Molson Opens Up on Roy, Bergevin, Subban and The Plan

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A disappointing season, frustrated fans, blood-thirsty media… and no playoffs. This is not what Montreal Canadiens’ owner and team President Geoff Molson had envisaged facing in early April but that’s the reality that he’s been handed by a team that, let’s face it, has underperformed for one reason or another, or for a combination of reasons. Still, Molson faced the music alongside his right-hand man, General Manager Marc Bergevin, to answer questions and talk about the team’s future.

Many came out of the season’s end press conference feeling left on their appetite, with few questions answered and little “meat on the bone” to give them hope for next season’s on-ice product. From making a mockery of the talks about ‘attitude’ to Molson’s discussions about making the Bell Centre’s experience a more pleasant one, it seems like the focus was on the side dishes instead of on the main course, to stay within the food analogy.

Improved communication

The Canadiens’ brass has been under fire for not saying enough about every possible topics surrounding the team, whether it be about players’ injuries, the team’s direction or even rumours. Molson wants to improve on that aspect and he has made that clear more recently in an interview with Le Journal de Montréal earlier this week. He brought up an example of why fans should not take for granted everything that’s making its round on the internet.

“Instead of always trying to say the least possible, we will try to ask ourselves how say the maximum without impeding on the players and put them in danger. For example, some rumour that I had met with Patrick Roy recently was doing its round. I should have said it immediately. No, I did not meet Patrick Roy. Period.”

It is important to understand that a team will NEVER divulge critical, important and critical information. You will never hear the organisation commenting on topics that fans and/or media members really want to know, such as what’s happening in the dressing room or in players’ lives. They will never share which player(s) they are targeting in trades or sign as free agents. And rest assured that Bergevin and his team will continue to keep their cards close to their chest when it comes to those topics, as they should. But there are other areas, mostly after the fact, that might come to light, according to Molson.

“To get there, we will have to develop a new method of communication. We will have to develop new reflexes. It won’t be obvious to everyone, but I am committed. And we will win from it. When Marc traded Jarred Tinordi to the Arizona Coyotes, we got two players: defensemen Victor Bartley and John Scott. People were wondering why those two players? We should have explained to the fans that the second player was acquired because the Coyotes absolutely wanted to free up a salary. People would have understood.”

Acknowledging and understanding that ticket prices was a touchy topic on the mind of many of those attending the games or wishing to do so, he reassured fans that their concerns don’t fall on deaf ears. Already showing that he does mean to be more transparent on different issues, he did want to touch on the topic, mostly to shed some light for fans to see the reality.

“First of all, we are lucky to have 21,000 seats. It allows us to have very affordable tickets in the upper sections. I also want to point to something: when I arrived with the Canadiens, the average price at the Bell Centre was the third highest in the NHL. Today, we are eight or ninth. I’m very proud of that. And the ticket prices won’t go up next year. We are not following the tendency across the league.”

Bergevin is the man

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Marc Bergevin

While informing media and fans alike that everything and everyone will be evaluated in the next days or weeks coming up, Molson did confirm having done his evaluation of Bergevin and he has full confidence in his GM to turn things around. No, he didn’t do his evaluation in the 48 hours or so following the team’s last game as some fans insinuated, but it was rather an on-going evaluation, which is guaranteed not to please the crowd wishing for a rapid-firing. The team’s President restated what he’s been saying all along, which is that he is hands-on and communicates with his hockey man on a regular basis.

“I spend a lot of time understanding the work of our GM. I consult with Marc constantly. I’m aware of the negotiations with the players, I follow everything he does. And I bring some thoughts which are different from the GM’s. I think that it’s useful.”

The plan

A lot of the frustration after the press conference was coming from the fact that both Molson and Bergevin spoke of their plan in place to improve the team, without going into specifics. Being deprived on what they feel is key information, many fans and media members alike seem to think that there is no way of straightening the situation and because the organisation isn’t sharing that plan, that it means that they don’t have one, or at least not one that they would like. Yet, it can’t be further from the truth. As mentioned earlier, they will not, and in some cases cannot, divulge some important information. Whether it be because of the risk of tampering, risk to kill potential ongoing trade talks or informing the affected staff of their possible firing, the Habs’ brass simply has their hands tied on the topic. That’s the reality of the situation and it won’t change regardless of what people say or think.

