‘My philosophy will not change,’ Canadiens GM Bergevin says about team’s defence-first identity

Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin met with the media for more than 50 minutes Friday morning in Brossard during his final postseason news conference.

Bergevin announced that veterans Manny Malhotra, Sergei Gonchar and Mike Weaver won’t be back with the club next season, adding that he gave them the news on Friday.

“They did great service for our team,” Bergevin said. “On the leadership side, these guys really helped with the transition.”

Here are some of the other things Bergevin said during the news conference:

On whether he’ll reconsider the team’s defence-first identity: “You look at the (Tampa) series, we performed very well. The sixth game was our worst, but we hit 12 or 13 goalposts during the series, our power play wasn’t up to par. Am I ready to hit the reset button because we didn’t beat the Lightning — which are a very good team — no, not at all. If you can’t defend, you have no chance to win. Look at the (New York) Rangers, they’re a team without much firepower and they’re winning games 2-1. That’s the playoffs, we have to be more opportunistic. My philosophy will not change.”

On trying to acquire a big centre through a trade: “Do you want me to trade Carey Price? That’s what it costs to get a big centre.”

When asked about whether he could try to find a true No. 1 centre: “My reality, it might not be the same as the PlayStation that I play at night. I made a trade last night (on PlayStation), called the GM this morning and he hung up on me. So, to get that top centre, I’d love to get him, but I don’t see that happening. I think the last one was probably Joe Thornton (in 2005). Ryan Kessler had a limited trade clause, he got to choose where he went. … The reality is a lot of teams are looking for the same thing and often it’s just not available. We’ll look at the possibilities to improve our team at centre, if those players become available. But I don’t see any that are available.”

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On Alex Galchenyuk: “Just so you know, halfway through his last junior year in Sarnia he was moved to the wing. He’s comfortable on the wing. As we speak today he’s not a full-time centreman. Will he be? Time will tell. Right now, he’s more comfortable on the wing. At the end of the day, I can’t tell you when or if he’ll be a centreman.

“At the end of the day, (Galchenyuk) may never be a centreman. Right now it doesn’t look like he ever will be. He might be, he could be, but I don’t want to just focus on him. … Playing centre in the NHL is not that easy, when he was playing (junior in) Sarnia, they put him on the wing. So maybe they saw something that we saw.

“Our goal is to win hockey games every night and if Michel Therrien says that the best place for (Galchenyuk) to help the team win as at wing, then that’s where he’s going to play. “

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When asked about the Mike Babcock coaching sweepstakes, Bergevin became upset: “Who are these people, is there anyone in here who doubted Michel Therrien could do the work here? (Long pause) No, I don’t see anyone here. Michel Therrien and his coaches … we have 29 playoff games in the last two years. That’s second in the league. Sixteen wins in the playoffs in the last two years. We’ve played five rounds in two years, the only two played more are the Chicago Blackhawks and the (New York) Rangers. So Therrien is doing exceptional work and it’s disappointing just the idea that he’s not considered an established coach, a winner, a quality coach. I doesn’t make me angry, it disappoints me. Therrien has done some exceptional work since he came to Montreal.”

When grilled on Therrien again, Bergevin got testy with a reporter:

Q: “Do you believe Michel Therrien can take you to the next level?”

A: “What is the next level?”

Q: “Past the second round.”

A: “Well, we went there last year. … The line is so fine. You look at the Boston Bruins, won the President’s Trophy last year, didn’t make the playoffs. L.A. Kings, two Stanley Cups in the last three years, they did not make the post season. It’s a tough league, it’s a hard league, it’s a fine line between getting in and getting past the second round. Our team is a good hockey team and still pretty young. Next fall, our goal will be the same. Our goal will be to make the playoffs. When we were finished playing there were eight teams left, so there were 22 teams who wished they could be where we were. Overall there’s a lot of positives.”

