Last season was a year that most Montreal Canadiens would want to forget. An historic start, followed by an historic ending: one of the worst stretches in franchise history.
But there weren’t many changes. Geoff Molson kept Marc Bergevin as general manager, who kept Michel Therrien as head coach. They added Kirk Muller to the coaching staff, and traded Lars Eller and P.K. Subban. They added Shea Weber, Andrew Shaw, and Alexander Radulov.
“I think he stayed the course, for sure,” said Canadiens owner Geoff Molson on Bergevin, who both spoke to the media after the unveiling of the Laval Rocket logo and uniform on Tuesday. “In the process of improving the team significantly and having a healthy goalie, he has not done anything drastic to mortgage our future. He’s made some good signings, some decent trades and overall I’m very impressed with the job that he’s done.”
Both Bergevin and Molson feel that they team responded well despite being a very similar group to a year ago, and facing some adversity with injuries.
“I was hoping that they learned from what we went through and the way they responded with all the injuries, they did respond well,” said Bergevin. “It’s OK to fall down but you need to get up. You have to learn from past experiences and I feel our team did that.”
“Last year we learned a lot with the injuries, we weren’t able to have the year we wanted and make the playoffs. We learned a lot and we showed that over the last two months with all the injuries,” Bergevin said. “We still have 32 games. There’s nothing guaranteed.”
“It’s never easy to have a half season like we had last year,” Molson said. “But I know why we were having it and sometimes when you know what needs to be done it gives you a little more comfort.”
Bergevin says that the problem the team faced last year - not being able to replace Carey Price - is something most teams have to deal with at some point.
“If you lose key players for a long time you’re in trouble,” he said. “You look around the league today, it’s the same pattern. Tampa Bay lost Steven Stamkos. Los Angeles lost Jonathan Quick. You can’t replace your top players. That’s the reality of the NHL today.
“You make your team in the summer and hope for the best.”
The Trade Deadline is less than a month away, and Bergevin says things are quiet, and he doesn’t know if things will pick up.
“It’s supply and demand,” he said. “With only a few teams out, the prices will probably be higher. Teams who feel they still have a chance are probably not going to unload so I’m not sure there’ll be much movement this year.”
“It’s been quiet because so many teams have been close. Teams are sitting tight right now.”
As for himself, Molson doesn’t want his general manager to do anything out of character.
“As a fan, I want him to keep doing what he’s doing because I like what he’s doing,” Molson said. “He is always working whether its a big splash or not, every day is a working day for him and we talk every day on the phone to try and see what can and can’t be done but I think there are 29 other teams trying to doing the exact same thing. It’s hard and I think he’s doing a great job and he won’t stop trying to make the team better.”
The condensed schedule and the bye week is one of the most discussed things around the league. Bergevin says it may be too big a price to pay.
“It’s hard, it’s really hard,” Bergevin said. “When you get to the five days it’s nice but the price to pay to get there is very hard. We’re not the only team. There are four teams that have a game every other day for the next 70 days. That’s really demanding on the players.”
Another talking point is the Olympics. Geoff Molson sits on the NHL’s executive committee and says no decision has been made, even though he is personally in favour of sending NHL players.
“There are some owners that are strongly against it, there are other ones on the fence and some who think it would be OK if we did it,” Molson said. “It hasn’t reached a boiling point where everyone has to vote on it but like I’ve always said, I think it’s important to give a star player a chance to represent their country, it’s a proud moment for them and I support that.”