Members of the Montreal Canadiens got their wish today.
Guy Carbonneau was fired. His replacement? The man who fired him, and hired him, GM Bob Gainey.
From all accounts, the players didn’t appreciate Carbonneau’s skills as a communicator and a coach. Ex-Hab Steve Begin, for one, was quoted as saying the players were waiting for the axe to fall on Carbonneau.
Well, today it fell.
The news was delivered first to the coach by Gainey, and then by the General Manager , himself, at an evening news conference at the Bell Centre, mere hours after the Canadiens returned from Dallas following a 3-1 win over the Stars.
With 16 games left in the regular season, and after watching his club wallow in mediocrity over the last eight weeks, Gainey felt the move had to be made in order to maximize this team’s chances at making the playoffs. As a result, the players will now report to Gainey at ice level, with Hamilton Bulldogs’ head coach Don Lever joining the current mix of assistant coaches in Montreal in an interesting move by the GM.
A chance for Lever to get his feet wet in Montreal before Gainey gives him the head coaching job next season? Perhaps. It would be quite similar to the move Gainey made when he initially hired Carbonneau as an associate coach before making him the head coach. The difference being that Carbonneau was ticketed to take over the top job at the time he was brought on board. Lever is not, as far as we know.
Gainey today refused to speculate what the team’s coaching picture would look like next season. He just wants to get through THIS season. And although he intends to ice a team that he hopes will deliver a superior product than what we’ve seen through the first 66 games of the regular season, much of that is going to depend on the players, of course. Players, it would seem, who spent much too much time pointing fingers at the head coach, when they should have been spending time looking at themselves in the mirror.
Seems some of the players had an issue , for example, with the fact that Carbonneau was using newcomer Glen Metropolit, not your most skilled player, on a 5-on-3 power play opportunity the other night in Atlanta.
I wonder if the players had an issue with the way the team’s so-called no. 1 line of Alex Kovalev, Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn, floated through much of the season when given an opportunity by Carbonneau to play together.
I wonder if the players had an issue when early-season contributors like Sergei Kostitsyn and Guillaume Latendresse fell off the face of the earth and simply stopped contributing in any way, shape, or form.
I wonder if the players had an issue when, over the last two months, every single defenceman on this team went through periodic meltdowns in front of their goaltender. Every one of them. Just look at the plus-minus figures over that stretch: Komisarek, Markov, Hamerlik, Gorges. They’re all guilty. Every last one of them.
Who can blame Bob Gainey from wanting more from his players? Who can blame Habs’ fans from wanting more from these players? The question is: do the PLAYERS want more from the players?
We’ll find out for certain over the next 30 days or so, when the players, under head coach Bob Gainey, write the final chapter on this wretched regular season.
In the meantime, this two-month stretch of mediocre play cost a good man his job. A man who never claimed all the decisions he made were the right decisions. But a man who always made decisions he felt were best for this team.
Guy Carbonneau deserved better.