BROSSARD – The Canadiens had two hours and 200 feet of ice to get to know their new head coach on Sunday morning.
After a much longer wait than anticipated, Habs bench boss Michel Therrien finally got a first crack at coaching his players since being hired on June 5. While he's had 222 days to prepare for his first meeting with the team, that didn’t mean his plate was any less full when it was finally time to get down to business.
“There are a lot of things we have to learn in a very short period of time, but I really enjoyed the practice we had this morning,” said David Desharnais, visibly happy with the new system being put in place on the ice. “We all have to get on board with this new system. Michel let us know right away that if you’re not willing to adopt his system, you’re not going to play. It means us making some changes, but everyone’s ready to do that.”
Taking his role as an instructor to heart, Therrien didn’t hesitate to start things off by getting back to the basics during the group’s first on-ice outing.
“I’ve never had a problem explaining to my teams the reasons behind the things we’re doing. Hockey players are always extremely receptive when they see the results. Today, we practiced zone defense – something they’re not very used to doing,” explained Therrien. “We’re taking them out of their comfort zone, and they’re paying close attention and asking a lot of questions. It’s always great when players ask questions and it does a lot of good to have an open dialogue with them.”
The recent departure of Scott Gomez and the injuries to Petteri Nokelainen and Tomas Plekanec have naturally opened the door to speculation on how young prospect Alex Galchenyuk might be used in his natural position at center. Therrien was quick to point out that the way things work at training camp may not be the way they’ll work a few weeks down the road.
“Just to let you know, you’ll be seeing a lot of different combinations and experiments over the next week. Eller will play as a winger, Galchenyuk will play center. This week is all about trying out as many different things as possible,” confirmed Therrien. “The most important thing in making a good hockey team is being able to make it with good people. I’ve always believed in the importance of surrounding yourself with good people. Often, the most pressure a player can feel is the pressure to be a good teammate. When everyone involved is a good a teammate, the team is going in the right direction.”
With the positive vibe surrounding the Habs’ first day of practice, it would certainly seem that's exactly the direction they're headed.
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
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