The lessons businesses should and shouldn’t take from the 2020-21 Montreal Canadiens

Hey, hockey teams are businesses too.

Credit: Montreal Canadiens on Twitter

Hey, hockey teams are businesses too

Unless you’ve been under a rock for a little bit, you’re likely aware that the Montreal Canadiens have spurred themselves into a Cinderella run of sorts in the Stanley Cup playoffs. (After all, cities like Montreal and Toronto have a habit of forcing even the most sports-agnostic Canadians to be aware of their triumphs and plights.)

But what can businesses specifically take from Montreal’s unexpected run to the Stanley Cup Final? Surprisingly, there seem to be a few lessons to be learned—and one to ignore as well. We’ve separated those into very simple “Oui” and “Non” categories, because this is Montreal, after all.

Oui: Don’t be afraid to swing for the fences

Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin has been largely considered to be on the hot seat for, well, most of his nine-year tenure at the helm of the team. It’s been something of a rocky road for Bergevin, and he almost certainly would have been gone if the Habs didn’t qualify for the playoffs (and they just barely did!).

But when someone is in the chair, you have to give them power to see their vision through. That’s what Bergevin did this year, with some bold moves including signing forwards Tyler Toffoli (for a bargain cap hit of $4.25 million, sorry to twist the knife, Canucks fans) and Corey Perry. He also traded for (the rights to) defenceman Joel Edmundson, goalie Jake Allen and wingers Eric Staal and Josh Anderson, all four of whom have had a considerable impact on Montreal’s success. The Anderson deal, for well-liked forward Max Domi, was risky at the time but seems to have turned out as well as the team could have expected.

Oui: Give your young talent a shot

This is a lesson that Montreal appears to have learned themselves. While vets like Perry and Staal have certainly had their moments, much of Montreal’s success has been the result of its young players showing up when the club needed them the most.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Cole Caufield, two such standouts, were actually benched for Montreal’s opening playoff game. Due to injuries, the duo got back into the lineup and it’s been a godsend for the Habs. Caufield has nine points in 15 playoff games and Kotkaniemi has seven in 16, including a massive overtime goal against the Maple Leafs.

Oui: Have capable people at every level

This doesn’t just apply to the roster, where the Canadiens can score with all four lines. But it goes double for the coaching staff. When head coach Dominic Ducharme was felled by COVID-19 before Game 3 of the Canadiens’ series against the heavily favoured Las Vegas Golden Knights, Montreal didn’t panic.

Instead, Luke Richardson, former Canuck Alex Burrows and goaltending guru Sean Burke have held down the fort and then some. It pays to have smart, capable people in every position of your organization, even if you think you might not necessarily need to lean on them.

Non: Don’t get overly attached after one good stretch

It looks like the Canadiens will sign Bergevin to a large extension after this miraculous run. And hey, that’s what most teams do after they’ve had some success, they double down. Maybe it works out for the Canadiens. But they shouldn’t convince themselves that they suddenly have one of the best GMs in the league after reportedly considering firing him a scant few months ago.

The team also shouldn’t be rushing to sign Ducharme to a large deal after he took over from Claude Julien and posted a losing record as the head honcho. Maybe have a little patience and see how things look when you’re not in the heat of an admittedly miraculous run. 

Of course, a rising tide lifts all boats. Just be careful where you sail.