MONTREAL – On Wednesday, the Canadiens added another 2,945 games of NHL experience to their front office.
Welcome aboard: Since taking the reins as Canadiens GM a little over a month ago, Marc Bergevin has been making moves to set the organization off in a new direction. With the latest hiring of Martin Lapointe, Patrice Brisebois and Sylvain Lefebvre, Bergevin has underlined the club’s dedication to the development of the team’s future through a focus on its prospects.
“The trick is to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. Then you look smart by association. That’s what I’m doing,” said Bergevin, on the subject of his new hires. “These are all quality guys with a lot of hockey experience. They’ve each won a Stanley Cup. Players can relate to them, build relationships with them and create a team dynamic. For them, the team always comes first.”
According to Bergevin, the presence of experienced former players should have a positive effect on the prospects’ development both on and off the ice.
“We have to help these young players learn how to be professionals. I think that’s something lacking right now,” explained the Canadiens’ new GM. “If we can accelerate that process, aiding our prospects to become professionals earlier, the Montreal Canadiens will become a better team, faster.”
On the fast track: With over 1,000 NHL games under his belt – the vast majority of them played in a Canadiens jersey – Patrice Brisebois is back in the Habs fold once again, this time as the organizations’ player development coach. The 1993 Stanley Cup champion was in Brossard on Wednesday afternoon to discuss what he hopes to accomplish in his new position with the club.
“It used to be that the team would draft a player and then we’d only see them at development camps like this or at training camp,” explained Brisebois, outlining his new mandate. “What we want now is to really be present and show those young players that we’re there. We want to see a progression and see them arrive as ready as they can possibly be to make the jump into the NHL, both physically and mentally.”
While the time frame for a player to crack the NHL differs on a case by case basis, the 16-season Habs veteran made it clear that his focus will be on helping prospects shed their Bulldogs’ jerseys for the bleu-blanc-rouge faster than in the past.
“It can take a year, two years, three years for a player to develop and the work that Martin and I are setting out to do is to not only make sure they get to the NHL as prepared as possible, but to also make sure that they spend the least amount of time possible in the minors,” continued Brisebois, also highlighting the hands-on nature of his work. “I’ll be traveling a lot and getting the chance to actually lace up and jump on the ice with the Junior players, train with them on and off the ice and try to instill the best work ethic possible. We want to give them every tool possible and really show them the sacrifices they’ll need to make to succeed at a professional level.”
Meet your new coach: Yet another former Hab, Sylvain Lefebvre is also returning to the organization as the Hamilton Bulldogs’ new head coach after cutting his teeth behind the bench in Colorado.
“When you want to be a head coach, you always need to ask yourself if you’re up to the task, and I know I’m ready for this,” shared Lefebvre, who spent the last three years as assistant coach to the Avalanche’s Joe Sacco. “I’ve enjoyed a lot of great experience over the past couple of years, not just as an assistant coach, but also by learning from the head coaches I had the privilege to work with. It’s going to interesting for me now to step into that role.”
Lefebvre also took the opportunity to offer some insight into the type of coach he hopes to be for the Steel City squad.
“I’m a communicator and also a coach that likes to teach. From a development standpoint, I think I have a good understanding of the work that needs to be done. I have kids that are the same age as the guys that I’m going to be coaching, so that helps give me an idea of what their experience is like. I’m the type of person who can be strict, but I also like to think that I’m fair with everybody at the same time,” explained Lefebvre. “It’s tough for me to leave the Avalanche, but to be able to join the Canadiens’ organization and take this position in Hamilton, be part of building a great team there, and through that be able to help the Canadiens build theirs.”
Listen and learn: Part of Martin Lapointe’s new job as the Canadiens’ director of player development will be making sure the team’s prospects learn as much as they can from his experience.
“My role with the team will be to help the prospects make the jump from the juniors to the NHL as quickly as possible. We want to stay in close touch with them,” explained Lapointe, who was drafted 10th overall by the Detroit Red Wings in 1991. “When I was starting out, I went to my first training camp and no one even talked to me. Not even the coaches – I was basically left alone. We want the opposite of that, where can talk with them, help them, share experiences and facilitate their development as much as possible.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
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