LAVAL, Que. — Montreal coach Michel Therrien denies ever calling Max Pacioretty "the worst captain in Canadiens history" but is glad there will be more veteran leadership on his squad this season.
Therrien reportedly disparaged Pacioretty at a recent charity golf tournament, where he was overheard by several people.
"First of all, I never said that," Therrien said Tuesday at the Canadiens annual tournament at Laval-Sur-La-Lac Golf Club. "Secondly, I don’t pay attention to hearsay."
The coach said he has confidence in Pacioretty, who is entering his second season with the C on his jersey. He said the captain will have stronger support in the dressing room this season with the acquisition of veteran defenceman Shea Weber and the return of goalie Carey Price from injury.
"He was chosen as captain by his teammates and has the support of management," Therrien said. "If you look at what Max has done in the last five years, I think he was the fourth or fifth best scorer in the NHL.
"Last year he started the season with a major injury, but he kept working and, after a slow start, he still ended up with 30 goals. I like working with him. I spent time with him in Florida this summer and he talked about how excited he is for the season. Both me and the players have confidence in him."
Team president and owner Geoff Molson said he believes Therrien never criticized Pacioretty and said the coach has complete confidence in his captain.
The Canadiens off-season changes were based largely on adding leadership to a team that started the 2015-16 captain on fire but collapsed after Price suffered a season-ending knee injury on Nov. 25.
Popular rearguard P.K. Subban was dealt to Nashville for Weber, a dominating physical presence. They also added gritty winger Andrew Shaw, who won a Stanley Cup with Chicago. And they brought former Canadiens star Kirk Muller back as an assistant coach.
Pacioretty missed the event because he is playing for the United States at the World Cup of Hockey. Price, Weber, centre Tomas Plekanec and defencemen Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin are also at the World Cup.