Stu Cowan: GM Bergevin’s belief in Canadiens players repaid in kind

Marc Bergevin was proper about his sturdy perception within the group and that something may occur as soon as Habs received into the playoffs.

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Canadiens common supervisor Marc Bergevin felt excited when he drove to the Bell Sports activities Complicated in Brossard for the primary day of coaching camp on Jan. 3.

“Each time you begin a brand new season, you’re at all times excited,” he mentioned on the time. “I watched a little bit little bit of the skate this morning. I like what we’ve completed. Once more, you would put something on paper — it doesn’t matter till you begin taking part in video games and having the outcomes. However simply the truth that our gamers are excited, that tells me that their minds are on the proper place. And in addition the best way that we may play the sport. We have now a quick group nonetheless. We have now an even bigger group. We may play just about any means you need. We’re nonetheless going to play our recreation, however I feel we’re properly geared up now to play in opposition to larger groups than we have been prior to now.”

Bergevin believed the offseason additions he made — together with Jake Allen, Joel Edmundson, Tyler Toffoli, Josh Anderson and Corey Perry — wouldn’t solely enable the Canadiens to make the playoffs however to have success as soon as they received there. There was motive to imagine the GM was proper when the Canadiens went 7-1-2 of their first 10 video games.

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That’s when the wheels began to fall off and, when the Canadiens had a 9-5-4 file, Bergevin spent a sleepless evening in Ottawa earlier than saying on Feb. 24 he had fired head coach Claude Julien and affiliate coach Kirk Muller, changing them with Dominique Ducharme and Alex Burrows.

“Yeah, it’s emotional as a result of they’re good individuals,” Bergevin mentioned on the time. “It’s not enjoyable. It’s a troublesome a part of my job. To stroll in these two males’s rooms this morning was not simple.

“I mentioned at coaching camp we imply enterprise,” the GM added. “We raised the bar. It’s not a straightforward day for anybody, for me personally to make this resolution. We imply enterprise, it’s critical. Expectations are excessive. I anticipate to tack the boat first and for the gamers to reply.”

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Lower than every week later, Bergevin fired goalie coach Stéphane Waite through the center of a recreation, changing him with Sean Burke.

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“Yeah, it’s honest to say that I’ve excessive expectations,” Bergevin mentioned after that call. “I mentioned from Day 1, I anticipate this group to make the playoffs and from there we’ll see the place we’re at. However I’ve expectations that we have now group, we may beat anyone if we’re on high of our recreation. And that’s why I felt it was essential to make these modifications. You don’t sit up for make modifications simply to make modifications. However my job is that if I see issues that I don’t like and I may assist, that’s what I’ve to do. That’s my accountability.”

On the halfway level of the season, the Canadiens had a 13-8-7 file.

“We have now to make the playoffs … I really feel we have now a group to make the playoffs,” Bergevin mentioned on the time. “After which as soon as we get in, I really feel that something’s attainable.”

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The Canadiens did get into the playoffs with a 24-21-11 file — going 0-3-2 of their final 5 regular-season video games — however Bergevin was proper about his group.

Something was attainable within the playoffs and the Canadiens are within the Stanley Cup last for the primary time since 1993.

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“I feel Berg is a passionate man,” assistant coach Luke Richardson mentioned the day earlier than the Canadiens beat the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 in additional time Thursday evening on the Bell Centre to clinch their spot within the last.

“He was a passionate participant and he’s nonetheless passionate as GM. I feel the gamers perceive his feeling and actually get what he takes as a result of he comes from a participant’s angle. He actually believes on this group. He wears his coronary heart on his sleeve and the fellows see that. There’s nothing extra that the gamers wish to do than play for this group and particularly Berg the best way he entrusts the gamers which might be right here and encourages them that he believes in them. I feel that’s actually exhibiting.”

It actually was exhibiting after Thursday evening’s win when Bergevin — sporting his fortunate purple go well with — was standing on the bench hugging his gamers and holding again tears of pleasure. He had a particular embrace for Carey Worth, the goalie the GM hitched his cart to when he signed him to an eight-year, US$84-million contract extension 4 years in the past. Bergevin whispered one thing in Worth’s ear after which kissed him on the top by his COVID masks.

It was a particular second.

Bergevin, together with his wild, greying hair, has aged earlier than our eyes within the 9 years he has been GM of the Canadiens. The stress of the job — particularly throughout this roller-coaster pandemic season — has clearly taken a toll, however he by no means stopped believing in his group and also you needed to really feel very glad for him Thursday evening.

Félicitations, Marc.

scowan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/StuCowan1

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