My good friend and CJAD colleague Rick Moffat appears ready to see the 2012-13 edition ride off into the sunset: a job well done, by virtue of the fact that they made the playoffs.
What a load of horse-poop.
First of all, last time I checked: a team needs to win four games to win a playoff series. The Ottawa Senators have won three games. The Montreal Canadiens have won one. Yes, the gas tank is almost empty, but make no mistake about it: the needle on the guage hasn’t hit “E” yet.
Yes, tomorrow night the Canadiens will be missing Brian Gionta (out for the season with a torn bicep and scheduled to undergo surgery Friday), Brandon Prust (upper body), Ryan White (upper body) and Lars Eller (who skated on his own today at Brossard but remains out of action). And Carey Price is officially listed as “day to day” after literally going down (perhaps for the count) with a lower body injury in the final seconds of last night’s heartbreaking loss loss in overtime.
But this series is not over. And if there ever was a time for Peter Budaj to earn his keep, and that brand-new, mid-season contract extension, it’ll be tomorrow night, if Price can’t go.
The Canadiens are not in “bonus time” as Rick would suggest. They are in playoff time. They advanced to the post-season as a result of a terrific regular season (save for a stumble at the end). The bar has been set, high, by this team. And I don’t believe for a moment that Habs’ fans will be giving each other “high five’s” and engaging in a whole bunch of back-slapping, because of an “enjoyable” season, if these playoffs DO come to an end for the Canadiens tomorrow night.
Yes, the future is bright for several reasons: two of them being Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk. But I’m not about to look toward the future, until the present is the past. And I don’t believe for a moment the Montreal Canadiens are, either.
Head coach Michel Therrien used the word “courage” a number of times today in speaking to reporters, and for good reason.
“These are a bunch of guys who have alot of courage; a lot more courage than people think,” said Therrien. “And I know because I live with those guys every single day.”
Therrien singled out the courage Brian Gionta showed by trying to play through a torn bicep; an injury that he suffered in the first game of this series.
“When we heard the news that he was not capable of playing, the Captain was crying in my arms,” said Therrien.
“Tomorrow night I know we’re going to give a great effort; we’re going to be tough to play against. We’re going to give everything that we’ve got. There’s no doubt in my mind.”
There’s no doubt in my mind either, coach.
See you back in Ottawa.
I was not in Ottawa for today’s media scrum involving Canadiens’ head coach Michel Therrien. However, Richard Labbe of La Presse tweeted the following:
@Richardlabbe: M.Therrien, on whether P.Budaj should start tomorrow night instead of Price: “Are you serious?”
Let me ask you this: what was so funny about the notion of changing starting goalies for game four tomorrow night? Granted, Carey Price can not be held solely responsible for the two games the Canadiens have dropped in this series against the Sens. Win as a team. Lose as a team. And that was one ugly-looking Habs’ team in last night’s 6-1 loss; which gave Ottawa a 2-1 series lead.
If you look up frustration in the dictionary, there’s a picture of your Montreal Canadiens beside it.
The question would certainly have to be considered a serious one. Peter Budaj has performed well in a backup role this season; to the point that he received a mid-season contract extension as an early “job well done.” The Canadiens owe Carey Price absolutely nothing. Their goal is to win hockey games: starting tomorrow night in Ottawa. If Peter Budaj offers up a better chance at reaching that goal (and that’s a big hypothetical IF) why WOULDN’T you consider starting him?
Having said that, I am not surprised in the least that Therrien will go back to Price tomorrow night. I think it’s also a given that the coach will go back to Price Thursday night when the series returns to Montreal. After that: who knows? This series could be over by then.
Heading into this series, Therrien said he had all the confidence in the world in Price. I, too, expected Price to deliver the mail in this series.
It hasn’t happened. Yet.
In the meantime, the Canadiens will have to put last night’s embarassing performance behind them. PK Subban will have to lay off the theatrics and get back to playing Norris-trophy style hockey. Josh Gorges has to shake off last night’s performance which saw him try to blast a shot at Kyle Turris in the final seconds (it certainly looked like that was his intention. Very un-Josh Gorges like.) Rene Bourque has to get back to playing the impressive hockey he’s been playing and lay off the cheap shots.
