LAVAL-SUR-LE-LAC – At the annual Canadiens golf tournament Tuesday morning, the weather might have been gloomy, but the smiles were bright on the eve of the 2013-14 season.
Upon arrival at the course, members of team management took the time to speak with the media gathered in front of the clubhouse, unofficially kicking off another hockey season.
First in front of the camera, team owner Geoff Molson gave his vote of confidence to GM Marc Bergevin regarding the latter’s offseason acquisitions.
“Marc knew exactly what he needed to do to make our team bigger and stronger. He had a few opportunities and, fortunately, he was able to do just that. He's happy [about the acquisitions] and if he’s happy, I’m happy,” declared Molson, who also didn't hesitate to sing the praises of the reigning Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban. “As team owner, I am very proud of P.K. winning the Norris Trophy. I know that one of Marc’s priorities is to get him signed to an extension.”
The Habs’ owner also made a few comments regarding the NHL’s division realignments.
“It’s good news for the fans, as they'll have the chance to see every team in the league play at the Bell Centre, and that’s a great thing,” said Molson, who prefers to not follow the predictions of so-called “experts” ahead of opening night. “It's difficult to predict where we'll finish and what the objectives are. We want to have the best team possible and we want to make the playoffs. When you make the playoffs, you never know what’s going to happen.”
While Molson preferred to maintain a fan’s perspective when talking about the realignment, Bergevin instead sees the division shuffling as a new challenge on the ice.
“In our division, Toronto got better, Ottawa got better, Buffalo will be better, Boston is a good team, Detroit is coming in; it's not going to be easy,” maintained Bergevin, who knows that 82 games make for a long season. “Out of 82 games, there will be some difficult moments. Maybe we’ll lose four or five in a row at some point. Every team will face those challenges at some point and they'll have to adapt. It will be an intense season from beginning to end.”
Underlining the importance of avoiding injuries to finish at the top of the standings, Bergevin took the opportunity to summarize the medical condition of his team.
“Brian Gionta will be ready, if not at the start of the season, then soon afterwards. Lars Eller is doing well and will play at the start of the season. George Parros will not, but he's also close to a return. Carey Price is one hundred percent healthy,” mentioned Bergevin, who also confirmed that Alexei Emelin will remain on the sidelines for another couple of months.
Bergevin also spoke about his meeting with Price about the past season and assured that the 26-year-old goaltender is ready for his next challenge.
“I had an excellent discussion with Carey. We'll surround him well and he'll have a good season this year,” added Bergevin, who praised the work of new goaltending coach Stephane Waite, whom he previously worked with in Chicago. “His reputation is established. What he did in Chicago with two different goaltenders, winning two Cups; that speaks for itself.”
While everyone, Waite included, was meeting for the very first time out on the golf course, the real work begins next week when training camp gets underway. Even if Michel Therrien gave himself and his staff a break before camp, the Habs’ head coach is looking forward to putting his players to work as soon as possible.
“We're starting camp with an open mind. I have a good idea of where I'm going, but we always leave room to adapt,” mentioned Therrien, who is looking to start camp under a theme of continuity. “I approach this season with a lot of enthusiasm. We built up a good base last year; a good work ethic. The season was a learning experience which went well. It was a step in the right direction.”
The team will look to continue along that path when the season gets underway in just under a month.
Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Jack Han.
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