“We had a very good regular season and an excellent playoff run,” observed Bergevin, who saw his team reach the 100-point plateau for the first time since 2008 and the Eastern Conference Finals for a second time in five seasons. “We were just a few games away from playing for the Stanley Cup, which is disappointing, but at the same time we realize that we had a great year overall. I felt we could have beaten the Rangers. Both teams had a tough road, but we had a shot at making the Stanley Cup finals. When you get this close, you want to go even further, no doubt about it.”
The Habs’ GM credited much of his team’s success to its maturing core players. Max Pacioretty reached new heights with 39 regular season goals while seeing his role expanded to lead-protection and penalty-kill duties. Carey Price compiled the highest save percentage in his career and won an Olympic gold medal in Sochi. P.K. Subban solidified his position as one of the best all-around defenseman in the league and led the team in playoff scoring while playing close to 30 minutes per game down the stretch.
Complementing the youthful cornerstones of the franchise this seasons were a group of seasoned veterans, without whom the Habs could not possibly have cracked triple digits in points or advanced to the third round of the postseason.
“Some players had more trouble in the regular season, but stepped up in the postseason. The opposite for others, but overall I am very happy with how our players performed this season,” offered Bergevin.
“I’m satisfied with Thomas [Vanek]’s work in general. He helped us get into the playoffs and helped us get to the third round. There were some ups-and-downs but he made great contributions to the team,” the Habs’ GM added in regards to his trade deadline pickup. He also praised the contributions of Mike Weaver, Andrei Markov and Brian Gionta. All four veterans will be unrestricted free agents on July 1.
With the free agent market being as unpredictable as it is, Bergevin and his staff could find themselves in a position to give a bigger role in 2014-15 to rookies who have just begun to make their marks on the franchise. Dustin Tokarski took over one of the toughest jobs in sports, starting goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens, against the Rangers and performed well. Meanwhile, Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi are set to make a run at two of the six permanent jobs on the Montreal blueline next season.
“Dustin Tokarski showed how good it is to have depth at all positions. Goaltending is the most important position in any franchise,” opined Bergevin. “When it comes to next season, I’ve always said that players make the decisions for you. Young players like Beaulieu and Tinordi have made a lot of progress this year. They’ll become full-time players sooner than later.”
Though he believes that his team is trending in the right direction, Bergevin wanted to keep expectations realistic heading into the next NHL campaign.
“The fact that we went to the conference finals doesn’t mean that we start ahead of everyone else on October 1st,” insisted the Habs’ GM. “Tampa Bay is going to be strong next year. Ottawa will be better, Toronto will be better. Everyone in our division will be better next year. Same as the start of this year, the first priority is to make the playoffs. Anything can happen after that.”
“There will be more ups and downs through the year. This season the big comeback against Ottawa gave a tremendous boost to the team, but we also suffered through a five-game losing streak at one point. The key will be to stick together, regroup and weather the storm as a team,” concluded Bergevin.
Jack Han is a writer for canadiens.com.