When General Manager Marc Bergevin was set to meet with the media at noon on Monday, it was expected that changes were going to be made.
Tomas Fleischmann, 31, signed a one-year deal with the team after an impressive pre-season showing, during his professional tryout. The veteran winger looked comfortable on a third line with center David Desharnais and winger Dale Weise.
Mark Barberio, who was among the better defenseman during pre-season, was put on waivers for purpose of being sent down to their AHL affiliate in Saint John’s. The 25-year-old showcased an ability to move the puck up the ice in an efficient manner and played well in all three zones. His experience at the NHL level, as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning, an excellent pre-season made him a valuable piece on the defensive depth chart in the organization.
Marc Bergevin talks big changes; Fleischmann, Tokarski and Kassian
However, joining him on the waiver wire was back-up goaltender Dustin Tokarski, who played in relief of Carey Price two years ago, when the Canadiens starter suffered an injury in the first round of the playoffs. Since then, Tokarski played a limited amount of games last season and could not recapture the magic he had experienced from the prior season. Of the 14 games he started last year, 11 of them were on the road, making things a little more difficult for Tokarski. During the 2015-16 pre-season, Tokarski was on the receiving end of poor performances in both games he started in, allowing a surplus of goals and looking particularly weak on the majority of them. This, matched with Mike Condon’s surge in play, allowed the Canadiens GM to make the move.
“If you have no confidence it’s almost impossible to play,” Bergevin told members of the media. “Dustin looked shaky in camp. Can he get it back? For sure. He’s on waivers. I don’t know if he’ll clear or not.”
Condon, 25, was one of the brightest spots in Hamilton last season, and enjoyed success during this year’s pre-season. The 6’2 netminder possesses size that he can use to learn from Carey Price’s winning ways, and his story of building himself up from the ECHL to becoming a clear-cut starter in the AHL is a showcase of drive and competitiveness.
But the biggest story of all came from the name of Zack Kassian. The 24-year old, who came over to Montreal in a trade from Vancouver for Brandon Prust, made himself known for all the right reasons in pre-season, scoring a goal and utilizing his ability to oppose his size and weight advantage by hitting opposing players at will. Unfortunately, his presence off the ice made news for all the wrong reasons.
On Sunday, Kassian was involved in an incident which left him with a broken nose and fractured foot as part of a car crash which involved an alleged intoxicated driver. Kassian, who was not behind the wheel, was in the vehicle when it crashed. He was admitted to the hospital later that day where he was treated for his injuries. GM Bergevin, during his press conference on Monday, expressed a negative view on the situation.
“I don’t have all the information, but it’s disappointing to say the least,” said Bergevin. “I addressed the whole team this morning.”
The young forward had come to Montreal with warning signs from Canucks fans, a player who had his demons and loved the nightlife out in BC. Arriving in Montreal, where it was known to be a city to have a promising nightlife, many fans speculated just how long it would take before Kassian got himself into some trouble. It is now evident that it wasn’t long before his name was spread all over local news.
“We are professional and we have to behave like professionals,” added Bergevin. “You have to be respectful and you’re lucky to be a hockey player. I’m a firm believer in character and that’s really a lack of character and judgement on his part.”
It’s unknown what will come of the situation, but Bergevin did question on how many chances a player should be given.
Some players on the team were also on hand to speak out on the situation.
“Obviously it’s a big mistake on his part, but he’s lucky to walk away and not be too badly hurt,” said Max Pacioretty, who was appointed as the team’s new captain during this off-season. “We have our first game coming up in two days so obviously it’s a very important matter. We’re happy he’s okay but we have to stay focused on our game as well.”
Dale Weise added, “That’s the main concern here: no one in the car was seriously injured. I don’t think we should be worrying about who did what wrong.”
What is interesting to note is where this will land prospect Jacob De La Rose. The Swedish forward made an enormous impact on the team last season, both in the regular season and the playoffs, but his position with the Canadiens was in question with the acquisitions of Semin and Kassian, and the signing of Fleischmann. However, with new events coming to light, De La Rose may just secure his spot with the big club if Kassian is unable to start the season.
Update: Zack Kassian has been placed in stage two of the NHL Substance Abuse and Behavioural Health Program:
— John Lu (@JohnLuTSNMtl) October 5, 2015
Stage Two means he has entered the program once privately. He will be suspended without pay until a doctor clears him.