MONTREAL – The Montreal Canadiens believe Marc Bergevin can lead them back to the top of the standings.
The Canadiens introduced the Chicago Blackhawks assistant GM and former NHL defenseman as their new general manager Wednesday, more than a month after firing Pierre Gauthier.
Team president Geoff Molson pointed out the 46-year-old Bergevin was born in Montreal, played 20 seasons in the NHL, and served as a former scouting director, assistant coach and assistant GM.
"We feel we have selected an individual with the potential to lead our organization in the future," Molson said at the news conference. "We were looking for a candidate with very strong leadership capability, great communication skills at all levels and someone with a clear determination and commitment to winning."
Bergevin faces tough decisions after the Canadiens' dismal 31-35-16 season. They finished last in the Eastern Conference and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
"I believe the pieces are really good," Bergevin said. "Obviously finishing 15th in the conference, it's a lot of work that needs to be done, but you have a good base."
His first order of business was to inform interim head coach Randy Cunneyworth that he won't keep his job title. Bergevin said he told Cunneyworth that he'll return as an assistant coach for the time being.
Cunneyworth was under fire for his inability to speak French after he was promoted to interim coach midseason to replace the fired Jacques Martin.
Bergevin retired as a player in 2004 and moved into the Blackhawks front office. He served as a pro scout before he was selected director of player personnel in 2009. Last June, he became assistant GM to Stan Bowman in Chicago after Kevin Cheveldayoff left to become GM of the Winnipeg Jets.
Next he must consider the status of Scott Gomez and his annual $7.3-million salary cap hit. Some feel the underperforming center should either be bought out or banished to the minor leagues.
He'll also need to deal with the contract status of young players, including Carey Price and P.K. Subban, ahead of the NHL draft in June.
As a player, Bergevin was a dependable defenseman known as a popular teammate and avid practical joker.
He was drafted 59th overall by Chicago in 1985 and played for the New York Islanders, Hartford, Tampa Bay, Detroit, St. Louis and Pittsburgh before ending his career playing nine games for the Vancouver Canucks in 2003-04.
He had 36 goals and 145 assists in 1,191 NHL games.
Bergevin said he's looking forward to the challenge of rebuilding the Habs.
"I'm proud of it and I'm going to enjoy it," he said. "I'm going to have fun doing it and I'm going to make people of Montreal proud."