Vote of confidence
BROSSARD – Trade deadline day came and went for the Canadiens on Wednesday, and that suited general manager Marc Bergevin just fine.
Confident in a group that sits atop the northeast division and second in the Eastern Conference heading into Wednesday night’s game against the Flyers, the Habs elected to move forward with a group that has hit remarkable heights through 35 games this season despite long-term injuries to mainstays Rene Bourque and Raphael Diaz and other medical setbacks along the way.
“We’re always trying to improve the Montreal Canadiens. With a record of 23-7, I think we can all agree that we’re satisfied,” explained Bergevin, who capped his regular season transactions with the acquisition of depth defenseman Davis Drewiske from the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday. “[The trading period] started two months ago. It’s not a period that is about having two days to make a trade.
"We added a few pieces over the last couple of months. We were always looking," he added. "Today, we looked. There was a lot of conversation, but at the end of the day, we’re proud of what we have. Our goal is to make the playoffs, and we’re in a great position to do that.”
Drewiske was the final piece of the puzzle for Bergevin, who envisioned the 6-foot-2, 220-pound. rearguard serving as a role player on a Canadiens team that values puck possession and relentless team defense.
“I honestly believe that you can never have too many defensemen. Regardless of the kids that we’ve brought up, my intention was, if there was something available and I felt the price was right, I was going to do that,” said Bergevin. “He’s a stay-at-home defenseman. He’s a decent size, he’s got a great stick, he kills penalties, he blocks shots, and he could take up a good chunk of ice time. He’s a player we’ve been watching for a little bit now.”
Bergevin, who wasn’t prepared to deviate from a well-established long-term vision for the Canadiens at the risk of paying a steep price and losing valuable assets, was adamant that the Habs’ current mix of youth and experience has the ingredients he believes are capable of moving the franchise forward both down the stretch and into the foreseeable future.
“Our strategy has not changed. We have a plan to make the Montreal Canadiens better for years to come,” indicated Bergevin, whose acquisitions of veterans Michael Ryder and Jeff Halpern earlier this season paid immediate dividends for the Habs. “We have a good core. We’ve got a good group of veteran and young players. We have guys coming through the system that we’ll develop and make better, so overall I’m pretty satisfied with the direction the hockey club is taking.
“I value draft choices a lot. I believe that they’re essential for years to come,” continued Bergevin. “We’ve got six picks amongst the first 90 selections in the next draft. These are important selections to build the Canadiens not only for one season, but for years to come. We didn’t lose a single pick.”
Looking to the future, Bergevin inked North Dakota University standout Danny Kristo to a two-year contract on Wednesday that will see the 22-year-old report to the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs. The Edina, MN native, selected in the second round, 56th overall by the Canadiens at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, finished tied for second in the NCAA in goals and points this past year.
“He had great season with his university,” praised Bergevin. “He’s a player with great offensive talent. It’s hard to go out and find a talent like him. He’ll have to work hard to get to the next level, but he’s ready to get started. He’s a prospect, a young player with talent and we’ll develop him and see what it brings. I feel that he’s on the right track. We’re going to surround him with good people [and] a good environment.”
That positive environment is one Bergevin and his staff have worked tirelessly to build since his tenure began back in May 2012, one that the nearly 1,200-game NHL veteran is proud to be in charge of.
“For me, the dressing room is just as important as what happens on the ice,” indicated Bergevin. “I know that at the moment we’ve got great chemistry on this team.”