Marc Bergevin

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Marc Bergevin a firm believer Canadiens can turn season around

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Hours before the Montreal Canadiens won their second in a row with a 5-2 dispatching of the Vancouver Canucks Sunday night, general manager Marc Bergevin held court with the media and stated he wasn’t ready to begin thinking about the draft lottery.

“As of now we haven’t thrown in the towel,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do to get into the playoffs, and for the next 41 games we’ll evaluate the team closely and make the necessary decisions for the good of the organization in the short and long term. I believe it’s possible [to make the playoffs], but I also believe a lot of things have to change for us to do it. If we keep on the same pattern as the first half, it’s not going to be possible, but I believe.”

With the win Sunday night the Canadiens are seven points out of an Eastern Conference wild card spot, which is probably their only lifeline given that they are 12 points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for third in the Atlantic Division. Seeing how competitive the Metropolitan Division has been, the Habs are going to have to go on several hot streaks over the final 40 games of their season to have a shot at a postseason berth.

It hasn’t been an easy year for the Canadiens. Carey Price missed time. Shea Weber has been out since mid-December and only played 26 games. Jonathan Drouin is still finding his way while his GM says his long-term future is probably on the wing, but the team needs him at center.

“A lot of things have to change,” which, according to Bergevin, means that help will need to come from the players on the roster and not from the outside.

“In the perfect world, would I love to add a piece to help them? Of course,” Bergevin said. “But to sacrifice the future and be taking a major risk to hurt the organization for the long term? I’m not ready to do that. And to be honest with you, the short-term solution, there’s nobody out there that I’m aware of that’s going to come and turn this thing around.”

In the meantime, Habs fans will look at the seasons of Drouin and free agent acquisition Karl Alzner and then peer over at what Alex Radulov and Mikhail Sergachev are doing in Dallas and Tampa Bay, respectively, and want to reach for the pitch forks. The last two seasons have seen Montreal miss the playoffs and exit in the first round after a 103-point, division-winning campaign. Blame has already been placed on one coach and he’s gone (Michel Therrien). The hottest seat has since resided in Bergevin’s office.

“I think it starts with me, to the coaches, to the players,” Bergevin said. “I think we’re all in this together and we all have to take responsibility.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Is it time for the Canadiens to blow up their roster?

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The 2017-18 season isn’t even two months old, and the Montreal Canadiens already find themselves at a crossroads. Is it time for them to start rebuilding?

The Canadiens, who are 8-11-2 after three straight losses to Columbus, Arizona and Toronto, have over $7 million in cap space, but they have nowhere to use it. They already traded a blue-chip prospect in Mikhail Sergachev over the summer, and it’s not like their prospect pipeline is overflowing with quality either.

Clearly, losing Andrei Markov and Alexander Radulov (for nothing) hurt this edition of the Canadiens.

The team just completed a six-game homestand  that they should have used to make up for their incredibly poor start to the year. Instead, they finished the stretch at the Bell Center with a mediocre 2-3-1 record (they barely beat Vegas and Buffalo, who were both playing their second game in two nights when they took on Montreal).

During the six-game home stretch, they managed to find the back of the net just 10 times (four of those goals came in the 5-4 loss to the Coyotes).

Up until this point, general manager Marc Bergevin has been unwilling to trade away his veterans for prospects and/or draft picks. That might be about to change, per Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos.

On Saturday’s “Headlines” segment, Kypreos mentioned that ownership and the front office will have a discussion about the direction of the team.

The one player that was singled out on the broadcast was Max Pacioretty, who has one year remaining (after this season) on his current contract.

Would the Canadiens be willing to move him? Maybe, but would they do so with the idea of a rebuild in mind? That remains to be seen.

You have to believe that Bergevin’s on thin ice. Despite being under contract until 2022, he has to be feeling the pressure right now. Montreal is a demanding hockey market, and although they have plenty of cap space, this team clearly isn’t better than it was last year.

The core is far from terrible. Pacioretty, Shea Weber, Carey Price and Jonathan Drouin are all quality hockey players, but they don’t have much depth up front and their defense might be one of the worst in the league after Weber. Jeff Petry has struggled, the contract they handed out to Karl Alzner appears to be a mistake, Jordie Benn, Joe Morrow and Brandon Davidson are all depth players, and Victor Mete is a promising 19-year-old that’s had his ice time cut lately.

When it comes to the center ice position, the Canadiens are still searching for answers. Drouin has been forced to learn on the job, which is far from ideal for a number one center. Behind him, there’s Phillip Danault and Tomas Plekanec, who are both better suited to be third liners.

In order to become one of the elite teams in the NHL, the Canadiens have to take a step back over the next couple of years. They might not have to rebuild from scratch because they do have key pieces, but the roster definitely needs a lot of work.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Canadiens GM on turning around early-season slide: ‘The answer is in that room’

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A seven-game losing streak was extinguished Tuesday night at Bell Centre as the Montreal Canadiens downed the Florida Panthers 5-1. It was a good start, but there’s plenty for the team to clean up and figure out if they’re going to make this “winning” thing a consistent theme.

Given their rough start, you have to believe it will turn around sooner or later. A 1.89 goals per game average? That should rise. Carey Price sporting a .891 even strength save percentage? We know he’s better than that. A league-low PDO of 93, according to Corsica? The bounces will start going their way at some point.

