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Therrien will stay as Canadiens coach

Montreal GM not planning drastic moves after Price injury sinks season

by Sean Farrell / Correspondent

BROSSARD, Quebec -- The Montreal Canadiens have a long summer ahead figuring out how they went from having the most points in the NHL for the first two months of the 2015-16 season to the least in the League the rest of the way.

Just don't expect a major shake-up.

Montreal was 38-38-6 and finished sixth in the Atlantic Division. The pivotal date for the Canadiens was Nov. 25, when goalie Carey Price sustained what was revealed last week to be a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee. Price, who won the Hart and Vezina trophies in 2014-15, missed the rest of the season.

Despite going 28-36-6 (.443) without Price, general manager Marc Bergevin does not anticipate making any drastic changes after Montreal missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in four seasons. Coach Michel Therrien and his staff will return, with the exception of consultant Craig Ramsay.

"Yes, we need to get better in some aspects of our game, no doubt about it," Bergevin said Monday. "And we will address it, but at the end of the day, I think, you look at last year, this team pretty much finished second overall. Are we the second-best team in the NHL last year? By our points, we did. Carey was the MVP, yes, but I think the other players need credit, Michel and his staff need credit, so to start throwing people out the door based on what happened this year, I'm not prepared to do that." 

Price, who missed eight games earlier with a lower-body injury before spraining his MCL in a 5-1 win at the New York Rangers, was limited to 12 starts; he was 10-2-0 with a 2.06 goals-against-average, a .934 save percentage and two shutouts.

"I believe with a healthy Carey Price we're not sitting here today," Bergevin said.

Bergevin, Therrien and president Geoff Molson spoke after Canadiens players gave their thoughts about their 19-34-3 record over their final 56 games, the worst record in the League over that stretch. Montreal started 19-4-3 and led the NHL with 41 points on Dec. 1.

Price was one of five goalies to start and win a game for the Canadiens, including rookie Mike Condon, who went 21-25-6 with a 2.71 GAA and .903 save percentage. Condon's 55 games were the most by a Canadiens rookie goalie since Ken Dryden played 64 in 1971-72, but neither he, Dustin Tokarski, Ben Scrivens nor Charlie Lindgren were up to filling the void created by the loss of Price.

"We failed to play .500 hockey, and I don't have those rosy glasses, I know that," Bergevin said. "At some point, the players failed, [Therrien] failed and I failed."

Video: Pacioretty on leadership and learning

WHAT THEY SAID: "Well, you don't expect the season to go this way, so I was expecting all roses," left wing Max Pacioretty said about his first season as Canadiens captain. "I was expecting to win 82 and then win a [Stanley] Cup. But it was hard at times. Obviously, you want to say the right things to the media, but you also want to be honest. And also we know certain things, most of the things have to stay in the room and we want to make sure that everyone knows we have the right group in here, we believe in what we have and that's genuine, and I can usually come up here and you turn on the cameras and I could just say what you want me to say, but my teammates will be watching the TV later and they'll kind of roll their eyes. That's not who we are in this room. We have to make sure that we're all honest with ourselves and we look in the mirror and we all take responsibility because, yes, we miss Carey Price this year, but we all have to be better. I think that doesn't change the fact that we believe in who we have, in what we have and the system we play, and the guys that we have and the leadership group that we have. But if we're all honest with ourselves and look in the mirror and say we have to be better as a group, every individual has to step up and do what it takes to win for the team, then we'll come back with the right mentality and start to, I think, make some noise."

THE BURNING QUESTION: Will Price's right knee fully heal and be ready to resume the rigors of NHL competition? Price did not have surgery on his knee, and his recovery took much, much longer than originally expected. His rehab played out daily week after week once he resumed skating as he progressed to wearing goalie equipment before facing shots and then rejoining his teammates at practice. But he fell short of returning to play a game, and now will have to wait until coming back at the elite level of international hockey, playing for Canada at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

INJURIES: Price's injury was the iceberg that sank Montreal's season, but there were many others that lined the Canadiens' route through the rest of the way. Defenseman P.K. Subban was leading Montreal with 51 points when he sustained a neck injury March 10. He missed the final 14 games and had to decline an invitation to play for Canada at the 2016 IIHF World Championship in Russia because he is not yet cleared to return. Defenseman Jeff Petry is recovering from season-ending surgery for a sports hernia. Right wing Brendan Gallagher missed 29 games, including 17 after having surgery to repair two broken fingers on his left hand. Gallagher, who will play for Canada in Russia, had a goal and four assists in Montreal's final four games after he was sidelined a dozen games because of a lower-body. The Canadiens lost 348 man-games to injury compared to 88 in 2014-15.

WHO COULD GO: Defensemen Tom Gilbert and Scrivens can become unrestricted free agents and are unlikely to be back. Gilbert sustained a season-ending knee injury prior to the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline, and Scrivens finished the season with St. John's of the American Hockey League. Forward Mike Brown and defenseman Victor Bartley are also potential unrestricted free agents.

WHO COULD ARRIVE: One or two top-six forwards, and Bergevin believes he can never have enough depth on defense.

2016 DRAFT PICKS: The Canadiens have seven picks at the 2016 NHL Draft, including two in the second round, theirs and the Minnesota Wild's. 

REASON FOR OPTIMISM: Alex Galchenyuk established himself as the Canadiens' top center in his fourth season. On Saturday, Galchenyuk, who was selected by Montreal in the first round (No. 3) of the 2013 draft, became the third-youngest Canadiens player to score 30 goals in a season after Bernie Geoffrion and Stephane Richer at 22 years, 57 days. He had his best offensive season with 56 points, up from 20 goals and 46 points the previous season. Galchenyuk clicked with Pacioretty and Gallagher over the final four games, giving Montreal a potent top line heading into next season. Pacioretty scored his second goal of the game into an empty net to give the Canadiens two 30-goal scorers. He led Montreal with 64 points. Gallagher had 19 goals and 38 points in 53 games.

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