So You Want a New Coach… Or Do You?

Oct 1, 2013; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien holds a torch during the opening ceremony before the first period against Toronto Maple Leafs at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 1, 2013; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien holds a torch during the opening ceremony before the first period against Toronto Maple Leafs at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

The Michel Therrien bashing is a popular topic with many fans, an obsession or so it seems… unfortunately. Is he perfect? Absolutely not, but he’s far from as bad as most detractors make him out to be.

Since being re-hired by the Canadiens, a team which had finished 28th overall under Jacques Martin, a defensive, smothering anti-hockey coach, Therrien’s record in regular season is 147-80-26, amongst the best in the NHL since the lockout. His team has never missed the playoffs and he led them to 4th overall in 2012-13, 9th overall in 2013-14 and 2nd overall in 2014-15.

Therrien was not my choice to take on the job but at some point, people must be able to swallow their pride and be able to admit that he’s done a pretty good job. I was wrong. It’s unfortunate that others can’t admit when they are. Thankfully, Marc Bergevin acknowledges his work and he has stated it himself in his last press conference. No, I do not believe that it was the kiss of death as Bergevin knows that Therrien’s team was rolling prior to injuries to two key players on the team, his MVP Carey Price and highly underrated Brendan Gallagher, who has been back for two games only.

Further, I believe that he is well liked by the players as he’s become a better communicator than he used to be. How many times have we seen him reward players by putting them in the starting line-up against their former team? Players notice small gestures like that and appreciate that the coach trusts them and rewards them accordingly.

It may not be the popular answer but those are the reasons why Therrien is still coaching and I would be shocked if he wasn’t there to finish the season, unless the team keeps slumping when Carey Price is back.

So to those venting the same thing over and over again, day in and day out, don’t hold your breath waiting for Therrien to be fired.

FINDING A REPLACEMENT

Without getting into the debate if the Canadiens should or not go for a bilingual coach or not and whether people agree with it or not, the job description in Montreal is for the coach to be able to speak French. This does somewhat limit the choices, no doubt.

In my opinion, the best two bilingual coaches are not available. They are, in order, Alain Vigneault with the Rangers and my choice back when Bergevin was looking, Bob Hartley with the Flames. Claude Julien in Boston is another good coach who isn’t available, but I rank him equal to Therrien, although he does have a Stanley Cup.

Now who is available? The list of coaches in the QMJHL is almost unlimited and I’m sure that there are some good up and comers out there. But does a team who contends for the Stanley Cup risk going with an inexperienced coach? Allow me to doubt it.

The name of Guy Boucher keeps coming up and like most here, I thought that he was the best up and coming young coach when he left the organisation to coach the Tampa Bay Lightning. The results really weren’t convincing, to the point that Steve Yzerman ended up firing Boucher in his third season. Boucher then went to Switzerland to coach SC Bern and, in his third season, was once again fired. Is he really a better candidate than Therrien? Maybe, but allow me to doubt it.

The current Canadiens’ assistant-coaches are all bilingual: Dan Lacroix, Clement Jodoin and J-J Daigneault. Could one of them be ready to take the next step and replace Therrien or would Bergevin want someone new? Martin Gelinas and Jacques Cloutier are assistants to Bob Hartley in Calgary while Ian Laperriere (PHI), Andre Tourigny (OTT) and Pascal Vincent (WIN) are also assistant coaches.

Something tells me however that if Therrien was to be fired, for one reason or another, you would see the St-John’s Ice Caps’ head coach, Sylvain Lefebvre, being promoted from within as the Habs’ new head coach. Judging from some of the comments I’ve read on Twitter by some fans, I don’t think that they’d be any happier with that alternative.

Relax, take a break and mostly, give everyone a break with your constant bashing of the coach. You wouldn’t be happier with the alternative and you know it.

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