Montreal Canadiens' GM Marc Bergevin addressed the media Monday afternoon to discuss the recent incident involving newcomer Zack Kassian, as well as final roster cuts and a few players who were put on waivers. As expected, much of the discussion revolved around Kassian and his future with the organization.
What I loved about Bergevin's comments during the press conference and his response to the Kassian incident is two-fold:
1.) As much as Bergevin was visibly upset, he repeatedly mentioned that he does not yet have all of the facts and was not jumping to any conclusions or decisions regarding Kassian's future with the club
2.) Bergevin's reaction helps to set the tone for what he expects from all of his players
"It's safe to say that" - Marc Bergevin when asked if Zack Kassian was on a short leash.— Аrpon Basu (@ArponBasu) October 5, 2015
I, like Bergevin, refuse to jump to any conclusions regarding this situation, but I do find the above comment interesting. In 2009, Kassian was involved in an altercation at a bar in downtown Windsor. Additionally, Kassian has been suspended from the league on a few occasions, and even received disciplinary actions following what was termed an 'illegal hit' during a preliminary round game of the 2011 World Junior Championships.
Should he remain with the club, it could be argued that Kassian will be used as the team's physical presence, replacing Brandon Prust, but that he comes with more offensive talent. But with a few blemishes on his record, Bergevin clearly understands the necessity to enforce some of Kassian's current behaviours, while adjusting others.
When results from actions are positive, people tend to try and re-create those actions. When results from actions are negative, people tend to not re-create those actions. When it comes to coaching and leadership, people assume it's simple: reinforce positive actions and punish negative actions. It is not this cut and dry.
80%-90% of reinforcement should be positive. Examples include: praise, rest (from drills/practice, not from games), or team outings. Additionally, the sooner the reinforcement is felt, the higher likelihood that it affects future behaviours.
Bergevin and the organization have not made any rash decisions regarding Kassian's future. Though his comments indicate his deep disappointment, Bergevin did not belittle or embarrass Kassian, nor did he overly-criticize the situation.
However by indicating that Kassian and his future with the club is clearly under review, Bergevin is utilizing punishment as a means of educating every athlete on the team.
Essentially, Bergevin is indicating to all players that if they find themselves in a situation that does not coincide with the club's values, they will be held accountable for their actions. This is an appropriate way to utilize punishment as a means for adjusting behaviours.
I, for one, think that the organization and Bergevin have handled the situation in a respectable manner. I wish I could say the same for all clubs who have found their athletes in unfortunate situations over the past few months.
While positive reinforcement should be used the majority of the time when addressing behaviour issues, Bergevin and crew hit the nail on the head with how they have dealt with this situation. The next few days will undoubtedly uncover new information and I simply hope the Canadiens organization continues to address the issue in a mature and dignified manner.
Weinberg, R.S., & Gould, D. (2011). Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology. (5th). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.