Presumably, out-of-work bench bosses tend to be a little disheartened when they watch one of a very limited number of NHL coaching gigs go to another member of the fraternity.
But save for Bob Hartley, you’ve got to think the happiest guys connected to coaching on Thursday were Guy Carbonneau, Marc Crawford and Michel Therrien.
The already short list of candidates to stand behind the Montreal Canadiens bench was further truncated when the Calgary Flames announced Hartley had been hired by his old friend, general manager Jay Feaster, to guide Cowtown’s club. Earlier this week, reports surfaced stating Hartley to the Habs was a sure thing, but that clearly didn’t materialize.
Now, the three aforementioned men — all of whom have been heavily linked to the vacancy in Montreal — would seem to stand a better chance of gaining NHL employment next year.
Among the things Crawford, Carbonneau and Therrien have in common is that each of them have guided NHL teams in the province of Quebec, all three speak French and — depending on which reports you want to believe — each one could make a case for having the inside track on what just might be hockey’s most high-stress job. If, indeed, one of them is tabbed to be the man in Montreal, the Canadiens’ coaching hire will offer a lot less excitement than the changes that have taken place at the management level.
When Marc Bergevin was named general manager of the team about a month ago, there was a sense of renewal for a franchise that had grown frigid under the stewardship of deposed GM Pierre Gauthier. Bergevin subsequently brought talent hawk Rick Dudley into the fold as assistant GM, then added high-character Montreal native Scott Mellanby to the mix as director of player personnel.
Now, the Canadiens appear set to make a far less dynamic move. The debate about whether or not the club must hire somebody who speaks French could drag on longer than the student protests that have rammed the city’s streets the past few months. The bottom line is, nobody expects an English-only coach to get the job, so one of the retreads you’re hearing about in the rumour mill is, in all likelihood, what you get.
Of the three, Carbonneau is the most palatable option. Like Therrien, he’s already had one crack as Habs coach. That tenure came to a surprising end late in the 2008-09 season when he was turfed by then-GM Bob Gainey. The Canadiens were life and death to make the playoffs at the time, but most assumed "Carbo" was in the clear because he’d led the Habs to a first-place finish in the East one season prior. It feels like there’s unfinished business for the guy who captained the Habs to their last championship in 1993.
Therrien’s fiery persona flamed out fairly quickly in Montreal and though he guided the Pens to the final in 2008, only after axing him and bringing in Dan Bylsma midway through the next year did Pittsburgh get its hands on the Stanley Cup. In an era where coaches are counted on to be communicators, Therrien — barring an overhaul in his approach — seems like discouraging choice.
Crawford guided the Nordiques through their final season in Quebec City, before winning the 1996 Cup with that crew after it moved to Colorado. But the shine from that ring has long faded. In five post-lockout seasons coaching three different NHL teams — Vancouver, L.A. and Dallas — Crawford was unable to make the playoffs. In fact, after guiding the Avs back to the West final in 1997, Crawford’s clubs were knocked out before round two of the big dance all but one time in 12 subsequent seasons, missing the playoffs entirely on seven occasions.
Does that sound like a hire that will jolt a rebuilding team forward?
Who the Canadiens’ next coach will be remains unclear and maybe a compelling candidate will yet emerge. But if you’re laying a bet, bank on the announcement being much less intriguing than the other ones Montreal has been making lately.