The 2012 calendar year may as well have been two separate ones for the Montreal Canadiens.
It began with a three-month stretch that felt more like a full 12, at least, under the circumstances, a run that ended with the team settled at the bottom of the Eastern Conference barrel. That, as everyone knows, spurred wholesale changes in the team’s front office.
On the ice, the year kicked off with a bang thanks to a rout over the reincarnated Winnipeg Jets. Lars Eller stole the show with a quartet of goals, capping his night off with a highlight-reel spin-o-rama penalty shot tally.
It was the first of two straight wins to open 2012, raising perhaps some hope that a miserable first half of the season – mostly remembered for peculiar management decisions – might somehow be salvaged.
Not even close.
Eight days after Eller’s triumph, the moment that would ultimately become a defining moment in 2012 – and in the season overall.
The Canadiens were in Boston to face the Bruins. Trailing 1-0 after 40 minutes, the teams hit the ice for the final frame. Well, everyone except Michael Cammalleri, that is.
His whereabouts and why he was missing were a mystery to broadcasters, reporters and those watching and listening. And when it was revealed he had been traded mid-game, the consensus reaction could be summed up quite easily: Huh?
The timing was about as odd as it gets but given the Canadiens’ season to that point, fell right in line with previous events.
Owner and team president Geoff Molson finally closed the curtain on the circus that his team had become on March 29, with the firing of general manager Pierre Gauthier.
The next month revolved around the Canadiens’ search for a new GM, one that would ultimately lead to the hiring of Marc Bergevin on May 2.
Bergevin arrived with a hefty breath of fresh air in tow. A complete 180 from his predecessor, the Montreal native seemingly had more chats with media in his first month on the job than Gauthier had in just over two years at the helm. And while the latter opted for fewer names on his hockey operations staff list, Bergevin kept the names coming.
Two months into his tenure, free agency arrived and he didn’t waste any time filling the team’s needs. After re-signing Travis Moen for years just before July 1, he added Brandon Prust, Colby Armstrong and repatriated Francis Bouillon. A few days later, he locked up one of the most important pieces he inherited, re-signing Carey Price for six years.
Six weeks later, he struck gold in extending Max Pacioretty for six years at a bargain value of $4.5 million per year. And in between, he checked just about all the names off the Canadiens’ own free agent list – restricted and unrestricted – securing the bulk of them with respectable two-year deals.
Bergevin’s work left fans excited for the 2012-13 season, one that saw the first portion erased because of the NHL lockout.
Only time will tell what 2013 holds for the Canadiens. But one thing is for certain: it won’t be anything like its predecessor.