“Although our main priority remains to win hockey games and to keep improving as a team, it is obvious that the ability for the head coach to express himself in both French and English will be a very important factor in the selection of the permanent head coach.”
With those words, Randy Cunneyworth’s fate with the Montreal Canadiens was sealed.
The words were uttered in a statement released Dec. 19, 2011, by team owner Geoff Molson who, mere days after Cunneyworth was named to replace the fired Jacques Martin, felt the need to essentially apologize for the move.
“We would like to thank all of our fans for their understanding,” said Molson in the same statement.
I never could figure out just exactly what Molson meant by that. Just exactly what was it that fans were supposed to understand? That the Canadiens were merely bailing water when they made Cunneyworth INTERIM head coach? Or that this TEAM was bailing water in what would become a completely forgetable season.
Molson went on to say in the aformentioned statment: “Randy Cunneyworth is a qualified and experienced coach who has earned the respect of the players and everyone within the organisation and he was ready to take over the responsibility of head coach.”
Just not on a full-time basis (my words, not Geoff Molson’s).
The writing was on the wall for Randy Cunneyworth. And Marc Bergevin spelled it out in big, block letters when he said, on the day he was introduced as General Manager, that it would be up to the incoming head coach to make the decision on his assistants. Bergevin was merely stating the obvious.
And today, 24 hours after Michel Therrien was introduced as head coach of the Habs, the Canadiens released a statement with the following headline: Randy Cunneyworth and Randy Ladouceur relieved of their duties as assistant coaches.
The statement read, in part:
“Following my appointment as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens, I made the decision of bringing together a new coaching staff. Out of respect for Randy Cunneyworth and Randy Ladouceur, I felt it was important that I notify them immediately in order for them to start looking for other opportunities without further delay. On behalf of the organization, I would like to thank both of them for their valuable contribution to the team and wish them the very best for the future,” said Montreal Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien.
Therrien did the right thing by announcing this move as quickly as he did. Give the new coach credit for not allowing Cunneyworth and Ladouceur to be left twisting in the wind: the way the Canadiens left Cunneyworth to twist in the wind when he was named INTERIM head coach.
Don’t blame Therrien for wanting to bring in his own hand-picked coaching staff.
Blame the Canadiens for putting Randy Cunneyworth in a completely unwinnable situation in the first place.
Through it all, the stoic Cunneyworth took the high road.
As Cunneyworth soldiered on over the final handful of games this season, he did so with his CV tucked in his back pocket.
His answer, at the time, when I asked him if he planned to re-apply for the job he’d held since mid-December:
I never expected anything less from the man.