Since taking office, Marc Bergevin has often approached his team’s seasons aiming for a playoff berth. “Once in the playoffs, anything can happen,” he repeated over and over again. This time the speech is different.
With 10 days to go to the opening of the 2020-2021 campaign, the Canadiens general manager met the media by video conference.
“Internally, we have high expectations. You have to perform, he said from the start. I like the team we have put in place. I expect we will be ready on January 13 in Toronto. “
During the offseason, Bergevin maximized his telecommuting hours by making the acquisitions of Jake Allen, Joel Edmundson and Josh Anderson, and signing a contract with Tyler Toffoli. To this quartet which came to close four gaps, he recently added depth by attracting the venerable Michael Frolik and Corey Perry.
What is special about these players is that most said they agreed to join the CH because they believed the team could aspire to top honors. You have to go back a long way to see independent players come to the Quebec metropolis with so many convictions.
“What we did in the bubble helped us a lot,” said Bergevin. Our players sent us a message, we did what we had to do. “
If there is one criticism the Habs have often been made, it is that they are no match for their heavier opponents.
Now, Edmundson joins Weber at the top of the group’s tallest defensemen (6 ‘, 4 “), Anderson becomes the heaviest forward (222 pounds). In fact, at 6’3 “, he and Perry are only an inch behind Joel Armia, the Habs’ tallest forward.
“I watched the guys skate this morning [dimanche]. I like what we did. Seeing the players are excited shows me that they’ve got their heads in the right place. We still have a fast team, but we’re bigger. We can play in any way we can, “said the GM.
A few years ago, Bergevin tried to remedy the situation by hiring Dwight King and Andreas Martinsen. Let’s say this time we’re talking about skaters of a whole different caliber.
A competitive division
Montrealers will do it well as four of the seven teams making up the brand new North Division usually play in the Western Association: the Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets.
There is likely to be a lot of tough hockey, not to mention the many trips out west. Usually, the Habs travel to the other end of the country once per season. A week-long journey during which the four trainings mentioned above take advantage.
This time, three stays of more than a week await the Canadian. Five games in eight days in January, six in 10s in March and five in eights in the second leg of April.
“In terms of travel, it will definitely be a more difficult season. But with the team that we will be on the ice this year, we are well equipped to face the teams from the West, ”said Bergevin first. “It will be a competitive division. We know there will only be four of the seven teams making the playoffs. That means three will be excluded, three good teams. We will have to be ready, ”he added.
Still hands full
What makes the 55-year-old hockey man proud is that he managed to put this puzzle together without sacrificing the future of the team. Currently, the Canadian still has 14 picks for the next draft, which will be held at the end of July. And the hope bank has remained intact.
“Across the NHL, those who say the Canadiens bet everything this year, as if we had put all our chips on the table, are wrong. We didn’t do any of that. We added elements without giving anything. We kept our youngsters and our draft picks. So the team is well positioned for this year, but also for the years to come. “
Bergevin took the opportunity to recall that it is the space he has always jealously guarded under the salary cap that has allowed him to make these acquisitions.
We can only hope that the pandemic will not cancel all these efforts.
Clairvoyance who could be paying
Over the next season, COVID will place teams facing realities they have never encountered before. This is why Marc Bergevin made sure to fill his roster with veterans.
“Currently, Corey Perry and Tomas Tatar are still in quarantine. They will be able to join the team in two days [demain]. ”
“Carrying out transactions has always been difficult. It will be even more so this season because of the pandemic. If nothing changes, it will be difficult to acquire players who play in the United States. “
“COVID is contagious. If a player tests positive, that doesn’t necessarily mean he was reckless. There will likely be cases, which is why it is important to build on depth and experience. “
Bergevin congratulated himself on having foreseen the blow by doing quickly the acquisition of Jake Allen after the playoffs.
“I expected that we would have a condensed schedule. It will help us a lot to bet on two very good goalkeepers. “
Marc Bergevin has been an attentive viewer for the World Junior Hockey Championship. He had eyes on three of his hopes: Kaiden Guhle (Canada), Cole Caufield (United States) and Jan Mysak (Czech Republic).
“Cole scored yesterday [samedi]. During the tournament he hit posts and got scoring chances. His progress is good. He will be back in Wisconsin to complete his university internship. “
“Mysak, we love him. He is only 18 years old. He is still very young. Same thing for Guhle. He scored Canada’s first goal, did a lot of good things. I like the small space he leaves between him and the attacker. I like the way he kills games. “
At the end of the tournament, Caufield will return to the University of Wisconsin. What will happen to Guhle (Prince Albert Raiders) and Mysak (Hamilton Bulldgos), who belong to CHL teams?
“There is a possibility that they will come here. Currently, we are in discussion. We are waiting to see what happens with the Ontario Junior League and the Western Junior League. [qui n’ont toujours pas repris leurs activités]. “