From early on this season, Cole Caufield was very clear about the fact that he wanted to play for the University of Wisconsin for one season and then, he wanted to turn pro. In early March though, an article from Mathias Brunet came out in La Presse in which he interviewed the Canadiens' general manager and picked his brain on numerous subject, Cole Caufield's future being one of them.
When Brunet asked Bergevin if he thought that Caufield could turn pro in the 2020-2021 season, the general manager was quite clear: the organization did not think that Caufield was ready. He did add that they wouldn't force him to go back to the NCAA if he didn't want to and that Laval could be an option but ideally, they wanted him to remain in Wisconsin and take another year to gain physical maturity before making the jump. This was news to us but what we learn in Basu's article this morning is that it was also news to Caufield himself.
This was quite possibly the worst way in which a prospect can find out that the team who drafted him doesn't think he can make the jump yet. Not only did he find out in the media, but he found out in an article written in another language that he didn't quite understand. There were a couple of days between Bergevin's interview with Brunet and its publication in La Presse. Had he wanted to, Bergevin could have given Caufield a heads up about this but he didn't. Maybe he didn't want to mess with his concentration as the youngster was busy finishing up his season with Wisconsin? That excuse just doesn't hold in this day and age. Once an article is published, even if it is in French, it is shared, discussed and eventually translated in any case. In a hockey mad market like Montreal, that article was big news and Caufield was bound to find out about it.
In the end, Caufield is fine with the decision, now that he's had time to reflect on it but it's quite clear from Basu's article that he wished he had found out another way. In hindsight, he does realize that this ultimately will give him one more year of being a kid before becoming a professional hockey player and he says that he still has plenty to achieve in Wisconsin. He did win the scoring title this past season but says that he'd like to win with his team. This extra year will also allow him to play one more season with his brother and be all in with the boys.
While letting Caufield mature in the NCAA makes a whole lot of sense, letting him find out the organization's view through the media didn't. The Montreal Canadiens is a great team and this is not how they should handle their interactions with their prospects, especially not with such a highly touted one.
On another note, for those of you who are starved for entertainment these days, TVA Sports is treating us this week to the 1993 playoff series between the Canadiens and the Nordiques. For those of you who are young, you might not have seen that series and I highly recommend watching it. I was 13 at the time and I can remember it like is was yesterday... The Nordiques took a 2-0 lead in the series and then, Ron Hextall, the then Québec goalie, thought it was a good idea to say they had "solved" Patrick Roy. That was a big mistake and the Habs didn't lose another game in that series. Tune in tonight at 19:00 on TVA Sports if you want to see the likes of Sakic, Sundin and Nolan take on Roy, Damphousse and Leclair in what would be the last great chapter of the Battle of Québec.