|This story appears in full in the July/August 2012 issue of CANADIENS magazine. Subscribe today!
By Alexandre Harvey
Together. A simple, eight-letter word that will define the Bergevin/Therrien era in Montreal.
Following one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history, changes needed to be made in Montreal. After relieving general manager Pierre Gauthier of his duties at the end of March, Canadiens owner, CEO and president Geoff Molson launched an exhaustive search to find someone who would embody the change he was looking for, someone who could restore the winning culture the history, tradition and fans of the Montreal Canadiens demanded. He found his man in Marc Bergevin.
During the past seven seasons he had spent with the Blackhawks since hanging up his skates at the end of the 2003-04 season, Bergevin never expected he’d one day be occupying a corner office on the Bell Centre’s seventh floor – let alone do so as early as May 2012.
He reflected on the whirlwind of the past few months while sitting alongside, fittingly, his new head coach.
“It’s been 28 years since I left Montreal. I grew up here in a neighborhood just below the Forum,” explained the 46-year-old Pointe-St-Charles native. “Honestly, I never thought I’d be back in Montreal. I’ve been gone a long time. After I retired from playing I started working for the Blackhawks and things were going really well for me there. We had a great team. This all happened really fast, but it’s great to be home.”
With the ink still wet on his contract, Bergevin kicked off a manhunt of his own, bringing Rick Dudley on board as assistant GM and signing Scott Mellanby as his director of player personnel. Then he found his coach, the one man who could meet every criterion on Bergevin’s extensive wishlist: Michel Therrien.
“I wanted a coach with a strong personality. I think as a player, it has to be that when you’re in the dressing room and the coach comes in, you know the boss just walked in,” shared the 20-year NHL veteran. “I didn’t want a guy who, when the players are there tying their skates and the coach walks in, it’s like any other person just came into the room. I wanted someone who would command respect and someone who would hold his players responsible for their actions.”
That Therrien had already had his nameplate up on the coach’s door at the Bell Centre a decade ago didn’t hurt his chances. Just the opposite.
“We want that pressure. Montreal isn’t an easy market and Michel has been here before,” mentioned Bergevin. “There were things he’s done that will help him now and things he did before that he’d do differently and he had great experience working with young guys in Pittsburgh. There were a lot of factors. With the team we have and the young guys who are coming up and the young ones who are already here, Michel has done that before. I needed an experienced coach who could manage all those different personalities. Michel checked off every box on my list.
“I spoke to a lot of people and asked them, ‘Tell me the negatives’,” added Bergevin of the reference checks he made during the hiring process. “And that he drinks Diet Coke isn’t a negative!”
Listening as his new boss showered him with compliments, Therrien couldn’t help but blush.
“It’s a huge advantage to get to work with someone who chose me,” admitted the new bench boss, who will coach his 500th career NHL game at the start of the 2012-13 season. “That gives us a chance to get to know each other. One thing’s for sure: this is a team effort. I’ve always worked in a team. I want Marc to succeed and I want my players to succeed. It’s all related and that success snowballs. That’s what it means to have a tight-knit group pulling in the same direction. That’s crucial. With the preparation and being here from the start of the summer, we know that when we show up to camp in the fall, we’re going to be ready for the season.”
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