MONTREAL - Marc Bergevin would've liked to have been meeting the media under different circumstances, but the Canadiens general manager faced the music on Tuesday, taking questions from journalists the day after the Canadiens nailed down their first win in eight games.
Bergevin didn't hide his dissatisfaction with the Habs' 2-6-1 record, but he believes the answer to the team's struggles lies in the dressing room. It boils down to a question of confidence, and it's well known that playing the game of hockey is as much about what goes on between the ears as it is about what one does on the ice.
In looking back on all the games of the season so far and all the times when his team let up early after giving up one or several bad goals, the G.M. affirmed that the only explanation for the problem was confidence - and not a lack of talent. As such, in his view, a transaction wouldn't serve as a solution at this point in the year.
"In a tough stretch, people want to pick your pocket. You know some guys are better than they're playing. What you're talking about getting in return isn't going to help you," explained Bergevin. "Making a move just to make a move isn't going to make a difference. I'm not going to do it just to panic. I told the guys, the answer is in the room.
"The coaches are working hard, spending hours every day. We watch tapes and see where the breakdowns are. Sometimes, they're the smallest breakdowns and it's in our net, and that affects your confidence," he continued. "It might not be what people like to hear, but that's reality. You can play with a bad foot or a bad hand but with no confidence, it's so obvious. That's what's happening right now."
He then went on to use Tuesday night's game against the Panthers to illustrate his point. If Carey Price wasn't at his very best early in the game and if the visitors were able to quickly capitalize on their chances, the outcome would probably have been totally different. But the Canadiens scored a goal and then a second one shortly thereafter, and the rest is history.
"After their goal, we couldn't even make a 10-foot pass. But two goals later, it was a totally different team and that carried over into the third period," described Bergevin. "That tells me it's not the skill, but the confidence. That's what they need, and I believe they will [get it]."
To do that, the players will have to engage in less thinking and more doing.
"As a former player, I know it's not as easy as that. The second you start thinking, it's too late. That's what happens and it snowballs," admitted the boss. "When you have confidence, everything goes your way and when it goes badly, it goes badly."
Video: Marc Bergevin on the season so far
Speaking of confidence, Bergevin also spoke about Alex Galchenyuk, who has been trying to find himself for some time now. Despite seeing some performances that were below expectations from the former first-round pick, the general manager affirms he has not given up. After all, Galchenyuk is only 23 and has already enjoyed a 30-goal season in his short career. He just needs to find his footing again.
"You see the talent, you see what he's capable of doing. I hope what happened last night is the beginning. Sometimes, I see a young player who's looking for answers elsewhere instead of taking it upon himself. When you stop and talk to the kid about it, he understands. He's aware of it, but sometimes it's tougher than just [talking about it]. He needs to find the little things that make him score," outlined Bergevin. "Not thinking about scoring, but the process - how I'm going to score, what I have to do. Sometimes you think you're working, but you might not be working as hard as you can. The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary. You have to work, and then there will be success."
The coaches have tried several different approaches with the young American forward. Show him lots of video, give him lots of tips and information, taking a step back, among others.
"We've done all kinds of things and we hope that eventually it'll get through and he'll understand, because he already has. It's true he's been here for six years, but he's still only 23 years old," recalled the G.M. "So yes, sometimes it's frustrating, but I also know that the kid is angry, he wants to be successful. He doesn't wake up in the morning and say, 'I hope I don't play well.'"
And so Bergevin remains hopeful, even though he admits the situation can sometimes be frustrating. But Galchenyuk is not the only one to blame for this rather ordinary start to the season. After all, hockey is a team sport. And though the boat may have taken on some water, it's also still well far away from sinking.
"Maybe we're not as good as we were [to start the season last year]," concluded Bergevin, "but we're not as bad as our record shows now."