4 February 2013
For those who don't get RDS or understand French, here is a rough play-by-play of the appearance on L'Antichambre by Patrice Brisebois, the Canadiens Player Development Coach.
He explains that he's responsible for all defencemen drafted (or signed, but he doesn't specify) by the team, be they in Junior, U.S. College, or in Hamilton. I noted here that he didn't mention European players, so I'm not sure if he has any contact with Magnus Nygren in Sweden, who Clément Jodoin last spring stated might come over this year in Hamilton. Mr. Brisebois also explains that he spends a lot of time in Hamilton, and when there he's on the ice working with the kids along with Bulldogs coaches Sylvain Lefebvre and Donald Dufresne. He states with emphasis that they work the kids hard. He also explains that Martin Lapointe deals with the twelve forward prospects in the system, while he deals with "around" five kids. I'm not sure where the uncertainty lies, I would have followed up on that.
Gaston Therrien right away asks a question about Nathan Beaulieu, asking about his difficult start to the season in covered terms, and asking why we hear more about Jarred Tinordi. Mr. Brisebois replies that they are two different players, Jarred being a bigger guy with a defensive style and good hockey sense and vision. He explains that learning the defenceman position is hard for a youngster, and that vision and anticipation are key, reading the play and being in the right position are essential to play in the NHL. He adds that when you have the puck, it is then essential that you execute properly. Jarred is reliable in both aspects, and is definitely in the right direction in his progression. Nathan on the other hand isn't there at this point, he has a lot of good offensive qualities, his skating, his vision, his shot, but defensively he still has deficiencies. He won't be with the big team until he's ready.
François Gagnon then makes a comparison between Patrice's early career, when he was much the same player as Nathan, being offensively gifted but needing work on his defensive game, to which Patrice replied "That wasn't true'", to much laughter. Mr Gagnon persists and asks how do you work with him on that. Patrice replies that it's all about work ethic, and showing up every day at the rink wanting to work and improve. He says that watching Nathan skate is impressive, but maybe he wasn't working as hard as he could at first, although in the last month he has made great improvements and is starting to impress him. He has to go out and prove to coaches, teammates and himself that he's going to be the best player he can possibly be.
Mr. Gagnon then asks the practical question, how do you approach players, how do you decide who says what to who? Mr. Brisebois explains that they have a very good rapport in Hamilton and Sylvain Lefebvre is very open in his coaching philosophy, but having said that, with bigger issues he says that he'll run them by Coach Lefebvre and see how he wants to deliver that message. He reaffirms that they are all there for the good of the kids. He also takes the time to explain that there are other guys who are there, and names Morgan Ellis and Greg Pateryn. He says that he can't just concentrate on one guy, that it would be unfair to the others.
Vincent Damphousse then asks who is closest to the NHL out of the kids in the system. Patrice replies that it's situational, if an offensive defencemen with the Canadiens was injured, maybe Nathan Beaulieu would be recalled, whereas if it was a Josh Gorges or Francis Bouillon it might be a Jarred Tinordi or Greg Pateryn who was called up. He stresses that it wouldn't be his call, but rather the Canadiens' brass with Coach Lefebvre to consult.
Host Stéphane Langdeau then asked who outside of Hamilton impresses him. Mr. Brisebois explained that he usually is in Hamilton during the week and goes to U.S. Colleges on weekends, since they play on Fridays and Saturdays. He says he was just in Saskatoon over the weekend, and saw Dalton Thrower and Darren Dietz, and explained that the latter is impressive, in his maturity and dedication to his off-ice training, being in the gym at 0700 hr, and last to leave the practice ice. He described him as a Josh Gorges with "more talent" (!) His Head Coach Lorne Molleken and the Physical Conditioning Coach are effusive in his praise. When the puck drops, he's ready, every game, he wants to make a difference, he's a good teammate... In all this, no one asked about Dalton Thrower, about his up and down season, about some of the behind-the-scenes controversy (which is completely omitted from the Sportsnet series "Road to the Memorial Cup"). This is THE question I would have wanted asked, and see how much or how little Mr. Brisebois could offer to shed light on this, but I guess the Antichambre boys aren't as plugged in to the draftees as we'd like.
Gaston Therrien then asks how he is received by junior clubs, how free is he to coach and correct, how do the junior coaches and management teams react to that? Mr. Brisebois explained that he's in weekly contact with his charges, after weekends, he calls or texts them, he gets info from the internet, and receives game films. He says the kids are in good hands and the organization does everything it can for the kids to improve. He and Martin Lapointe are available 24/7. He agrees that the teams are happy for the Canadiens' support, and offers as an example that Blades Head Coach Lorne Molleken and Defencemen Coach Curtis Leschyshyn offered him the opportunity to ride the bus with the team on a trip. He says that he was just in Windsor and got good cooperation and communication from Coach Bob Boughner, that they are all accessible. He then explained that U.S. Colleges are a little less cooperative, and they run their programs their own way, which I guess is understandable, since the NHL is seen less as an ally and more of a threat to poach their best elements early.
Stéphane Langdeau then asked how he feels being part of the big Canadiens' management structure. He stated that he was very happy, he is passionate about hockey and coming back to the team, especially with the people in place, there's a good chemistry with everyone, everyone works together, the current results are exciting, there's a great crop of kids coming up, and the team is headed the right way.
François Gagnon asks him if he himself is being developed to become an NHL coach one day. Mr. Brisebois explains that he doesn't have a specific goal right now, he's concentrating on his current work. He says he loves it, although it was difficult at first being constantly on the road, by himself instead of traveling with a team, not having teammates to spend time with in airports and on flights.
Stéphane Langdeau asks him about his return to Montréal from Colorado. Patrice explained that his goal had been to spend his entire career as a Canadien, and he compared it to what Francis Bouillon is going through right now. He says the fan support was very important to him.
A discussion ensues about his ranking as the 13th best defenceman in Canadiens history, according to the RDS program "L'Ultime Classement". When quizzed about the fact that he's one spot ahead of Andrei Markov, he states that he's perfectly comfortable with that, again to much laughter. He's laudatory when asked to talk about Éric Desjardins, about being a good teammate, always fit, worked hard, a leader...
A difficult conversation follows about the booing he received at the end of his career. He explained that the team context is important, that the Big Three deserve the accolades, but that they had good players around them. I note that he leaves unsaid the obvious conclusion that he believes he didn't have very strong teams to support him, which is a valid point. Vincent Damphousse chimes in that Québécois players get more credit then they should when they're doing well, and more blame than they should when things aren't so rosy.
Patrice then made an interesting point about being coached by Claude Ruel, and being told that the puck belongs on his teammates stick blade, that he therefore sometimes made a riskier play to make that pass, as opposed to other defencemen who would bang the puck off the glass as a CYA move, which he felt was a copout considering that fans pay more than $100 to attend the game. He says his style and what he'd been taught made him play that way.
Stéphane Langdeau segues into the mental aspect, and the pressure of playing in Montréal, and whether he will coach that aspect as well, to which Mr. Brisebois is emphatic that he will. He lists nutrition, conditioning, personal issues, that all these are relevant and the team wants to know if there's a problem and wants to help.
Unfortunately this is where this ended. I wish there had been more focus on the other kids we never hear about, the College kids like Colin Sullivan and Josiah Didier and Mac Bennett, but all in all, it was a great opportunity to learn more about his role and what the future holds for the team.