush anything. When he starts dropping names of coaching candidates like Claude Julien and Scott Walker, that puts Travis Green in a terrible spot — left to keep on coaching and to face the media daily, while knowing that his demise could be all-but-imminent.

Iain MacIntyre's use of the term 'mercy killing' has been making me uncomfortable. But I see what he means. If the Canucks are determined to make changes but don't want to rush things, it would be cleaner to conduct their search after installing someone from within the organization in an interim capacity in the head coach or general manager roles — or both.

Is that not happening because ownership still hasn't reached consensus on exactly what the next steps will be?

Meanwhile, the Canadiens have installed Jeff Gorton as their hockey operations boss for the time being. His title is 'executive vice president of hockey operations,' which was also part of Bergevin's title. But the Habs will still hire a GM, who needs to be bilingual. Gorton is an anglophone, so he gets installed in what will arguably be a higher position — and, most likely, will get a significant voice in who the GM hire will be.

Also — do you remember that there was some talk of Gorton potentially joining the Canucks, after he was fired by the Rangers last spring? Then, word came out that he wasn't interested in the job.

Perhaps some of it is geography. But for Gorton to be willing to sign on to work under the scrutiny of the hyper-intense media and fanbase in Montreal — and do it with an immediate strike against him, as an English speaker — it makes me even more concerned that the Canucks are not going to be able to hire their way out of their current mess, because qualified candidates don't want to be part of the organization.

I'm not sure how much the management change will impact the Canadiens on the ice against Vancouver on Monday. But they do have the advantages of home ice and an extra day's rest, and can be feeling good about themselves for having hung on to beat the red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins on the road on Saturday night.

Jake Allen is back from injury and is expected to get the start in net, which also helps. But the Canadiens are still dealing with a long list of injuries on top of Weber and Price. Paul Byron, Mike Hoffman, Mathieu Perreault and Joel Edmundson are all on injured reserve, and defenseman Brett Kulak is also listed as day-to-day.

As for the Canucks — since they're on a back-to-back with travel, we won't get any updates from the team until a couple of hours before game time.

I'm interested to see if Travis Hamonic draws back into the lineup now that the club is back in Canada. Officially, he's still on the Abbotsford roster as of Monday morning but, as expected, he wasn't in the lineup for either of the Baby Canucks' losses in Tucson over the weekend.

Now with a 4-6-2-1 record for the season, Abbotsford has slipped to eighth in the nine-team AHL Pacific Division. Next up on the schedule is a rare Tuesday home game, against Ontario. I wonder if that will be postponed as the region continues to deal with serious flooding issues — and with more rain in the forecast in the days ahead?

I'm also a bit worried about Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who got a rough ride from Brad Marchand all night on Sunday.

And yes, Marchand is getting a hearing with the Department of Player Safety as a result of this first-period slew-foot on OEL:

I was concerned when Ekman-Larsson went to the dressing room after his boarding penalty on Anton Blidh late in the third period, which set the stage for the Bruins' winning goal. He did return to action during the late stages of the game, as the Canucks tried to press for the equalizer with their net empty. So hopefully that's a good sign.

Monday's game may not be the most high-quality hockey we'll ever watch. But I'm certainly interested in seeing how both Vancouver and Montreal's organizational drama plays out when the teams match up against each other on the ice.
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