BROSSARD, Qc – Marc Bergevin promised when he was hired last month that he would boost the presence of French-speaking personnel on the Montreal Canadiens.
One week after hiring Michel Therrien as head coach, the new general manager went a step further Wednesday when he named three former players from Quebec to his management team.
Martin Lapointe, who won two Stanley Cups as a player with the Detroit Red Wings, was named director of player development and former Canadiens defenceman Patrice Brisebois was tabbed as the new player development coach.
The club has also announced that another former Montreal rearguard, Sylvain Lefebvre, will be the new head coach of the American Hockey League’s Hamilton Bulldogs.
”The credibility of the men we hired was as important (as the language they speak),” Bergevin said at the team’s suburban training centre, where the first day of summer rookie camp was underway.
”With their backgrounds, I can answer to any concerns anyone may have about them. I wanted good people who are qualified for the jobs they will do and I feel I reached that goal.”
With the recent hiring of Scott Mellanby as director of player personnel, the front office is set and the next task will be to find assistants for Therrien. Former coach Randy Cunneyworth and assistant Randy Ladouceur were let go.
The team announced that Clement Jodoin, who coached the Bulldogs last season, will be interviewed for an assistant coaching job.
Mellanby is to look after the development of professional players in the organization, mainly those in Hamilton.
Lapointe, 38, said his role will be ”to support the younger prospects, especially in junior, to help them get ready for pro hockey and to be a liaison between them and the Canadiens.”
The Montreal native who has an arena named after him in his old neighbourhood has been a pro scout with the Chicago Blackhawks since 2009. He played 991 games for four teams over 14 seasons after Detroit made him a first-round draft pick in 1991.
”I remember my first training camp, no one talked to me, not even the coaches,” Lapointe recalled. ”Patrice and I will be with the young players, to help them, share our experiences with them and try to make the transition easier.”
Previously, top amateur scout Trevor Timmins had the added duty of player development. The move signals that area will be given greater importance in the organization.
”Trevor didn’t have enough hours in the day to do everything he had to do,” said Lapointe. ”So we decided the share the duties. We want the young players to feel they’re part of a family.”
Brisebois, who played 18 NHL seasons, all but two of them in Montreal, said he takes inspiration from Claude Ruel, who was his mentor when he first joined the team in the early 1990s.
”Yes I had talent, but it was Claude Ruel who transformed me and gave me confidence,” said Brisebois. ”Now it’s my turn to do that job.”
Brisebois, 41, a member of Montreal’s 1993 Cup-winning team, had his ups and downs as a player and knows what it is to be booed by the Bell Centre fans.
Bergevin sees that as a plus in his new role.
”It was important to me to have someone who could share his experiences of the different situations that can arise,” said Bergevin. ”Someone who can explain what he went through in the good and bad times, and how to deal with that.”
Lefebvre, 44, was an assistant for three seasons to head coach Joe Sacco with the Colorado Avalanche after having worked as an assistant in the AHL with Erie.
He said he would not have left the Avalanche for an assistant’s job because he felt ready to try his hand at being a head coach.
”On top of working for the Canadiens, under a whole new management, I really wanted to be a head coach,” said Lefebvre, who played 14 NHL seasons for four teams. ”I’ll coach my first game in the AHL in the fall and then we’ll see where it goes.”