With training camp under a month away, Canadiens coach Michel Therrien took time to talk to TSN 690 about the team's key players and off-season additions. The second–year bench boss shared his thoughts and expectations for the upcoming season on P.K. Subban, David Desharnais, Carey Price and George Parros from his first annual golf tournament in Terrebonne, Quebec.
Hired by new Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin prior to the 2012-13 season, Therrien led the Habs to a worst-to-first turnaround as the team won the Northeast Division and secured the second overall seed in the East a year after having finished fifth in the division and dead last in the conference.
Despite the impressive regular season, Canadiens fans and players were left with a bad taste in their mouth after a first round upset loss to the seventh place Ottawa Senators.
Following the season, Bergevin and Therrien looked to address a key area of concern and added former Florida Panthers enforcer George Parros to both improve the team's toughness and take some of the burden off Brandon Prust.
“He's a presence, he's a good teammate, he's a good leader, he'll stand up for his teammates like we all know,” Therrien said of the addition of the 6-foot-5, 228-pound Parros. “We filled a need because we didn't have those types of guys last year.”
Besides Parros, the Canadiens made an addition off the ice that they hope will benefit them on it, in the hiring of former Chicago Blackhawks goaltending coach Stephane Waite.
“He's a guy who brings instant credibility,” Therrien said of Waite who won two Stanley Cups in the last four years with two different starting goalies in Antti Niemi and Corey Crawford. “I believe he's a guy that's going to help Carey. He brings a different voice, a different weight of words.”
Coming off the third consecutive season in which Price has seen his goals against average increase, while his save percentage and win total diminished, Therrien admitted the Canadiens wanted to go “in a different direction” in order to get the best out of their young netminder.
“Carey‘s a guy who cares,” Therrien said. “I learned with Carey last year that he's a guy who cares for his team, a guy who cares for his teammates and I'm convinced with the addition of Stephane Waite, it's going to help a lot.”
Therrien said he has “no doubts” that Price along with centre David Desharnais – who's point total dropped from 60 in 2011-12 to 28 last season have the ability to bounce back and that it is the responsibility of the coaches to help them do just that.
On the blueline, the play of 24-year-old P.K. Subban was a big bright spot, as the defenceman was the first Canadien since Chris Chelios in 1989 to take home the Norris Trophy.
“I think he matured a lot last year and he ended up having a great season and ended up winning the Norris Trophy, so you can't ask for a better season from P.K. Subban,” Therrien said.
“But the good thing is that he is still young, still has room to improve his game…The thing I like about P.K. is that he wants to get better.”
Therrien was also encouraged to see Lars Eller looking healthy, after the young centreman was lost for the remainder of the playoffs after taking a dangerous open-ice hit from Senators defenceman Eric Gryba in Montreal's playoff opener.
Coming off a career high in points, Eller was a pleasant surprise and filled a need in the middle of the ice.
“Lars had a great season last year and he improved a lot from day one until the end of the year. He became an important player for us. I believe he learned a lot last year.”