MONTREAL – It looks like coach Michel Therrien has earned a new contract with the Montreal Canadiens.
General manager Marc Bergevin would not confirm the move, but when asked Saturday if he had made a decision on his coach he said “yes.”
That came a few minutes after heaping lavish praise on the 50-year-old Therrien, who Bergevin hired when he was named GM ahead of last season.
It was not a popular move at the time. Therrien had guided a middling Canadiens team in the early 2000s as a rookie head coach. But he is coming off a 100-point season and has the team in the NHL Eastern Conference final for the first time since 2010.
“When you’re in my position, you make decisions sometimes that are not going to be popular,” said Bergevin, who met with the media ahead of Game 1 of the conference final. “I can’t make decisions to make people happy.
“Michel Therrien’s a good coach today and he was six months ago and he was a good coach when we lost five in a row. Michel and I have a good (relationship). We talk a lot. We share ideas.”
“Am I shocked with where we are today with way he handles the team? No. But he’s a really good coach and he’s proving it now.”
Bergevin was surprised when told that his former teammate and boyhood friend Mario Lemieux, owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins, had said after GM Ray Shero was fired Friday that he hoped to use the Canadiens as a model for rebuilding his team.
“Not only is he my friend, he’s one of the greatest players ever to play the game,” said Bergevin, a Montreal native who grew up a little more than a kilometre from the Bell Centre. “I didn’t know about that.
“Being a GM is tough. You’re hired to be fired. One day it will be my turn. Ray did a really good job. It didn’t work out and they made a decision.
“I don’t have a magic recipe. I’m not a genius. We have things we believe in. At times we’ll make mistakes. No-one bats .1000, but as a group we jell well and we’re getting results. But say thanks (to) Mario anyway.”
Bergevin would not be drawn into the debate over Boston forward Milan Lucic’s threats toward two Canadiens during the handshake after Montreal’s Game 7 win on Wednesday night.
“Hockey is an emotional game,”he said. “Honestly, I have a lot of respect for the Boston Bruins. (President) Cam Neely and (GM) Peter Chiarelli are good hockey men. It’s a good organization.”