MONTREAL — The job may be glamorous, but part of it can also be downright maddening.
Either way, being coach of the Montreal Canadiens isn’t easy, especially when everything you say is dissected to the nth degree by both media and fans.
It’s a reality Michel Therrien has handled well during his second stint as Montreal’s head coach, but that’s not to say it hasn’t been difficult at times.
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This past summer Therrien was forced to deny a French radio report that was alleging he referred to Max Pacioretty as the ‘worst captain in Canadiens history.’ And revisiting comments made some 36 hours prior to his latest post-game news conference probably ranks as another one of the most uncomfortable moments he’s had.
But Therrien had no choice.
“I felt misrepresented,” he said in French after Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators.
Therrien was referring to an answer he provided to the following question from Marc-Antoine Godin of La Presse, following Monday’s practice.
“Do you think that part of the reason Max Pacioretty is struggling to score goals this season has to do with the centres on the team not getting him the puck,” asked Godin.
Therrien responded in French by saying that every member of his team has a responsibility to go and get the puck and to make their own breaks. His comments were interpreted by both the media and the fans as a shot at Pacioretty. What bothered Therrien was that the question that stimulated his response was never mentioned in the conversation.
It was a doozy. Therrien’s best answer would’ve been none at all.
Instead, as he suggested in Tuesday’s post-game conference, he landed in hot water.
“I was trying to say everyone has a job to do,” explained Therrien in French. “Did everyone misinterpret it? It certainly wasn’t well received, but I didn’t really like the reaction.
“First of all, I didn’t express myself well [Monday]. Surely what I was trying to say didn’t come out the right way. But what I was trying to say was, ‘When you get on the ice, everyone has a job to do.’
“I wasn’t trying to point the finger at anyone.”
And pointing the finger at his boss, general manager Marc Bergevin, would’ve been the indirect result of answering Godin’s question in the affirmative. Even if criticizing Tomas Plekanec, David Desharnais and Phillip Danault—who have combined for three assists in 15 games as Pacioretty’s pivots—would’ve been justified, it could have been interpreted as him publicly lobbying his GM to address what appears to be an obvious need for the Canadiens.
If one thing is clear as a result of this mini controversy, it’s that people hear what they want to hear. And you can’t entirely blame people for taking Therrien’s comments as an indictment of Pacioretty’s play. Regardless of the coach’s intentions, his comments did apply to the perennial 30-goal scorer who’s currently on pace to top out at 17 this season.
But we should take the coach at his word when he says he wasn’t looking to stir up controversy. Therrien, caught off-guard by the reaction, had a meeting with Pacioretty on Tuesday morning to clear the air.
As for Pacioretty, he wasn’t interested in addressing the fallout post-game Tuesday other than to say he agreed that Therrien’s comments were misrepresented. It’s clear the whole episode has been a headache for both men and it won’t be the last time either of them has to deal with something like this.
In a hockey-mad city like Montreal, coaches and captains will always be at risk of having their comments blown out of proportion.
In Montreal, it comes with the territory.