Monday, 2 June 2014

Marc Bergevin wraps up the season, meets the press.

Marc Bergevin met the press Monday morning at the training centre in Brossard, to discuss the season which just ended and talk about the coming draft, free agency period, etc.  He didn't have much to offer in terms of news or pronouncements for the future.

Two main points kept coming back in his twenty minute press conference.  One being that his team is not yet "mature".  This can be taken many ways, that it relates to the veteranship of the team, that its young stars aren't ready yet to lead and win.

I think it has more to do with the depth of the team, of the organization.  The Canadiens were relatively lucky with respect to injuries this season and playoffs.  We had adequate depth to replace a Brandon Prust or a Daniel Brière when they were struck by injuries.  If P.K. Subban or Andrei Markov or Tomas Plekanec had been injured though, it's doubtful that a player from within the team or from the Bulldogs could have taken up the slack, even for a short while.

Now, we can argue the same for any team, that you can't replace a Evgeni Malkin or Duncan Keith, but the point is still worth making to some degree.  The Canadiens are starting to have depth so they can withstand injuries and slumps, they're getting there, but there's still a ways to go.  Marc Bergevin did a great job supplementing the team's depth with the addition of Dale Weise, Mike Weaver and Tomas Vanek, there was always a Daniel Brière, a Michaël Bournival waiting in the wings ready to step in.

For me, a mature team will mean a roster with four lines and three pairings filled with quality players, and subs who can step in when injuries strike or depending on the nature of the opponent on any given night.  It will also mean a stocked farm team with talent and depth, and those kids pushing the NHL'ers for their jobs.  It will mean that every season one or three of these guys make the step up, and that they bump older players who still have tread on the tires, and will be available to trade to other teams, to make room for new blood.

The other main point which Marc Bergevin made and returned to often was that young players have to make the decision for management as to whether they'll stick with le Grand Club.  When the subject of the three young defencemen who are knocking at the door was raised, Marc Bergeving was enthusiastic, and mentioned a few times that they're close, but that they ultimately have to force the Canadiens' hand, like Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher did two training camps ago, and Michaël Bournival did last September.

This flies in the face of the notion that some fans have that Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu should have been 'eased' into the NHL lineup over the season, gradually getting more icetime, to get them ready for eventual playoff action.  Indeed, both Nathan and Jarred struggled for long stretches in Hamilton, especially early in the season, they certainly weren't forcing anyone's hand, to the chagrin of the Bulldogs' radio play-by-play team.

Looking at it from an old-school perspective, they certainly didn't deserve to get called up.  Nathan, our putative powerplay quarterback of the future, was on the second wave, while Patrick Holland and Greg Pateryn manned the first shift.  That a forward and a reputed defensive defenceman were slotted ahead of him didn't reflect well on his game.

Greg Pateryn was mentioned by name by Marc Bergevin as one of the kids who is close, with his slapshot being brought up as a big plus.  Add in his greater maturity, his being a couple years older than the young first-rounders, and the fact that he's a rightie, and you get a sense that he will get a long look at training camp, like he did last season.  It also puzzles us, again, as to why he didn't get a callup this season, unlike last year when he played a few games.

Other issues of interest were raised by the press corps.  Mr. Bergevin was quite clear that Michel Therrien would be back next season, but wouldn't comment on a potential contract extension, as is his normal practice.  He was also brief and categorical that Sylvain Lefebvre and his staff would return next year in Hamilton.

The condition of Tim Bozon came up, and we were told that he has asked that his hockey gear be sent to him, so that's positive news, considering where the young man was a few months ago.

The matter of Dale Weise's concussion was brought up again, and Mr. Bergevin took refuge behind the fact that the NHL's concussion protocol was followed to the letter.  He repeated that the doctors examined him and said he was okay, the player said he was okay, so he was allowed to continue to play.  Reporters tried to grill him on whether the team tried to avoid the 'c' word to prevent the need for Dale to sit out seven days, and Marc Bergevin explained that the seven-day thing is no longer in effect, but you could tell that he is uncomfortable dealing with this.

It's clear to anyone who saw Dale Weise after the head shot that he was stunned, visibly unstable.  According to guidelines I found after the briefest of Google searches, that is an immediate, unquestionable symptom of concussion, and information sheets advise that an athlete who displays that symptom should be taken out of the game/event, and re-evaluated the next day.  It seems like basic stuff, yet the Canadiens missed or ignored it.  If the Canadiens did follow the protocol, then the protocol itself is faulty and needs serious revision.  Mostly every observer was surprised that Dale made his way back on the bench, and in this case, the fans and journos were right and the pros were wrong.

Mr Bergevin was asked why 2012 fourth-round pick Brady Vail was not offered a contract, and he became guarded, almost somber, and appeared cautious in formulating his answer.  He merely stated that it was after discussions with player development staff members Scott Mellanby, Martin Lapointe and Patrice Brisebois that the decision was made to not extend a contract offer.

If Brady Vail had not produced or developed well in Windsor, the question would not have been asked, or difficult to answer.  The care taken to answer while saying essentially nothing, while explicitly saying he didn't want to go into details, confirms our doubts that the issues lie with matters such as maturity, fit with the team and its philosophy, and similar 'intangibles'.

Asked whether Alex Galchenyuk is still viewed as a centreman by the organization, the GM parried by saying that it was only five days since the end of the season.  He continued by explaining that Alex was a little bit unlucky with a couple of injuries, but that he'd progressed greatly this season.

So not much to chew on for fans of the team, who might have wanted to know more about the plans of the team as pertain to Brian Gionta, Andrei Markov, P.K. Subban, Thomas Vanek, to name a few.  We'll have to wait for the draft later on this month, and for the free agency period in July.

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