Is Jeff Petry, who becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1, in his plans? “Yes, he is. We’re very happy, we’re pleased with the way he played for us, he played some big minutes. I know his strengths, he fits perfect with our team. Obviously, it’s a priority to bring him back to Montreal. We’ll do our best to keep him in Montreal and I think he wants to be here. … I like his skating, the way he competes, the way he recovers the puck in our zone like he has a plan when he gets the puck. He’s a player who eats up at least 20 good minutes of ice time and that’s important. I’m very satisfied we went to get him at the deadline.”

On the possibility of hiring a power-play specialist as a coach: “Our power play did struggle, we finished 23rd in the league. In the playoffs we got better, I think we were 16th in the league, but there were only 16 teams left. There’s some progress there. We’ll meet with the coaches next week and try to find solutions. I’m not going to point fingers, as a group the hockey decisions are me and Michel (Therrien). He’s aware of that, I’m aware of that, we’ll move forward and address (the power play).”

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On the captaincy and whether Brendan Gallagher would ever be considered: “The captain debate isn’t for today. It’s a conversation we’ll have later. Someone like Brendan Gallagher has a lot of potential … he’s a player with a formidable work ethic, who doesn’t take games off, doesn’t even take shifts off. … Gallagher is a player who eventually could have a letter on his jersey. He has a lot of leadership qualities.”

On whether players should be allowed to elect their own captain: “I’ve had teams where the players (chose the captain) and eventually realized that they chose the wrong guy. I’m not saying I’m against the idea. It’s a delicate subject. Yes the players can, it’s possible, often they make the right decision often they make the wrong one. Sometimes the player they pick, his contract expires in a year so you just have a captain for one season. It’s touchy. It’s not inconceivable.”

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On Tomas Plekanec and whether the Habs might consider signing Torrey Mitchell to reduce Plekanec’s workload: “Plekanec had 60 points this year and he’s 32. (Therrien) uses him everywhere: on the power play, killing penalties, at the end of games. With a guy like Torrey Mitchell, he could help us reduce Plekanec’s ice time as he ages. It’s an option (Therrien) will keep an eye on.

“(Plekanec will) tell you he could have performed better, but it wasn’t for lack of effort. In Game 6 he missed a big scoring chance, but he had a great season. The playoffs didn’t go like he or we would have wanted, but he’s a very good player.”

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On whether he thinks Plekanec or David Desharnais are true No. 1 centres: “Regular season, these guys did a fantastic job. Playoffs, we all came short. … Everyone wants a big centre who can play 20 minutes against the other team’s top line, someone who’s big and strong. They’re not available … those guys are not available, we have some good players. Our strength is our defence, our goaltending and we’re going to try to add players, get better and slowly but surely go in the right direction.”

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On Andrei Markov’s shaky playoffs and the need to reduce his ice time: “Andrei Markov had a great season, he didn’t have the greatest playoffs and he admitted as much himself. But Markov is a pro. His physical condition is always top notch. When a player gets older, you want to maybe take some ice time away and do what you can to rest him a bit. The tools, we have them. With Jeff Petry if we can bring him back, with Greg Pateryn, with Nathan Beaulieu who is taking more and more responsibility. Inside the organization, we have players like that who can help (Markov). … On the whole, I’m very satisfied with Andrei Markov’s play, we had 50 wins this year and he was a big part of that.”

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On the future of defenceman Jared Tinordi, who struggled in his third season of pro hockey: “I wouldn’t say that he stepped back, I’d say that (Nathan Beaulieu and Greg Pateryn) took a step forward. (Tinordi) is still a big part of this team, he got hurt at the end, he might have been hurt for awhile. … He’s still a big defenceman that can skate and play with an edge. They’re really hard to get … Some guys take a little more time (to develop), it looks like that’s the case with Tinordi.”

Quotes compiled by Montreal Gazette’s Christopher Curtis

Photos by Montreal Gazette’s Dave Sidaway, John Mahoney, Dario Ayala and John Kenney

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