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Michel Therrien denies criticizing Max Pacioretty

Coach 'never said those things' about Canadiens captain

by Sean Farrell / Correspondent

LAVAL-SUR-LE-LAC, Quebec -- Montreal Canadiens coach Michel Therrien on Tuesday denied criticizing captain Max Pacioretty's leadership after a disappointing season when the Canadiens fell well short of a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

A radio host reported last week that Therrien said Pacioretty was the worst captain in Canadiens history.

"Yeah, first of all, I never said those things, OK?" Therrien said. "And I don't pay attention, quite honest, to hearsay. And if I start to pay attention to everything they say, first of all, as a coach I'm going to lose my focus, and I don't really, really pay attention to those things."

Therrien said he discussed the report with Pacioretty, who he described as one of the NHL's top goal-scorers.

"He's a guy who, last year, started the season with a very serious injury from training," Therrien said. "He had trouble finding his rhythm but he still managed to score 30 goals. So he's a guy that I like working with, first of all, who I'm building a solid relationship with. We spent some time together this summer in Florida and we talked about the upcoming season and how much he is excited about it. But he's a guy who, the players and I, we have complete confidence in him."

Video: Therrien talks about the season to come

Pacioretty, playing for Team USA at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 in Toronto, was named Montreal captain prior to last season.

Canadiens owner Geoff Molson said it was important to confront the report, which he said he believes is false.

"When there's a rumor in the marketplace like that, you have to address it quickly, and obviously it's inaccurate," Molson said. "Max's players chose him as the captain, he's a great captain. He's a leader in the community, he's respected by the fans and the coach, and I talked to Michel and Marc about this and obviously Michel would never say anything like that."

Pacioretty dismissed the rumor when he was asked about it Thursday.

"It's unfortunate something like that would be made up and catch fire and spread, but at the same time, it's going to bring all of us closer together if we handle it the right way," Pacioretty said.

Molson was asked about dealing with the reaction from Montreal fans in the wake of the trade of defensemen that sent P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber on June 29.

Video: Geoff Molson on the team's offseason moves

"There's always a lot of storms in this organization, and we weather through them," Molson said. "But this one was difficult, especially on Twitter because there are some nasty comments that come my way, as I'm sure there are for many others that are here.

"At first it's very emotional, and then over time you study the situation and you think about our team and how important it was to make our team better than it was last year in the second half of the season, and I think we've done that. And as hard as it is to lose a popular player, the most important thing is what we do on the ice, and I think we're going to have a stronger team this year.

"What can I say to the fans? It's not easy to make a trade like that. P.K. is a fantastic hockey player and he has a very important role in this community. However, Marc Bergevin and his team, they're tasked with having a team that can win on the ice, and some of the changes that they've made this year have been done to improve the team. And I hope that our fans are going to see that because that's the most important thing, and I think it's what our fans want, is a team that can win."

Molson gave Bergevin his full backing as "one of the more respected general managers in the National Hockey League."

"I think if you polled people around the League about his capability in evaluating talent and building a team and his leadership capability, he's among the top, and it's evidenced by his invitation to be part of Team Canada in the World Cup right now," Molson said. "So he has my full confidence and I'm positive that whether we have a difficult period, like we did last year, or not, he'll continue to work 24 hours a day to make our team better for the fans, and that's what matters most."

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