BROSSARD – It was Marc Bergevin’s turn to meet with members of the media on Friday to assess his hockey club’s performance and provide some insight on a number of key topics heading into the offseason.
Just days after seeing his troops fall to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Round 2, the Canadiens’ general manager spent just over 50 minutes fielding questions at the Bell Sports Complex. The press conference came one day after a host of players took part in a similar exercise to formally wrap up the 2014-15 campaign.
After offering up a statement of support to Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk in his ongoing battle with liver complications, Bergevin shared his thoughts on a playoff run that seemingly came to a premature conclusion following a remarkable regular season effort.
“When you start playing postseason hockey, you want to go all the way. When I spoke with you three weeks ago, I thought we had a good shot to beat Detroit or Tampa. But, a lot of things can happen in the playoffs,” offered Bergevin, whose squad came up short in its bid to overcome a three-games-to-none series deficit against Tampa, dropping their Eastern Conference Semi-Final matchup in six games. “We’re very disappointed that we didn’t advance, but on the whole there are a lot of positives to take away from the year.”
In addition to the emergence of young guns like Jacob De La Rose up front and Nathan Beaulieu and Greg Pateryn on the back end, another positive was the consistent play of trade deadline acquisition Jeff Petry, whose veteran experience proved invaluable down the stretch and on into the playoffs. Bergevin is adamant that keeping the pending unrestricted free agent in the mix in Montreal is among his primary summer objectives.
“Jeff Petry is a priority for us. We’re very happy and pleased with the way he performed and the way he works. He played some big minutes,” praised Bergevin, who watched as the 27-year-old rearguard logged 22:16 of ice time in his first trip to the postseason, trailing just P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov in that department among forwards and defensemen alike. “I’ve watched him closely. I know his strengths and I think he fits perfectly with our team. We’d like to bring him back to Montreal. I think he liked his time here.”
It didn’t take Petry long to hit his stride with the CH, grasping the intricacies of head coach Michel Therrien’s system relatively quickly after coming over from Edmonton. On Friday, Bergevin lauded the Canadiens bench boss’ work on a number of fronts, insisting that Therrien & Co. continue to deliver the goods, especially come playoff time.
“Michel Therrien and his group of coaches have taken part in 29 playoff games over the last two seasons. That’s the second-highest total in the League. They’ve picked up 16 playoff wins during that time. That’s good for third in the League right now. We’ve also played in five series in two years. The only teams better than us there are Chicago and the New York Rangers,” stressed Bergevin, who indicated that no changes appear to be forthcoming on the coaching front for the 2015-16 season. “Michel is doing exceptional work. I’m disappointed that some people think that he isn’t an established coach, that he isn’t a winner and that he’s not a quality coach in the NHL. I’m disappointed that some people think the opposite. Hats off to him and his fellow coaches.”
One issue that Therrien and Bergevin will likely have to address going forward involves developing a plan of action for Alex Galchenyuk, who was featured both at center and on the wing at different times during the year. Despite registering a career-high 20 goals and 46 points in 80 games, the Canadiens’ No. 27 didn’t necessarily have an easy time adapting to the pivot position. That wasn’t lost on Bergevin, who didn’t shy away from commenting on Galchenyuk’s struggles to excel in a new role.
“Chucky, at the end of the day, might never be a centerman. Right now, it doesn’t look like he will be. He might be. He could be. But, I don’t want to just focus on him. He’s a good young player who’s a part of this team. He scored 20 goals this year. He had a pretty good season. But, playing center in the NHL isn’t easy. When he was playing in Sarnia, they put him on the wing, so maybe they saw something that we saw, too. Maybe he’s not the centerman that he might have been,” confided Bergevin, before expanding upon the delicate balance that exists between actively trying to develop a player during the season and going with the best lineup combination possible on any given night.
“We’re trying to win hockey games. Our goal and Michel’s goal every night is to win. If he sees fit that Chucky’s best chance to help the team win at that moment is on the wing, then that’s where he’s going to play,” added Bergevin. “I understand that we’d all like him to be a centerman, but so far he hasn’t shown it. It’s a lot of work to be a centerman. The Montreal Canadiens aren’t always the place for players to get experience. Sometimes, you can do it. At the end of the day, Michel wants to win every game. He’s coaching to win that game. Right now, Chucky isn’t there yet.”
Asked if the Canadiens are actively seeking some help at center, Bergevin didn’t mince words, mentioning that big centermen come at a big cost. That being said, he isn’t shutting the idea down entirely. It’s just a matter of finding the right fit.
“My reality might not be the same as the PlayStation I play at night. I played last night and I made a trade. I called that GM this morning and he hung up the phone on me. I’d love to get them, but I don’t see them getting traded,” cracked Bergevin. “I think the last one was probably Joe Thornton. Ryan Kesler was able to choose where he wanted to go. It’s difficult to work because the reality is that everyone is looking for the same thing. They’re just not available. The teams that have big centermen keep them, maybe they’re at the tail end of their careers and they’re slowing down. Do you really want that? We’re going to keep our eyes open.”
Now, Bergevin’s work begins for real and he’s ready to get started.
“There are 29 other teams looking to get better and we’re all looking for the same thing. Our core group is good. We can build around that,” concluded Bergevin, who confirmed that Manny Malhotra, Mike Weaver and Sergei Gonchar will not be returning to the Canadiens next season. “It will take a lot of creativity and a lot of luck, too. We’ll have to work hard and take some risks. They’ll be calculated risks, though.”
ADDITIONAL TOPICS OF DISCUSSION COVERED BY MARC BERGEVIN
- Bergevin confirmed the Canadiens’ intent to bring pending unrestricted free-agent Torrey Mitchell back in 2015-16, but that ultimately depends on issues related to the salary cap. The same thing is true for Brian Flynn, who will be a restricted free-agent at season’s end.
- Bergevin explained that defenseman Jarred Tinordi is still very much a part of the Canadiens’ plans going forward. He indicated that Tinordi essentially “took a step back” in 2014-15, while both Nathan Beaulieu and Greg Pateryn “took steps forward.”
- Bergevin chose not to discuss anything regarding the captaincy debate. He indicated that it would be re-evaluated at a later date.
- Bergevin praised the work that Sylvain Lefebvre and members of the Hamilton Bulldogs’ coaching staff have done with many of the team’s young players, including Charles Hudon.
- Bergevin also praised the steady development of both Michael McCarron (Oshawa Generals) and Nikita Scherbak (Everett Silvertips).
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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