General manager Marc Bergevin believes his club is in the “cluster” of good teams in the NHL through the first three weeks of the season. A 100-point, division-winning 2016-17 campaign may have increased expectations for 2017-18 a bit too much, however.

“Sometimes things go your way,” Bergevin said on Wednesday. “Everything lines up properly and you end up finishing first.”

But the GM is firm in his belief that he has a good hockey team in his hands. “Maybe we’re not as good as we were, but we’re not as bad as our record shows now,” he said.

Bergevin won’t be making a trade for the sake of shaking up his roster. Teams know the Habs are in a rough patch, so the offers won’t really be worth exploring because in his eyes they don’t end up benefiting his team, only the vultures looking to pick at the carcass. There won’t be a head coaching change unless things get really, really bad.

Something has to change, as teams are getting on the ice with the Canadiens knowing they’re facing an opponent looking for answers.

So how do they dig out of this early season mess?

“The answer is in that room,” Bergevin said. “Coaches are working hard every day spending hours, and we watch tapes, see where the breakdowns are and sometimes they’re just the smallest breakdowns and it’s in our net and then it affects your confidence. It might not be what people like to hear, but it’s reality.

“You could play with a bad foot, a bad hand, but with no confidence, it’s so obvious, and that’s what’s happening right now.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Canadiens looking to spark, not ‘bury’ Alex Galchenyuk after move to fourth line

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Alex Galchenyuk won’t be playing center for the Montreal Canadiens this year. At least that’s what general manager Marc Bergevin said last month just before training camp opened up.

Wanting to ease the drama around the Galchenyuk’s place in the lineup, Bergevin’s statement was odd given how thin the Habs are down the middle, even with the acquisition of Jonathan Drouin.

Through four games, the 23-year-old Galchenyuk has zero points and eight shots on goal while grabbing 16:21 of ice time. And after playing 18 minutes in Montreal’s opening two games, he saw a little over 14 minutes in losses to the New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks.

Head coach Claude Julien has his hands full trying to spark a listless Canadiens offense that’ is averaging a goal per game through four games and is also dead last in even strength goals (two). Unlocking Galchenyuk is certainly one issue of many that the team is trying to solve.

Galchenyuk, who signed a three-year, $14.7 million extension over the summer, found himself on the fourth-line during Wednesday’s practice with Torrey Mitchell and Ales Hemsky, a move Julien is hoping will help the forward find his scoring touch again.

“Alex is having a tough start,” said Julien on Friday. “With the amount of ice time he’s had on the power play and everything else it just doesn’t seem like he’s getting scoring chances right now. I have to do what I have to do as a coach and it’s certainly not indicative of him only because there’s other guys that we think can help produce as well and they’re not.”

Averaging 3:49 of power play time (third-most on the Habs), Galchenyuk, who missed Friday’s practice with the flu, has generated four shots, tied with Jonathan Drouin just behind team leader Max Pacioretty (six).

“I think with him, as usual when you have Hemsky on your right side you’re not playing with guys who have no skill,” Julien said. “So it’s not about a situation where we’re trying to bury him. I think it’s just a situation where we need to make decisions and move players around for the time being to get us going in the right direction.”

According to Left Wing Lock, Galchenyuk has played nearly 20 percent of the time with Andrew Shaw and Phillip Danault at even strength. That hasn’t worked, so why would bumping him down the lineup be the ideal situation? He might get the ice time against an opponents’ lesser lines, but Hemsky and Mitchell haven’t created much where they’ve played with two shots combined between them.

Despite the struggle to find a regular home for Galchenyuk within the Canadiens’ lineup, this is no time for Bergevin to give up on his young forward. History hasn’t been kind to teams who have done that.

As Arpon Basu of The Athletic noted earlier this week, Galchenyuk is Julien’s new Tyler Seguin: a young, talented player who’s struggling to find consistency. The Boston Bruins could certainly use a Seguin in their lineup right now while the Dallas Stars are enjoying the fruits of a team not showing enough patience.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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Poll: Is Therrien the right coach for Montreal?

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Gauging a Montreal Canadiens coach can be a tricky endeavor.

For one thing, you must consider the expectations that come inherent with being the bench boss of a franchise that has won a record 24 Stanley Cups.

It’s not about excellence alone, however, as management acknowledged years ago that their head coach probably needs to speak French.

“Although our main priority remains to win hockey games and to keep improving as a team, it is obvious that the ability for the head coach to express himself in both French and English will be a very important factor in the selection of the permanent head coach,” Team president Geoff Molson said in a statement back in 2011.

Some hoped that the Habs would part ways with Michel Therrien after the team’s second-round exit to the Tampa Bay Lightning, yet GM Marc Bergevin stood idle.

Back in April, The Montreal Gazette’s Jack Todd mocked those who yearn for a replacement:

Has the coach of a 110-point team that finished second overall in the league, a team coming off an Eastern Conference final, ever faced so much heat at home? Doubtful. There is a strange reluctance to embrace Therrien here, despite three consecutive outstanding seasons on his watch.

One might break down the arguments in three different ways:

1) Therrien is the best fit, period.

2) Therrien is the best fit considering Montreal’s Francophone requirements.

3) Therrien is not the best fit.

It’s not an especially new debate, yet it’s an intriguing one nonetheless: is Therrien the right guy for the job?