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A true believer

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

BROSSARD – The Canadiens might be trending in the wrong direction as of late, but general manager Marc Bergevin still believes in his players and his coaching staff, too.

In the wake of the CH's struggles over the last seven weeks, Bergevin elected to address members of the media on Thursday afternoon at the Bell Sports Complex to discuss the state of his team amidst one of the franchise’s most difficult periods in recent memory.

With just four wins in their last 21 games dating back to Dec. 3, the Canadiens currently find themselves one point out of a wild-card playoff spot with 50 points through 47 games.

That, however, didn’t stop Bergevin from reiterating his full faith and confidence in a group that was among the NHL’s elite teams through the first two-plus months of the season. Not only did the Canadiens rattle off nine straight wins to start the year back in October, but they also went on to claim 19 of their first 26 games and established a double-digit lead atop the Atlantic Division before the slide began.

“It’s been a tough time for the organization and the players alike. I want to be clear that I have extreme confidence in our group of coaches and our players. I addressed the team this morning and we had a good discussion that was very positive. I understand our fans’ frustration, and internally we’re working every day to improve the team and get out of this together,” shared Bergevin, who spent approximately 30 minutes answering questions on a variety of subjects on the South Shore.

“I’m the only one who is responsible for everything. I understand the critiques, but they shouldn’t be made towards the head coach. They should be made to me. I’m the one who gives Michel Therrien his players. I believe in Michel and his staff. The players also do. They’re not going anywhere,” added Bergevin. “The plan hasn’t changed. We’re going to stick through this together as a team.”

A firm believer that Therrien and his staff can help the players get their groove back going forward, Bergevin confirmed that the veteran bench boss wasn’t about to be relieved of his duties anytime soon. Instead, Therrien will remain on board – and with good reason, according to the GM.

“Michel handles his responsibilities. He has the pulse of the team. He’s a foxhole guy. He’s a good human being. He’s an excellent coach. He communicates with the players very well. He knows he has to make them better and he works at it every single day,” praised Bergevin, who named Therrien to his current post in June 2012. “That’s what I love about Michel Therrien.”

Bergevin is well aware, though, that turning things around won’t be easy. Slated to be deprived of Carey Price’s services for at least the next three to four weeks, the Canadiens will have to continue soldiering on without the League’s top netminder between the pipes. While Mike Condon and Ben Scrivens have both performed admirably in Price’s absence, Bergevin admits that there really is no substitute for the reigning Hart Trophy, Vezina Trophy, William M. Jennings Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award winner these days.

Carey Price is our No. 1 goalie. Last year, he was the League MVP. He’s probably among our best players, if not our best player. To me, goaltending is a key position. To replace Carey Price is impossible. Mike and Ben have done a great job, but they’re not Carey Price. It’s a reality,” shared Bergevin, who stressed Price’s importance to the Canadiens on a number of fronts during his press conference. “We’re missing Carey on the ice and around the team, too. When a team plays against the Canadiens without Carey Price in goal, the mindset is different. I’m not taking anything away from our two goaltenders, though. They’ve both done good work. But, we have to find a way to win without Carey Price. That’s a fact.”

In the meantime, Bergevin confirmed that help isn’t likely to come via the trade market. Teams are asking for a lot in exchange for top players, and Bergevin isn’t prepared to sacrifice young talent for short-term results. That’s been his philosophy all along.

“It’s tough to make trades these days. There are a lot of reasons why. Bigger players are rarely available, and there’s a salary cap that you have to respect. Every year, it shifts. You have to be responsible. Personally, I’m not ready to sacrifice the future of the Canadiens for a small, short-term solution – sending a young player away who’ll have success for another 10 years and we’ll regret it for a long time. I have to be responsible about things,” stressed Bergevin, who has made four trades so far this season, including parting ways with defenseman Jarred Tinordi a week ago. “It doesn’t mean we’re not trying [to make trades]. But, to make one just for the sake of making one – and not moving forward – isn’t something I’m going to do. I’ll do what’s best. If there’s something I can do to help the team short-term and long-term, I’ll do it.”

Most importantly, though, Bergevin wanted to be crystal clear about one point, in particular.

“I want to win. I want the team to be successful. I understand that the fans are angry because they care about the team and they take it to heart. They want the team to have success and to win, too. It’s by sticking together that we’re going to get out of this, by staying positive and keeping our focus on the good things,” concluded Bergevin. “The responsibilities are on my shoulders, nobody else’s. It’s not on Geoff Molson. It’s not on Michel Therrien. It’s on Marc Bergevin. That’s clear. If it doesn’t work, it’s my fault.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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