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Montreal Canadiens

Kent Hughes Details Goals For Season, Plans For Development

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Montreal Canadiens GM Kent Hughes

MONTREAL– General Manager Kent Hughes addressed the media on Wednesday, discussing several key issues facing the Montreal Canadiens this upcoming season.

He’s yet to use the word ‘rebuild’ regarding the long-term plan, but given the current roster makeup, which consists of several inexperienced players, it’s a reasonable assumption to say the team is in currently engaged in a full-fledged rebuild.

“We told [the rookies] they made the team today, but it’s a constant reevaluation process,” explained Hughes. “Even if the coaches think it’s the best lineup to win a game, but it’s not the best situation for a young player, we’ll take a decision in consequence. The thing I explained to Kaiden, Xhekaj, Slaf[kovsky] and Harris is we’ll take decisions throughout the year. The decisions will be based on what’s best for your development. If we send you to the AHL, don’t think it’s because you played poorly. It may just be a situation where we can get them more minutes.”

Simply put, despite making the opening-night roster, there are no guarantees players like Kaiden Guhle, Arber Xhekaj, Juraj Slafkovsky and Jordan Harris will remain in the NHL.

“It’s all about growth,” said Hughes. “We need to see growth in the collective, how we play. If we look at our preseason we lost most of our games by one goal, how much of that is experience? We want to see growth [on the ice], growth in culture too.”

Hughes is referring to the common refrains heard when discussing the possibility of playing in Montreal. While many assume outside factors play a significant role in enticing free agents, as a former agent, Hughes is well aware a winning team will solve the vast majority of the concerns.

“We heard a lot about people don’t want to be in Montreal, taxes, weather, etc,” said Hughes. “By putting my agent hat on, I haven’t seen many hockey players that were in bad environments that loved it. Guys are happy when hockey works. We understand we’re not the favourites to challenge for the Stanley Cup. But we have to find a way to push ourselves in that environment. If we see that, it’s a success.”

Hughes admits it’ll be a balancing act for Montreal Canadiens management, a balancing act that he’ll need to perform alongside the coaching staff.

“If we see a player needs to be in Laval for his development, he’ll be in Laval, regardless of what the coaches think,” said Hughes. “But if a young player is playing well and will challenge a veteran on the last year of a deal, we have to be fair to the room as well. If we played someone just to put them in a showcase, it would be unfair for the room. We’ll have to find a balance. ”

Hughes was particularly clear that when it comes to Slafkovsky, the situation is quite fluid.

“If he does that and continues to make strides, he could be here for the full season. If we feel that’s no longer the case or we cant get him more ice time at that point in time we’ll make that decision and send him to Laval.”

He also mentioned he would prefer if Filip Mesar would spend the season in the OHL, as to focus on his offensive game and forget the defensive responsibilities involved in playing in the AHL.

Nursing Injuries

With development and expectations covered, Hughes also addressed a few lingering injury issues. Mike Matheson will undergo an MRI in the next 48 hours, and they’re hoping to hear some positive news in regard to his injury. Joel Edmundson is skating, and they’re encouraged by his progress, but there is no timetable for his return. He did not comment on Carey Price‘s current situation, though he did say the goaltender will address the media next week.

And finally, Paul Byron’s health status remains unclear, though the team is not expecting him to return any time soon.

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