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Marc Bergevin answers questions during a news conference which announces his appointment as the new general manager of the Montreal Canadiens NHL hockey team in Brossard, Quebec, May 2, 2012. (Reuters)

Marc Bergevin answers questions during a news conference which announces his appointment as the new general manager of the Montreal Canadiens NHL hockey team in Brossard, Quebec, May 2, 2012.

(Reuters)

Marc Bergevin has a dash of defence lawyer in him Add to ...

Much has been written about Max Pacioretty and his non-suspension for smoking New York Rangers defenceman Ryan McDonagh into the end boards with a dubious hit this weekend, none of it more interesting than a tweet from Renaud Lavoie of RDS.

Renaud, a friend of this space, got some inside data to the effect straight-shooting Habs GM Marc Bergevin offered an impressive defence of his guy in an hour-long conference call involving the player, team and league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan on Sunday evening.

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In addition to being a canny negotiator and culture-change specialist, it appears Bergevin's got a dash of defence lawyer in him.

It's not known what he said to bolster Pacioretty's case, but it's safe to assume it was something along the lines of: hockey play, he was committed to the hit and couldn't stop, the puck was there, the defenceman turned his back, he didn't leave his feet (although his skates did come off the ice after contact) and he didn't target the head.

There is evidence for all of the above.

Maybe it was pointed out the league gave a pass to Philly's Luke Schenn for a hit from behind along the boards a week ago that concussed Pacioretty's linemate, Brendan Gallagher, long after the puck had left his stick.

How Bergevin and Pacioretty explained away the notion that the hit was retaliation for a dirty-ish check McDonagh threw on the Montreal winger earlier in the game is known only to the people on the call.

The subtext here is that a good lawyer can often get you off, and its seems pretty clear that some GMs are more effective than others at speaking the league's language.

My pet theory is teams who employ actual lawyers as GMs (like Boston's Peter Chiarelli, Calgary's Jay Feaster, Vancouver's Mike Gillis, L.A.'s Dean Lombardi and former Leafs GM Brian Burke, to name five) often do better in disciplinary procedures than teams that don't, mostly because they can parse rules to death and typically have good rhetorical skills.

The theory has flaws, of course - there are some things, a lot of things, no GM can talk his way around - and no one said you have to hold an LL.B. to make a smart case.

Bergevin isn't a lawyer, but he is extremely sharp, he's an impassioned communicator, and he has a reputation for being a stand-up guy, the fruit of playing 20 years in the NHL and seeing the game's good, bad and ugly from every possible angle.

You can add persuasiveness to Bergevin's already-impressive toolbox of GM skills.

None of the foregoing is intended as a slight against Shanahan, a persuasively argued case is always going to go further than a shakily presented one, whether it's before NHL hockey ops or the Supreme Court.

Meting out consistent discipline is a hard thing to do - the standard appears to have shifted from a year ago, but maybe that's just a perception because the season is still relatively new.

Pacioretty just happens to have landed in the sweet spot between a marginally suspendable act and an effective defence. And everything continues to come up roses for Bergevin.

 

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