Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Canadiens Player Development Director Martin Lapointe interviewed at Prospect Development Camp

Canadiens Player Development Director Martin Lapointe plays a pivotal role in the Canadiens' hierarchy, tasked with guiding the prospects drafted and/or signed by the Canadiens through their development path in the hopes that most max out their potential.  The thought is that by following up with them and offering any support they may need, more of them will pan out, and this will provide the team with organizational depth and a greater chance at winning consistently.  This isn't anything revolutionary, but it is new to the Canadiens, and the position and the work he does is long overdue.

Having said that, he hasn't been prominent in the media.  If anything, his direct report Patrice Brisebois has had more camera time, appearing on l'Antichambre, and often being interviewed by newspapers and other sources.  So it was a welcome opportunity to hear him speak when he was interviewed during the Prospect Development Camp last week, he took on a scrum of reporters and had lots to offer.  He's an engaging, positive and optimistic type, and we can hope that it rubs off on our prospects.

The trouble is, the scrum was conducted entirely in French, and I haven't found any video of him fielding questions in English.  So here is my translation of the video from RDS.

He's asked about the kind of physical testing the recruits undergo at the camp:

"There are many factors: cardio, power output, agility, quickness and speed, and these are tests we do every prospects camp and training camp, and it allows us to establish a baseline, and see if the youngster is progressing."

Asked whether he undergoes that testing, he scoffs, and says that it's not a very pleasant experience to undergo, but it does give a good picture of what their conditioning is and how they're improving.

He's then asked about that, whether many of the kids do progress: 

"Generally, there's always a progression.  If you want to become a (pro) hockey player, the kids know that it takes sacrifice, so they mostly come into camp quite ready, and every year there are great steps taken and improvements."

Next the subject of improvement on the Bulldogs is brought up:

"I admit that two years ago, it wasn't fun losing games, a lot of games, but last year, it went well.  The coaches are very patient, they spend a lot of time with the young players, they do a lot of video sessions, and we saw the progress this year.  Like I said before, by taking small steps, we'll get there."

About Michael McCarron: 

"Michael is a big guy, it will take time, we need to be patient.  He spoke to you, and told you himself that he had difficulty adjusting (to the OHL), but he played better in the second half.  Michael understands, he's ready to work hard and dedicate himself to improve, he knows what he has to improve on.  From there, we can help him improve."

Asked if he can see a difference from the previous season: 

"Yes.  We saw him this summer, before he came to the prospects camp, he came to town and showed his progress, and to see that is great.  He's a big guy, he got stronger, 'harder'.  I asked him to increase his muscle mass, and that's what he did, his body-fat percentage is much lower."

The subject of Michael playing centre for the London Knights is raised:

"That surprised me also.  It's good to see that a youngster can play at every position, he's a big guy, he takes up a lot of space at centre, and he's not that bad playing there, on the faceoffs.  So it's an extra asset, an additional skillset being able to play there."

Asked about which specific players progressed enough to challenge for the open roster spots that Marc Bergevin said were available:

"We (Player Development) are here to observe, evaluate, help them to develop.  Final decisions are not for us to make.  We have the coaching staff from Hamilton which is here to evaluate, some LHJMQ coaches in Éric Veilleux and Dominic Ducharme gaining experience.  The big decisions, we'll leave those to Marc."

He's asked about Jiri Sekac:

"This is the first time I've seen him play.  I've seen him on YouTube like everyone else, but I've been very impressed.  What impressed me the most is his competitiveness.  He's able to hit, to play physical, he won't get intimidated, he skates very well, incredible hockey sense, so very positive."

He talks about the team bonding activity that was held at Bromont, video of it showed the boys doing some orienteering and team-building challenges.  He explained that he didn't want to let the cat out of the bag as to where the kids were going and what they'd do, since the players themselves didn't know yet, they'd find out once on the bus.  In general though, he explains that the group would be broken up into teams, and it would allow them to get to know each other, as well as the Canadiens management to get to know them better.  He reminds us that the kids drafted this year were scouted by Trevor Timmins' staff, but he hasn't really gotten a chance to meet them and work with them.  

