Brossard, QUEBEC — Marc Bergevin took to the podium to review a 110-point season and a disappointing playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
He made an impassioned plea to the fans to respect the work coach Michel Therrien and his staff were able to do and touched on many subjects, including the next steps his team must take to get closer to their goal of bringing the Stanley Cup to Montreal, the development of Alex Galchenyuk, the hope Bergevin can lock down defenceman Jeff Petry to a long-term deal, and the unresolved captaincy.
Therrien here to stay
Deficiencies in possession, a punch-less offence, and a sterile power play didn’t rule the evaluation on coach Michel Therrien.
Therrien is the first to remind everyone the results yield to the process, and it’s indisputable the process that achieved 50 wins this season was largely the product of Carey Price’s Hart and Vezina-worthy performance.
It’s ironic that Therrien’s results (not just this year’s) appeared to be Bergevin’s singular focus as he poured cold water all over the possibility of firing his coach and attempting to replace him with the consensus best-in-the-business Mike Babcock.
“In three years, we’ve played 29 playoff games,” started Bergevin in French. “That’s second best in the league. We’ve had 16 playoff wins and played five rounds in the last two years, good for third place behind Chicago and New York (Rangers). So Michel Therrien has done excellent work and it is disappointing—just the idea that Michel Therrien isn’t an established coach, a winner, a quality teacher—it doesn’t anger me, it disappoints me.”
Since Therrien took over a 28th-placed Canadiens team, his regular season success with two division titles and 125 wins in three seasons (one abridged by the lockout in 2012-13) is noteworthy.
With a contract that runs from 2015-16 through the end of 2018, with an option for 2019, that endorsement Bergevin offered doesn’t ring hollow.
As for the rest of Therrien’s staff, Dan Lacroix was responsible for running the power play, but Bergevin said he’s “not here to point fingers”…
It wasn’t enough that Max Pacioretty scored 37 goals, or that Tomas Plekanec had 26 goals, or that Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher reached career highs with 20 and 25 goals, respectively.
The Canadiens finished with the 20th best scoring numbers in the league and when they needed it the most, their offence, which produced 19 goals in 11 of 12 games, wasn’t able to propel them further in the playoffs.
Nonetheless, Bergevin repeated that he believes in the defensive style that garnered the Canadiens the success they’ve enjoyed over the past three seasons, as he mentioned after Round 1 that their style should be able to produce a Cup win.
After noting how hard it is to acquire an offensive gun on the market, it would seem Bergevin’s playing the long game, hoping Montreal’s prospects can add scoring punch.
“My reality—it might not be the same as the Playstation I play at night,” quipped Bergevin. “I did play last night and I made a trade, I called the GM this morning and he hung up the phone on me.
“Would I love to have a 25-goal scorer, 30? I would love to, but they’re not around. They’re just not available. It’s just the way it works. Yes, we have some good young players that—[Nikita] Scherbak is an offensive player, Charles Hudon had a good season, [Sven] Andrighetto—there’s a whole bunch of them. Hopefully, there’s one of these guys who [will] rise and maybe take that spot.”
Big problem re: Galchenyuk
Tomas Plekanec, David Desharnais and Lars Eller are all good centremen, but how much better do they make the players around them?
If the answer was “that much better,” the Canadiens might still be playing in these playoffs.
Therrien and Bergevin had repeated countlessly over the first two years of Galchenyuk’s career that he was drafted to be that elusive big centre the Canadiens have been missing for more than two decades.
At 6-foot-2 and over 200 pounds, in possession of a multifaceted offensive skillset, Galchenyuk fits the bill of someone who can make those around him better. But aside from the fewer than a dozen games he played at the position this season, Galchenyuk hasn’t been put to the test there.
“I didn’t put a time frame [on moving Galchenyuk to centre from the day he was drafted],” said Bergevin. “At the end of the day, the way he plays, he’s telling us where he should be.”
Bergevin continued on why Galchenyuk remains at wing:
“We like him, we’d all like him to be a centreman, but so far he hasn’t shown that he can be a top centreman in the league.
“He might never [get to centre].”
Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler are the centres that have the Ducks in position to get to the Stanley Cup final, Derek Stepan and Derick Brassard are doing it for the Rangers, and Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson are doing it for the Lightning. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have helped the Blackhawks win two Cups, and now they’re helping them chase a third.
When you look at the offensive production of those eight centres who remain in the playoff picture (36 goals) and contrast them with Montreal’s top two in Desharnais and Plekanec–who combined for two post-season goals—there’s no arguing about where the Canadiens are lacking.
If the plan doesn’t involve developing Galchenyuk at centre, if the trade market and unrestricted free agency offers no fruit for Bergevin to pick as he suggested, how can the Canadiens win more games in the playoffs?
Bergevin stated Friday that even if a top line centre were available on the market, short of trading Price—which he’s unwilling to do—he doesn’t believe he has the goods to make the deal.
We can all solve this problem on Playstation, but in reality, Bergevin didn’t offer a single solution he’s considering, and that has to be the biggest concern going into next season as franchise cornerstones Price, P.K. Subban and Pacioretty are all in their primes.
Petry top priority
It was no grand revelation that Bergevin wants to do everything possible to keep defenceman Jeff Petry from testing the market.
What was most relevant about Bergevin’s comments was the part where he divulged that Petry has expressed interest in staying with the Canadiens.
Now Bergevin must use the advantage he possesses, which is a healthy cap situation having shed space Manny Malhotra ($850,000), Mike Weaver ($1.75 million) and Sergei Gonchar ($5 million) were occupying, the ability to exclusively deal with Petry and his agent between now and the days leading up to July 1, and an extra year he can offer him in a re-sign situation for a max deal of eight seasons.
Will there be a captain?
No commitment’s been made to having a captain next season, but if the Canadiens do decide to name one, Bergevin didn’t rule out the idea of having the players make the choice.
“I’ve been a part of teams where the players chose the captain and they ended up choosing the wrong guy,” said Bergevin in French before hedging with: “I’ve also seen management choose the wrong guy.”
Satisfied with the work of his leadership group comprised of Price, Markov, Subban, Plekanec and Pacioretty, Bergevin included Gallagher among the players who could be considered if/when they name a captain.