(Photo by John Kenney/The Gazette)
Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin expressed satisfaction with the team’s season, but said there’s still a lot of work to do during a press conference Monday morning in Brossard.
The Canadiens finished the season with 100 points and made a deep playoff run, making it to the Eastern Conference final.
“Overall it’s a very good season. A 100-point season with the playoffs to get to the conference final is excellent,” Bergevin said.
The Canadiens aren’t a mature team yet, but they’re a good young team, Bergevin added.
“I feel we’re not a mature team,” he said. “We’re a good young team. Our core … they’re young veterans I call them. We’re moving forward. There are teams that I look around the league they’re more mature. And for them you could almost say every year they’re a guaranteed playoff team, but we’re not there.
“Next year we go back to the same starting line with everybody else. Our first goal will be to make the playoffs. And after that … once you’re in, anything is possible.”
At the start of next season there will be a whole bunch of teams fighting to make the playoffs, Bergevin added.
“That’s the way we are sitting here today and hopefully years down the road we’ll become a more mature team, but we’re not there yet,” he said. “But we have a lot of good things going for us.”
Bergevin confirmed that forward Dale Weise suffered a concussion during Game 5 in the Eastern Conference final series against the New York Rangers.
Weise returned to the ice after going to the ‘quiet room’ and being cleared to return by doctors.
After the contact, the doctors evaluated the situation and the protocol was followed to the letter, said Bergevin, adding that a player can often feel concussion symptoms a day or a few days later.
“It happened the next day,” Bergevin said.
“The NHL has a protocol that needs to be followed after a player is hit,” he said.
“If the player said he’s OK and the test says he’s OK, then he’s OK. Until we change that, we personally, the team, the organization is very strict on how we operate with any type of injury. Players they have a list of things they need to do before they return to play and he passed with flying colours.”
The Canadiens were told Weise had a concussion the next day, Bergevin said.
“The league is working on making it as safe as possible. But that’s a discussion that is ongoing with the league. We all worry about our players. But again, we can only go by what we have to deal with.”
Asked what he believes the Canadiens need to address to take the next step, Bergevin simply said: “The next few weeks we’re going to sit down internally with our staff. It’s a little early to project what we’re going to try to do … but again, overall I thought our young players learned a lot. What they learned during the last 17 playoff games is something that you cannot buy.”
That learning experience included three elimination games in the playoffs against the Boston Bruins in Games 6 and 7 and the Rangers in Game 5 that the Habs won.
“What they learned in the last month and a half it’s huge.” Bergevin said.
When Canadiens goaltender Carey Price was injured in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final, the Habs opted to start rookie Dustin Tokarski for the rest of the series instead of regular backup Peter Budaj.
The way Tokarski played in the regular season with the Canadiens and also during the playoffs “you see that it’s a good puzzle to have–depth at all positions,” Bergevin said. “And it takes nothing away from Peter Budaj, who in in my opinion is one of the best back-ups in the National Hockey League.”
Asked whether defensive prospects Jarred Tinordi, Nathan Beaulieu and Greg Pateryn have to play next year in the NHL, Bergevin said: “There’s no ‘have to.’ They probably will.
“It’s going to be them that’s going to make the decision for us,” the GM added. “Do I want them to, sooner than later? Yes. … Hopefully they are, but that’s going to be up to them. But they’re really going in the right direction.”
Bergevin has several key decisions looming with four unrestricted free agents and seven players who will become unrestricted free agents on July 1.
Bergevin was tight-lipped, saying he doesn’t publicly discuss contracts when asked about P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov, who will become an R.F.A. and U.F.A., respectively.
“So as far P.K., Markov, (Lars) Eller – you can name them all – it’s something that I’m going to be working on throughout the next weeks, the summer,” Bergevin said. “I don’t know how long it will take. Everything has its own time frame.”
You can listen to the first part of Bergevin’s press conference here:
The second part is here: