BROSSARD, Quebec – Marc Bergevin was hired as the general manager of the Montreal Canadiens on May 2, and he in turn hired Michel Therrien as his coach on June 5.
Both men have been waiting ever since to see their new team.
No NHL club had as significant an overhaul over the last offseason than the Canadiens, who not only hired Bergevin and Therrien but also added several new faces in both the front office and the coaching staff coming off a season when they finished last in the Eastern Conference.
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With the framework for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement awaiting ratification and an abbreviated training camp to follow, the newcomers to the Canadiens' brain trust will need to familiarize themselves with the players – and vice versa – in very short order.
"For me, it's a fresh start," Bergevin said at a press conference Monday. "I've been waiting for this for a long time, since May 2. I'm ready to go back to work. I've been working, but it was different kind of work. The last time I saw so many junior games in the [Quebec Major Junior Hockey League] was when I was playing for Chicoutimi in '84."
For Therrien, the start of the season will mark a return behind an NHL bench for the first time since he was fired by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009, and it will also be a return to the city where he first cracked the NHL as a coach in 2000.
"It's a fun challenge and we're all excited about it," Therrien said. "I saw some players this morning who came to the rink for the first time, and they had big smiles on their faces. I was looking forward to seeing them. They were already asking me some questions about what kind of camp we were going to have. So you could see the excitement of everyone involved."
Bergevin, Therrien and owner Geoff Molson spoke to reporters for more than 40 minutes at the team's suburban practice facility to discuss the anticipated start of the 2012-13 season, and immediately two of the more pressing issues facing the team prior to opening night were the hot topics of discussion.
Defenseman P.K. Subban remains an unsigned restricted free agent, and Bergevin said he made initial contact with his agent Don Meehan on Monday to set the stage for a negotiation that will need to be fast-tracked.
Aside from that, Bergevin didn't want to say much on the topic.
"My intention is to sign him before camp," he said. "That's all I can tell you right now."
The other hot button issue for Canadiens training camp will be the status of Alex Galchenyuk, the No. 3 pick in the 2012 NHL Draft who is coming off a gold medal with the United States at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship and has been burning up the Ontario Hockey League with the Sarnia Sting.
The Canadiens have not had a prospect of Galchenyuk's caliber enter the system since goaltender Carey Price was drafted at No. 5 in 2005, and for a team that finished so low in the standings last season his talent could be a valuable addition to the roster.
Bergevin confirmed that Galchenyuk will be the Canadiens' only junior-age prospect among the 25 to 30 players who will take part in training camp, and he will have an opportunity to make the club based on how he performs.
"He will be evaluated when he comes to camp," Bergevin said. "I've seen him play in junior, I saw him play in the world championship, but this is the NHL. He's going to be evaluated on a day-to-day basis, nothing more, nothing less. He's coming to camp, we're going to look at him, and moving forward we will decide what's best for him and best for the Montreal Canadiens."
Therrien has some experience with junior-age players making the jump to the NHL.
When Jordan Staal was in Pittsburgh, he made the Penguins out of training camp even though the plan was to send him back to juniors. Therrien said the key is to make sure a young player will get enough ice time to not stunt his development, and he pegged the over-under on that at 12 minutes per game.
"These players have a lot to be sorry for after the season they had last year. But we're starting from scratch and that's the beauty of this."
-- Montreal coach Michel Therrien
Therrien said performance will dictate Galchenyuk's fate at camp, but one thing that will not be a factor is the pressure of playing in Montreal. In Therrien's eyes, playing in Montreal is no different for a young player than any other city in the NHL.
"It's exciting to play in front of a packed house, you get that extra jolt of adrenaline, that's fun for a young player," Therrien said. "There is zero pressure. He won't have any pressure. How can an 18-year-old player feel pressure? He's just starting his career, he's coming here to learn, he's going to university. That's how I see it. I don't like to put pressure on my young players. The only pressure they have is to be a good teammate, to improve, things like that."
While that may be true for Galchenyuk, the pressure Therrien and Bergevin will be feeling to get off to a quick start in a shortened season will be considerably higher, especially in light of how poorly last season went for a proud franchise.
"These players have a lot to be sorry for after the season they had last year," Therrien said. "But we're starting from scratch and that's the beauty of this."