“Yes, I know [the plan]. I know who could be released of their duties. But it’s impossible to predict if the plan is 100% executable, for many reasons. We don’t know who will become available on the hiring market after the first round of the playoffs. Usually, people are fired after an elimination. Then, there’s the draft. April 28th is the date of the NHL lottery for the draft. If we’re lucky, we are guessing that youngster Rasmus Dahlin would change things. We wouldn’t have to find someone to play on the left side with Shea Weber. Finally, there will be the free agents’ market on July 1st. We will be very active, but it remains an auction for the best talents. We do our best but ultimately, the player decides.”

It seems like Molson, with this answer, provided a lot of information and yet, no one seems to have paid attention to it in the media or in the Twitter world. It seems like regardless of the improvement and development of young defensemen like Victor Mete, Mike Reilly and Noah Juulsen, the organisation is looking for a left defenseman able to eat up key minutes to play alongside Weber. This augurs well as if the youngsters are relegated more to a depth position, it will be better for their development but mostly, for the team to be competitive, depending on who they might bring in, of course.

With this comment, Molson not only stated the obvious in that the team is planning on drafting Dahlin if he is available when their turn comes up, a no-brainer if you ask me, but that the draft ranking will have a lot to do with the on-ice decisions are concerned.

Bomb on Subban

As we have touched on the topic in many occasions on this blog, there are reasons why P.K. Subban has been traded. The controversy took another turn when he and Brendan Gallagher got into it earlier this season and due to the magnitude of the trade, and the “image” portrayed by Subban off ice and his flamboyant style of play, it is unfortunately not going to die any time soon. Molson, however, added key information to the in-house thought process by shocking those who blamed Bergevin for making that trade.

“The decision that we had to trade P.K. was taken months before the trade. We had to wait for the right occasion for the organisation. I thought about it for months. But not wanting to get into details, we had to make the change on the team. When Shea Weber became available, the reflexion was already done. And I think that most of the GM’s feel like we made an excellent trade even if P.K. is a big star.”

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P.K. Subban

While those comments won’t do anything to turn around those who don’t like the trade, it certainly adds to the enigma and stigma that Subban had serious issues on the team and that he had to go, whether people want to admit to it or not. Perhaps it is an overused cliché, but saying that “the logo on the chest is more important than the number in the back of the jersey” certainly applies here, or so it seems considering all evidence. It wasn’t something new.

Further, Bergevin was asked by Michel Langevin on 91.9 Sports if, when looks back on the Subban trade, he has some regrets, any regrets. Langevin asked him the question three times, three different ways, and the GM’s answer remained the same:

“Not at all. I’m not taking anything away from P.K., that’s not it, but I went and got what I wanted, and I strongly believe in Shea Weber. Nashville has a good team, but I think that we all agree that if Shea Weber is with Nashville today, they also have a very good team… two very good defensemen changed teams.”

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Shea Weber

People will call Bergevin a liar, particularly those who want him fired, but what’s a GM to say when asked a direct question to know if a player is on the market, if he wants to get maximum value? Yes, he is? If anyone should understand that position with star players, it should be Habs’ fans and media members, no? Are those people too young to remember the Patrick Roy trade, or Chris Chelios? Those stars were openly on the market and they didn’t get anywhere close to a player or players of the caliber of Weber in return. That’s why folks, such information is not shared publicly before the fact.

Some people will be satisfied with what was provided by the organisation so soon after the season, others won’t. Some will be called “apologists”, others “haters”. That’s very unfortunate because in most cases, it’s as far as it gets from being a fact. My only wish, and I know that it will never happen in day and age of social media where everyone is an expert, is that everyone would go back at cheering for the team we all say we love.

I will leave you folks with this amazingly quote from Israeli historian and multiple best selling author Yuval Noah Harari:

Censorship no longer works by hiding information from you; censorship works by flooding you with immense amounts of misinformation, of irrelevant information, of funny cat videos, until you’re just unable to focus.

So be careful what you believe on the internet, including what’s being spewed about your Canadiens and anyone in the organisation. Go Habs Go!

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The Habs’ Summer Shopping List

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Fair to say that the 2017-2018 season of the Montreal Canadiens has been a huge disappointment. Going from a 103 points Division title to a lottery team at the very bottom of the league is as big of a disappointment as what’s felt in Ottawa and Edmonton, amongst other places in the league. We can look at every reason for this lackluster season but one wouldn’t have to look very far. When you are without your best players for long periods of time, and when they are there but not producing to the level expected of them, your team will be in deep, deep trouble… as were the Habs this year.