He is asked about the number of players at the prospects camp, 50 players in all, lots of invited players on top of those drafted/signed by the team.  I was glad this question was asked since that is the biggest number of players I've heard of, compared to the Canucks, Jets, Flames and Oilers, for example, who seemed to hover around 30 players.  Note that I didn't dislike this, I thought it was an indication that the Canadiens were spending their money in an area that's not governed by the salary cap, using their resources and financial clout to leave no stone unturned:

"Well, it allows us a first look, a closer look at players that we may want to follow next season.  It's also to give them experience.  We have a lot of LHJMQ players who are here, I think it's important.  We want to have games (at camp), so it allows us to make up (full) teams.  But the principal reason is to have that first look, a good close look in advance (of next season, or over other teams, the meaning is unclear)."

A reporter asks him about his own progression in his role, about his comfort level over last year:

"Well first of all I think it's great fun.  I've done pro scouting before, now I'm in development, it's more coaching one-on-one.  I have an opportunity to work with the Hamilton coaches who do excellent work.  When there are video meetings with young players, with Donald Dufresne, Stéfan Lebeau, Sylvain Lefebvre, I want to be in the meeting, it lets me learn how to coach a guy, to analyze video, lots of things.  It's more one-on-one work.  

"When I meet with a young player, we talk, I take him to dinner, we talk about his game.  Last year I started to film them, and it gives me footage to talk about with them.  It's fun."

He's asked if the feedback from the young players is good, especially compared to previously when prospects were left more to their own devices: 

"Certainly things have evolved since my days (as a player), it's the same everywhere.  I don't want to take anything away from what Trevor did before (Note: Trevor Timmins had to do this follow up with our prospects under the previous administrations), but teams have evolved.  More and more, tasks get delegated, and it makes more sense."

He's asked if the vacant assistant-coaching job with the Canadiens interests him:

"Not really.  I have a job to do, I like what I do, I have young children, I would have to move my family.  I live in Chicago, my family is happy there, my children are young, so I'm happy in my current position.

He's asked about Gabriel Dumont, who played well in Hamilton but wasn't called up, whether he's getting frustrated or discouraged:

"Again, the decisions are not up to me.  I don't see that he'd get frustrated.  He played every game with impeccable intensity.  Gabriel has lots of character, I don't see why he wouldn't get called up."

When a player is 'dropped' like Louis Leblanc, how does it feel, and why didn't it work out for him?:

"Why didn't it work out...  Our role is to bring them to the highest level they can attain.  If it doesn't work out, maybe he needs a change of scenery.  I'm happy he's going to Anaheim, getting a change.  I called him, wished him good luck, told him the change might do him some good."

Asked about Magnus Nygren leaving Hamilton to go back to Sweden, and what the Canadiens will do to help European players integrate better there:

"One thing I want to assure you is that every player who goes to Hamilton is treated in an incredible, impeccable manner.  Players who decide to go back to Europe, that's their choice, we can't prevent them from leaving.

"Those who go to Hamilton, I know one thing: we spend time with them, and the Hamilton coaches do excellent work.  I'm there a week and a half per month, I see it, I feel it.  To say that players aren't well supported, and that Europeans aren't taken care of, I can't say that.  It's their personal choice to go to Europe, they get a better offer, we can't control that."

The reporter insists, clarifying that his question wasn't related to coaching, but to the conditions faced by players in Hamilton:

(Martin Lapointe scoffs) "The coaches and I stay just outside of Hamilton.  We're good, we eat well every night, there's no problem there.  Hamilton isn't better or worse than Montréal."  (He rolls his eyes and chuckles, to indicate that he thinks any concern in that regard has no merit)

He's asked how it feels when he hears that there's no ready prospects in Hamilton, no one really ready to make the jump:

"Patience, patience...  You get prospects through the draft.  You have to have patience, you have to develop them.  What's the use of bringing a kid up before he's ready?  Marc Bergevin will make the decisions when the players are ready.  Our job is to develop them.  Patience is the key word."

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