Fo­cus on player de­vel­op­ment

Montreal Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - BREN­DAN KELLY bkelly@post­ twit­ bren­dan­show­biz

For some time, one of the re­cur­ring crit­i­cisms of the Mon­treal Cana­di­ens is that the team doesn’t do a good job of de­vel­op­ing its play­ers, and team pres­i­dent Ge­off Mol­son ad­mit­ted it’s a prob­lem area.

“It’s a part of the or­ga­ni­za­tion that’s very im­por­tant for us, par­tic­u­larly right now, given that we have so many picks in the draft this year,” Mol­son said dur­ing an in­ter­view Thurs­day af­ter a news con­fer­ence an­nounc­ing that Bell was ink­ing a 10-year spon­sor­ship deal with the Fran­cos de Mon­tréal.

The French-lan­guage fes­ti­val is run by L’Équipe Spectra, which is owned by the Cana­di­ens.

“So we have to make sure we have a sys­tem of de­vel­op­ment that’s solid,” said Mol­son. “We’re look­ing all over the or­ga­ni­za­tion and that’s one depart­ment (de­vel­op­ment) that we iden­ti­fied as a place that could be im­proved.”

The Cana­di­ens’ de­vel­op­ment team has un­der­gone sig­nif­i­cant changes since the end of the sea­son. Laval Rocket coach Syl­vain Le­feb­vre was fired and, on Thurs­day, the Cana­di­ens an­nounced that Joël Bouchard will re­place Le­feb­vre as coach of the team’s Amer­i­can Hockey League af­fil­i­ate. Bouchard was head coach, pres­i­dent, gen­eral man­ager and part owner of the Blainville-Bois­briand Ar­mada, a team in the Que­bec Ma­jor Ju­nior Hockey League. In ad­di­tion, Larry Car­rière was re­lieved of his du­ties as GM of the Laval Rocket and named head of player per­son­nel for the AHL team.

“(Bouchard) has worked a lot with young hockey play­ers and he has lots of ex­pe­ri­ence in ju­nior hockey,” said Mol­son. “He also has a rep­u­ta­tion as a win­ner. So I hope he can bring a lot to the team in Laval.”

An­other of the new faces to join the Cana­di­ens’ or­ga­ni­za­tion in re­cent weeks is Do­minique Ducharme, who was named as­sis­tant coach of the Habs.

“Once again, it’s some­one with a new way of think­ing,” said Mol­son. “He’s a coach who comes in with a dif­fer­ent perspective and I think that’s some­thing we needed. To bring peo­ple who come with other kinds of ideas that can help us on the ice.”

Mol­son said the team is happy to pro­mote Québé­cois coach­ing tal­ent, un­der­lin­ing that the prov­ince has al­ways had plenty of strong coaches.

“Their good luck is mer­ited,” said Mol­son. “We’re lucky to have coaches in Que­bec who are ready for the Na­tional Hockey League . ... If you look back in the past, we’ve had some ex­cel­lent coaches from Mon­treal and this prov­ince. If we think of Pat Burns, (Michel) Ther­rien, (Claude) Julien, (Alain) Vigneault. There are lots. They started here and then had good ca­reers in the Na­tional Hockey League.”

Fol­low­ing a dis­ap­point­ing sea­son, Mol­son had promised that there would be big changes com­ing for the team, on and off the ice, and that’s ex­actly what’s hap­pen­ing. He also hinted there will prob­a­bly be more moves in the com­ing weeks.

“It’s (Cana­di­ens GM) Marc (Bergevin) who de­cides, but I work along­side him on all these de­ci­sions,” said Mol­son. “We talk about how we can im­prove the team and up until now, I’ve sup­ported all his choices and there will prob­a­bly be more changes com­ing this spring.”

He noted that there are hir­ings com­ing, in Mon­treal and in Laval. He said things are fi­nally mov­ing in the right direc­tion.

“I think slowly but surely we’re bring­ing back some hope to our fans,” said Mol­son. “Be­cause that’s the most im­por­tant thing and they’re the peo­ple that keep us mo­ti­vated. We’re mak­ing changes. The next step is the (NHL en­try) draft and this is a big draft for us be­cause we have five choices in the first two rounds.”

Mol­son also weighed in on the con­tro­versy sur­round­ing the Habs’ Twit­ter ac­count. Last week, the Cana­di­ens posted a tweet mak­ing fun of Bos­ton Bru­ins star for­ward Brad Marc­hand and his propen­sity for lick­ing his op­po­nents. Marc­hand fired back an an­gry tweet and the whole af­fair turned into an em­bar­rass­ment for the Cana­di­ens’ so­cial-me­dia team.

Mol­son said one of his mes­sages at the end of the sea­son was that they had to im­prove their com­mu­ni­ca­tions strat­egy.

“(So­cial me­dia) is just one part of our com­mu­ni­ca­tions strat­egy,” said Mol­son. “For sure on so­cial me­dia, we want to be a lit­tle edgier, a lit­tle younger, and some­times we are go­ing to step over the lim­its (of good taste). And I think we had a sit­u­a­tion where we went over the lim­its in terms of re­spect. So we have to look in the mir­ror and make sure we re­spect the lim­its when we work on so­cial-me­dia net­works.”

He said he didn’t find the Marc­hand tweet funny.

“I’m not some­one who likes crit­i­ciz­ing a player from an­other team,” said Mol­son. “That’s not our style. With hind­sight, I don’t think we should’ve done that.”

On Wed­nes­day, Bru­ins owner Jeremy Ja­cobs threw cold wa­ter on the no­tion of an NHL team in Que­bec City, say­ing “Que­bec is chal­lenged, OK, I’m go­ing to put it nicely. They’re chal­lenged. Look at the in­come base and the pop­u­la­tion base, and there prob­a­bly isn’t a smaller mar­ket, so they’re go­ing to re­ally have to dis­tin­guish them­selves in some other way.”

Mol­son doesn’t share Ja­cobs’ view.

“I’ve al­ways said that if the Na­tional Hockey League comes with a pre­sen­ta­tion that rec­om­mends that Que­bec have a team, I’ll sup­port that,” said Mol­son. “I won’t stop say­ing that.”

I think slowly but surely we’re bring­ing back some hope to our fans. Be­cause that’s the most im­por­tant thing and they’re the peo­ple that keep us mo­ti­vated. GE­OFF MOL­SON, Mon­treal Cana­di­ens pres­i­dent


Cana­di­ens gen­eral man­ager Marc Bergevin, left, wel­comes new Laval Rocket head coach Joël Bouchard on Thurs­day. Bouchard won the Ron La­pointe Tro­phy this sea­son as the QMJHL’s top coach.


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