Carey Price suffered from Chronique Fatigue Syndrome and his goals against average of over 3.00, and a saves percentage of just over the .900 mark, all well below respectability, will go a long way in explaining the team’s lack of success. Further, if you add to that the fact that Price’s best protection, stud defenseman Shea Weber, broke his foot in game one and had to call it a season a quarter of the season in, plus the team’s top goals’ scorer Max Pacioretty finished the season with a total of 17 goals in 64 games, and the team barely breaking the 200 goals for mark on the season, well… you have what you got.

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Carey Price waives at the Bell Centre crowd after an emotional ovation.

Needless to say that for the team to hope getting back to the success they have accustomed their fans to in the past 6 years under Marc Bergevin, those players will have to return to form. In a league where parity is as high as it’s ever been, in a cap era where substantial trades are extremely difficult to complete in-season, the Canadiens’ GM has his work cut-out for him in order to address some serious issues.

Team captain Pacioretty has been rumoured to be traded by trade deadline, and the return for him would be substantial, particularly considering what the Colorado Avalanche received for a less productive Matt Duchene. But how would trading your best offensive player, or best goals’ scorer, the guy who, since 2012, has scored the most goals in the NHL after only Alexander Ovechkin, would sit with a disgruntled fan base?

Let’s take a look at what is likely to be the to-do list of Bergevin and his associates this summer, at least in my opinion…

1- Find an assistant-coach to replace Jean-Jacques Daigneault

Under Daigneault, the Canadiens’ defense has never looked great. He couldn’t figure out P.K. Subban and certainly didn’t have his respect. The penalty-kill is second worst in the NHL and no one seems to know what they’re doing out there, leaving Price and any other goaltender out to dry in way too many occasions. My personal choice would be to get Larry Robinson behind the bench, but I doubt that he would want to get a role requiring such commitment at this point in his life. Still, I would ask him first, before considering anyone else. Otherwise, leave the choice up to Claude Julien as it’s his team to coach anyway. Either way, Daigneault needs to go and be replaced by someone better and with fresh ideas.

2- Bring in one, possibly two offensive centres

Isn’t that simple? Yeah, right! There is no doubt that Bergevin knew his team’s need last summer but he was unable to get his hands on that elusive centre. He was rumoured to be very interested in Duchene, but backed out when the price became too rich for his blood, and rightfully so! However, he cannot afford to go another season without improving at that key position and rest assured that he will do everything to get a top-end centre this summer. His job will depend on it. If he makes it to free agency, John Tavares will be his prime target, but he could find what he’s looking for in Winnipeg too.

3- Possibly a defence partner for Weber

This is something that was lacking from day one, even when Weber was skating on one leg. Weber is one of the most feared defensemen in the NHL, THE or one of the most efficient shut-down defensemen in the game, but in order to maximize on his qualities, he needs a good skating, puck-moving defenseman to complement him. Just like Subban needs a good stay-at-home defenseman to cover for his high-risk plays, it’s something that Bergevin needs to address. Unless he feels like he has what he needs in either Victor Mete or newly acquired Mike Reilly, that is. Something tells me that he would rather have his young guys deeper in the depth chart and acquire a veteran for the first pairing, especially if he wants his team to contend.

4- New coaching staff in Laval

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Dominique Ducharme would be a welcomed addition in the Canadiens’ organization.

Enough of the Sylvain Lefebvre experiment. Since he’s been there, the farm has missed the playoffs every year and the number of players moving up and making an impact are minimal, if any. The best candidate for the position would be Team Canada Junior head coach and current coach and GM of the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Dominique Ducharme. Having him in the organization would groom him to potentially become a good replacement for Julien down the line, and would bring some fresh blood and new ideas to a development teams needing some sort of boost.

There could be more than that happening in what promises to be not only a very busy off-season for the Canadiens, but a career defining one of Marc Bergevin. He has Geoff Molson‘s support and confidence to address the team’s needs, but he cannot afford another summer like he had a year ago. Expect a lot of movement, or at least some very important movement at this year’s draft, while the Canadiens are in an excellent position to make some noise. Go Habs Go!

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Montreal Canadiens picks at the 2018 Draft (Source: CapFriendly.com)