Thursday, June 28, 2012

Patrice Brisebois and the Habs Player Development

For the first time in years, the Montreal Canadiens have rolled into the offseason with a (seemingly) clear plan and direction.

By now you've certainly heard about the successful haul Montreal had at last weekend's draft.

However leading up to draft weekend, new GM, Marc Bergevin, made several strong moves to bolster his management team.

One gets to know a GM's philosophy through their actions whether that is through trades, contracts they hand out, or people they hire.

For me, the thing I appreciate most about Bergevin's still young tenure, is his approach to player development. Or rather, the fact that so much emphasis is being put on that facet of the organization.

I still find it stunning how little of a focus Bob Gainey then Pierre Gauthier put on this pivotal area of any successful team. I mean, all of the shenanigans that Carey Price, Mike Komisarek, Chris Higgins and the brothers Kostitsyn went through in this city were the result of not being properly insulated.

These were young millionaires playing in a market where you are idolized as a God off the ice for what you do on it.

Yet management saw no reason to put in place any checks and balances. Worse yet, there was no one whose job it was to guide these young players, to show them the ropes and let them know how to maintain an even keel.

It was just "Here you go Mr. Nineteen-year-old...have a million dollars and go have fun at the strip clubs."

Umm, ya. Brilliant.

Enter Stage Left

If Gainey and Gauthier's failing was providing the proper framework for young players to develop in, then so far, it is looking like Bergevin is their antithesis.

By his actions and decisions, everything shows how much importance he places on drafting and properly developing young players.

Let's face it, this is the salary cap era and you can't continually buy players in order to win. No. You need a mix of veterans and young, supremely skilled, and cap friendly players on your team.

Under Gainey and Gauthier, we saw player after player show promise but eventually fizzle under the bright Montreal lights, only to find success elsewhere.

I have a feeling this will change under Bergevin.

Reading Dave Stubbs' excellent feature on Brisebois this morning, it is clear that Bergevin wants his young guns to know what they are getting into.

While Montreal can be the best place to play (when the crowd is behind you), it can also crush the strongest of souls when things are not going well (and the crowd turns).

What Brisebois will bring to the Habs plentiful array of young, stud defenseman, is not only an understanding of what it takes to be a winner on the ice, but also off it.

Moreover, he can prepare these 18 and 19-year-olds for life in Montreal and what that means (on and off the ice).

A Bright Future

Think back to, say, Carey Price.

Can you imagine him having had the luxury of speaking with Patrick Roy before joining the big club? Now imagine him working with Roy on a regular basis over the course of a few seasons, before being called up.

Picking his brain to learning about Montreal, about living with the weight of history, about the raucous party life, and about what it means to be a star in this city.

But, almost more importantly, learning about how fickle the Montreal crowd can be, and how they can rip you apart when things go bad.

Don't you think that advice and experience would have helped him through his second (brutal) year with the team? That was the year that ended with Price giving a Roy-like two-hands-up salute to the braying crowd.

This is exactly the kind of experience that Brisebois—a boo-bird favorite for several years in Montreal—will impart to young players like Nathan Beaulieu, Jarred Tinordi, Morgan Ellis, Darren Deitz and others.

And that experience will make them that much more prepared for life in Montreal. Moreover, it can only help them to be more successful.

While we have yet to see how Brisebois' player development role unfolds, it's safe to say that Bergevin understands how to build a modern team.

Your prospects are your wealth, and without them you have nothing and are nothing. So protect them, take care of them, guide them and, ultimately, do everything in your power to make sure they are ready for the big stage, whenever they finally get there.

There's still lots of things to happen this summer on the Habs front but, so far, the new management team is giving Hab fans a reason to smile.

Kamal is a freelance writer, Senior Writer/Editor-in-Chief of, and Montreal Canadiens Blogger on Kamal is also an on-air contributor on TSN 990, CJAD, and LiveSport New Zealand.

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(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)


Great article!

Patience and professional guidance with our young prospects will lead to long term success in player development.

What's wrong with a young stud playing 2 full seasons in the AHL with a call up in year 2?
Then you have a ready made NHL player who is much more mature and ready to contribute right away.

@HH: Thanks bud! The clamour to always rush Hab prospects to the NHL has been the undoing of this team over the last decade.

Price is in a good place now, but I really felt they should have sent him back down to Hamilton when things started going south on him.

Look how well it worked for Pacioretty.

Latendresse is the perfect example of a kid who was rushed...and then rushed out of town.

All of that said, I really love the philosophy that Bergevin is putting to work. I really think it can only lead to great things for this franchise over the next decade...

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