Skip to main content

Lack of fan respect for Habs coach Therrien ‘disappoints’ GM Bergevin

Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin responds to a question during a news conference reviewing the NHL team's season Friday, May 15 in Brossard, Que.

Paul Chiasson/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Many Montreal Canadiens fans may be in a right lather over the Habs' somewhat early exit from the playoffs – teams that finish second overall generally expect to progress beyond the second round – but general manager Marc Bergevin isn't inclined to overreact.

And to the fans and pundits who wonder why he wouldn't explore the possibility of replacing head coach Michel Therrien – especially when a guy with two Olympic golds and a Stanley Cup ring happens to be available – Bergevin has heard you, and he's saddened by your words.

"Does anyone in this room doubt that Michel Therrien can do a great job here? It disappoints me to hear he's not an established coach, a winner, a highly regarded coach in the National Hockey League," he told his year-end news conference. "Michel Therrien does an exceptional job. It disappoints me more than it angers me that someone could think that."

Story continues below advertisement

Then he enumerated what Therrien has accomplished this year and last: a 50-win season, a conference title, 29 playoff games, 16 of them wins, and five series played, which is second only to Chicago and the New York Rangers.

So take it as confirmed by Bergevin's passionate case for the defence: Therrien and his assistants will be back next season.

That will leave several mouths agape in the analytics community, and among Therrien's stylistic critics (he doesn't exactly preach sexy, flowing hockey), but Bergevin sees no particular reason to disrupt the status quo.

True, the Habs' power play tanked this year, their possession stats crept steadily downward and, by the admission of several players, they relied too heavily on goalie Carey Price – but that's a question of circumstance in the GM's eyes, not a structural one.

He also doesn't consider the Habs to be within an acquisition or two of winning the Stanley Cup – "not in today's NHL," he said.

That being his analysis, why pursue dramatic change in coaching or personnel?

Bergevin's taking the optimistic position regarding this year's playoff exit and noted that the Habs easily could have beaten the Bolts had a few more shots found net instead of goal post, and noted that his core players are still young.

Story continues below advertisement

"Am I ready to turn everything upside down because we couldn't get past the [Tampa Bay] Lightning, who by the way is a very good team? Absolutely not," he said. "Overall, the philosophy doesn't change."

That philosophy, which has held since he took over the job three springs ago, is clear: Draft smartly, develop from within, and only make moves that are sensible under the salary cap and don't require you to part with young assets.

That said, Bergevin isn't blind to his team's shortcomings.

He believes it could benefit from more strength down the middle, but he said big centres and difference-making scorers "are not around."

And if they are, the price is unacceptably high. Asked if he feels his prospect pool is deep enough to make a blockbuster, franchise-altering deal, he said no.

"My reality is not the same as the PlayStation I play at night," he said, referring to how easy it is to acquire top picks in the video-game version of the NHL.

Story continues below advertisement

And so the Habs will look first to young homegrown pros such as Sven Andrighetto and Charles Hudon or prospects such as Nikita Scherbak and the hulking Michael McCarron to fill the void.

Once upon a time – such as last season – Bergevin might have cited 21-year-old Alex Galchenyuk as the Habs' first-line centre of the future, but not this time.

If anything, Bergevin cast doubt on whether Galchenyuk, who scored 20 goals in his third NHL season but tailed off down the stretch and in the playoffs, will ever play what he considers his natural position.

It should be noted Galchenyuk is up for a new contract this summer – no GM ever strengthened his position at the negotiating table by saying a player was perfect and indispensable.

And Bergevin will surely give his poker face a workout this summer. His stated priority is to sign soon-to-be free agent defenceman Jeff Petry, who he feels wants to stay in Montreal.

In projecting his team's trajectory – Bergevin thinks his core players' prime isn't going to be short-lived – he clearly feels Therrien will get the most out of the team.

But as he continues the steady work of building, the question Bergevin will soon have to confront is whether Therrien can push the Habs to the level of elite, perennial contender.

Despite the heartfelt endorsement, it's not one he cared to answer directly on Friday.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

If your comment doesn't appear immediately it has been sent to a member of our moderation team for review

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading…

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.