Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin gave goaltender Carey Price a vote of confidence on Monday during his end-of-season press conference.
The 25-year-old goaltender struggled during the team’s late-season slump.
“Can Carey be better? He’ll be the first one to admit he can be better and he said he will be better,” Bergevin told reporters in Brossard.
“I have faith in him that he will be better. He had some good stretches and he had some so-so stretches. And that’s part of being a young goaltender and we’re going to move forward with him and I’m 100 per cent behind him.”
When players cleared out their lockers at the team’s training facility in Brossard on Saturday, Price said one thing he missed was being anonymous – something that’s tough to do in Montreal – adding that he doesn’t even go to the grocery store anymore, likening himself to a “hobbit in a hole.”
Bergevin said he wasn’t worried, but a bit surprised.
“They’re things we’ll talk about it,” the GM said. “And I’m here to help him – come up with solutions to help him.”
If it’s really a problem – and it’s a discussion he’ll have with Price – Bergevin said they’ll do everything to support him and help him get past it.
“Maybe I can do his groceries for him so he doesn’t need to go,” Bergevin joked.
Bergevin said Price talked to the media after the team lost, after he got hurt and after “he didn’t feel he performed up to his potential.”
The GM added: “The first step is that he faced the music, which to me that showed character.”
Bergevin also noted that goalies mature later than other players. If a forward plays a bad game, it often goes unnoticed unless you really pay attention.
When players go through rough patches, you can still win. But if a goalie has a tough period of time, usually the results aren’t very good.
“So that’s why the pressure is higher and that’s why they mature older,” Bergevin said. “And Carey is still in the process of maturing as a young goaltender. But I have 150 per cent faith in Carey Price.”
Bergevin gave credit to the Ottawa Senators, who beat the Canadiens 4-1 in their first-round playoff series. They played well, he said, and deserved to win the series.
Inevitably, Bergevin was asked whether he wants to beef up the Canadiens.
“I believe in balance,” he said.
“We do have a small team, but we’re a fast team, we’re a young team.
“You don’t change the make-up of a team overnight. And it takes a long time to change the make-up of a team. So, obviously, there’s 29 other teams that want to be big, fast and strong. But that’s easier said than done. But balance is very important. You can’t win with all big guys and you can’t win with all small guys.”
Character comes into play, Bergevin added.
“I don’t care how big you are, if you have no character you’re not going to succeed,” he said.
“You look at a guy like Brendan Gallagher – one of the smallest guys in the league but character off the charts. So we’ll need a balance. And that’s my job moving forward to bring balance to our club.”
Asked what he believes is the Canadiens’ greatest need moving forward, Bergevin said there was more than one.
Depth is the most important thing to him. It’s what gets you through the playoffs and you don’t add it at the trade deadline, he said.
“You got to bring depth through your draft, through your young prospects coming through,” Bergevin added.
“So the mindset, the game plan stays the same. I’m standing Pat. I made it clear from Day 1: I want to make this team good for years to come, not just for one year.”
Bergevin did say the team, which has six picks in the first three rounds at this June’s NHL draft, would look at more size.
“But again, it’s easier said than done. But we’ll be looking at that for sure.”
Louis Leblanc, the Canadiens’ first-round draft pick in 2009, took a step back this season with the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, Bergevin acknowledged.
“He knows that and he knows he has to be better, ” Bergevin said.
“Louis knows it’s a big summer for him” added Bergevin, who said Leblanc is still part of the Canadiens’ plan.
“And it’s going to be up to him. But he’s a good young player that we hope one day we’ll play here.”
(Photo by Dario Ayala/The Gazette)