The Montreal Canadiens’ franchise player is ready to win now, even if many fans are looking toward the future.
“A lot of guys you see go through their whole careers and not get an opportunity. I don’t want to be one of those guys. I want to get there,” goaltender Carey Price said.
Price, along with other Habs players and management, met the media Monday morning in Laval Que., hours before they were set to tee off for their annual pre-training camp golf tournament at Club Laval-sur-le-Lac.
The team is looking to avoid missing the playoffs for the third consecutive season, something that hasn’t been done since a run from 1998 to 2001.
The Canadiens were eliminated from playoff contention last season on the penultimate day of the campaign.
ANALYSISCanadiens’ playoff hopes will continue to live and die with Carey Price
“It’s going to be a process though, we know that,” Price added. “Just try to lay it out there all season long.”
No PTO contracts, says GM Bergevin
Many questions focus on whether young players from the Habs’ much-hyped prospect pool, including forwards Nick Suzuki and Ryan Poehling, can crack the roster.
Ryan Poehling scored a hat-trick and the shootout winner for the Montreal Canadiens in a thrilling 6-5 win for the Habs in their season finale. 3:34
Suzuki, a 2017 first-round pick of the Vegas Golden Knights, was traded to Montreal in a move sending former captain Max Pacioretty the other way. Poehling, 20, had fans salivating after scoring a hat trick and a shootout winner against the Toronto Maple Leafs in his NHL debut in last year’s season finale.
Nothing better for our organization than to have a young player make our hockey club.
— Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin on the team’s change in direction
“I’ve always embraced those kinds of situations where you have tough decisions to make,” coach Claude Julien said. “I like that problem more than not having one at all and saying ‘these are the guys we have and we have no choice.”‘
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PLAYER STATS: Nick Suzuki
Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said that the team won’t be signing any players to professional tryout contracts, veterans who would’ve otherwise pushed younger charges for jobs. That includes 40-year-old defenceman Andrei Markov, who had hoped to return to Montreal after spending the last two seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League.
“We’re heading in a new direction,” Canadiens owner Geoff Molson said. “My message to Andrei is thank you so much for everything you did. For almost a thousand games. We’ll never forget it. We can’t wait to have him back at the Bell Centre to celebrate a great defenceman. One of the great defencemen that ever played for the Montreal Canadiens.”
RECAPHabs’ Poehling dazzles in NHL debut with hat trick, shootout winner against Leafs
PLAYER STATS: Ryan Poehling
“We have guys that are pushing, we have guys that are turning pro. We have guys like Ryan Poehling, he played one game last year,” Bergevin said. “Overall, we have a lot of guys who are coming in, trying to prove and earn a job. Nothing better for our organization than to have a young player make our hockey club.”
The Canadiens signed forward Nick Cousins, defenceman Ben Chiarot, and backup goalie Keith Kinkaid in the off-season. But they failed to sign restricted free agent Sebastian Aho from the Carolina Hurricanes after their offer sheet was matched earlier this summer.
Canadiens sign star Hurricanes forward Sebastian Aho to offer sheet
The Habs also lost out on defenceman Jake Gardiner to the ‘Canes after he signed a four-year, $16.2-million US deal last week.
“We had interest. We made an offer,” Bergevin said when asked about Gardiner. “It’s a two-way street. If you’re interested, the player also has to be interested. I can’t comment on why he didn’t. But, yes we did [make an offer].”
Regardless, the Habs feel confident they have a squad that can make the post-season.
“We all realize that after last season, how close we were, but at the same time it wasn’t good enough,” Habs forward Tomas Tatar said. “I think everybody worked hard. We think the future looks bright. We have some great players upcoming. It’s going to be up to us to have a good camp, have focus, and be ready.”
The Canadiens’ prospects will play a game against U Sports players on Tuesday, two days before their training camp is scheduled to begin.
Danault is prized for his strong defensive play, but he had a breakthrough last season. He centred the Canadiens’ top line with Brendan Gallagher and Tomas Tatar on his wings. He put up a career-high 53 points, including 12 goals, and he did it while also playing a shutdown role against the opposition’s top lines. He finished seventh in the voting for the Selke Trophy, which goes to the top defensive forward and the irony is that he might have been higher if he had scored more.
Danault has seen limited action on the power play. He had four assists with the extra man last season and has eight power-play helpers for his career. He said Julien would have the last word on his power-play role, but he feels he could most effective working along the goal line.
Fatherhood — his wife gave birth to son Phillip-Édouard in February — created new demands on his time, but Danault said he worked on his skills this summer. He also some traded some volleys with tennis phenom Félix Auger-Aliassime during the Rogers Cup. He managed to keep the ball in play during the 10-minute workout despite the fact it was his first time on a court.
“I guess I’m just a good athlete,” he said.
Fact-checking the PP: Julien was asked about the power play Monday and he said it was getting better at the end of the season and he was right.
The Canadiens ranked 30th in the NHL, with a success rate of 13.2 per cent. There was a slight uptick during the final two months of the season when the they scored eight goals on 60 opportunities for a success rate of 13.3 per cent.
Canadiens captain Shea Weber heads out on the course after teeing off at the club’s charity tournament at Laval-sur-le-Lac on Monday Sept. 9, 2019. DAVE SIDAWAY / JPG
First things first: Making the playoffs is the Canadiens’ goal after missing the mark last season and goaltender Carey Price had the right answer when he was asked whether the team should have a loftier target, like contending for the Stanley Cup.
“You have to make the playoffs first,” said Price.
But Price also said he wants to win the Cup before his career is over.
“(I’ve) got a lot of years left, but in reality it’s not that many years when you think about it,” said Price. “A lot of guys you see go through their whole career and don’t get an opportunity (to win the Cup). I don’t want to be one of those guys. I want to get there.”
Price had a slow start last season but his play picked up in December, when his good friend, defenceman Shea Weber, rejoined the team.
When asked if he played better with Weber in the lineup, Price replied: “Everyone plays better when Shea’s out there.”