On a wind-swept day in the Laurentian mountains, Montreal Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey held court just outside the St. Jovite arena while, inside, the Habs were putting the finishing touches on two days’ worth of scrimmages. It was then that the Canadiens’ GM casually disclosed that the team had agreed to a contract extension with head coach Guy Carbonneau.
No news conference. No formal announcement. Which suited the coach just fine.
“I don’t believe having a press conference to announce that the coach has signed a contract,” said Carbonneau after practice. “I’m just happy when Bob approached me this summer that he wanted to get something done before the start of the season.”
Although neither Gainey nor Carbonneau would announce the terms of the deal, the phrase “three-year extension” crept into Carbo’s conversation, if somewhat cryptically, when he talked of what the new deal meant to him.
“The extension isn’t going to change my style…feel maybe a little bit more comfortable, maybe. But I’ve seen about eight coaches last year get fired with contracts in their hands, so, I’m going to keep on working.”
Carbonneau has been working at it behind the bench since May 5, 2006, when he took over as head coach of this club after initially joining the team in January of that year as an associate coach. In two full seasons running the show, Carbonneau’s Canadiens are 89-59-16. This season, after acquiring the likes to Alex Tanguay, Robert Lang and Georges Laraque, the Canadiens are serious Cup contenders. However, Gainey is hesitant to go down that road in his assessment of this team.
“We all want to win the Stanley Cup,” said Gainey. “But it’s like asking me how I’ll feel at the 26th mile of a marathon. You’ve got to get there. You can’t sprain an ankle. You can’t get dehydrated. You have to get there.”
Before the Canadiens can “get there,” there must first take to the ice for tomorrow night’s final pre-season game at the Bell Centre against the Minnesota Wild. Then, the final cuts must come as the team gets to the 23-man roster limit. With youngsters Max Pachioretty and Yannik Weber still in camp, there is much speculation that one, if not both, might still be with the team by the end of the weekend. Although injuries could come into play, especially with Francis Bouillon expected to miss the first week of regular-season action and Georges Laraque nursing a sore groin that has kept him out of the entire pre-season slate, it would appear that Gainey has made up his mind about the two aforementioned young men.
“Whether it’s Pachioretty or Weber, with those very young players it’s what’s best for their growth, what’s going to make them get to the NHL quickly, but prepared and ready,” explained Gainey. “And it isn’t just getting here quickly that’s the answer.”
Gainey went on to use the example of Sergei Kostitsyn of one year ago.
“When he got here (from Hamilton), he was a producer. He added to our team.”
The GM says there is a lot to learn in the minors. “It’s a learning experience that not everybody needs, but I don’t really see how it can be negative for anybody.”
If you read between the lines, as of this moment, Pachioretty and Weber are ticketed to the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League.
And speaking of lines, there they were at the St. Jovite arena for today’s session:
Laraque? There will be a spot for him when the puck drops on the regular season. Pachioretty and Weber? They were on the ice today, but, barring injuries, don’t look for them to be on the ice when the Canadiens do it for real Friday night in Buffalo, against the Sabres.