The list goes on and on.
Most of all, the Canadiens desperately need to win a hockey game.
When Ryan White was suspended for five games for his hit on Flyers’ defenceman Kent Huskins on April 15, most Habs’ fans apeared to be ready to write him off.
Don’t count me among them, although there was some justification for that sentiment.
Even before his reckless hit on Huskins, White found himself in coach Michel Therrien’s doghouse on more than one occasion this season as a result of what can charitably be described as “bonehead plays” that resulted in costly trips to the penalty box. For many Habs’ fans, White’s five-game suspension was the last straw.
But not for Michel Therrien.
White was eligible to return to the lineup for the final game of the regular season in Toronto, and Therrien elected to go with the feisty, if somewhat undisciplined 4th liner, against the Leafs. The move paid off: for both White, and the Canadiens.
“I really liked the the way he played last game. He played with emotion,” said Therrien after today’s morning practice at Brossard. “He’s a lot more disciplined than he was. The intensity is always there in the playoffs, and he’s an intense player.”
Indeed, on the eve of Montreal’s playoff opener against the Ottawa Senators tomorrow night at the Bell Centre, White looks to have played his way back into Therrien’s good books. At practice this week, White has been flanked by Travis Moen and Brandon Prust — resulting in a fourth-line unit that will no doubt leave the “other” fourth line at practice, Jeff Halpern, Colby Armstrong and Yannick Weber, in the press box tomorrow night..
White admited that sitting out the suspension was though.
“I’ve been doing a lot of sitting out this season…it’s not very fun. Obviously you can’t help your team win and that always sucks.”
White added that although he’s not really trying to change his game, he acknolwedged that riding that “fine line” has been a learning experience for him.
“I’ve been caught on the other side of the line a few times this season. I”m not really trying to change my game. I keep telling myself: keep playing hockey, and just worry about the things that matter. Some night’s the things that don’t matter get in the way a little bit. I’ve been taking care of my own business and that’s what Michel wants from me.”
The Habs’ version of American Idol, D-man style, could be coming to an end.
After rotating prospects Greg Pateryn, Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu in and out of the lineup recently, it now appears that Yannick Weber (remember him?) could be given a shot at re-claiming a regular spot along the Montreal blueline. For now, at least.
After today’s practice at Brossard, head coach Michel Therrien said there was a possibility that Weber could return to the lineup Wednesday night in Pittsburgh against the Penguins, saying it would be a game-time decision.
Weber has appeared in a grand total of two games this season and would appear to be on the cusp of returning to action as a result of Beaulieu’s innefective performance (he certainly wasn’t alone) in Monday night’s 7-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. The knee-jerk reaction by many Habs fans appeared to be: “give Jarred Tinordi another shot!” The only problem with that is: Jarred Tinordi is Jarred Tinordi. He is NOT Chris Pronger. Not yet, at least.
In other words: Pateryn, Tinordi and Beaulieu are not yet ready for prime time. Is Yannick Weber? Well, we could find out as early as tomorrow night.
But please: no more experiments with defencemen doubling as fourth liners. The Mark Streit ship sailed years ago. Yannick Weber is NOT a fourth-line player. (Heck. TRAVIS MOEN isn’t even a fourth-line player. But that’s a conversation for another day.) It remains to seen if Weber’s even a serviceable NHL defenceman. But if you’re going to give him a shot along the blueline, then let him wrap his head around that assignment, and that assignment alone.
It would have been nice to give Weber an earlier opportunity to play his way back into the lineup at SOME point this season, certainly since the injury to Rafael Diaz, but the coaching staff elected not to seek out my advice. Instead we ended up seeing a game of musical chairs involving Pateryn, Tinordi and Beaulieu.
In the meantime, many Habs fans are clealry ready to wash their hands of Ryan White. Yes, White has been guilty of a boneheaded play or two, or three this season — most recently against the Flyers Monday night with his hit on Kent Huskins. But I still feel that a player like White — one of the precious few on this team willing to put his body on the line — could be effective come playoff time. But it would appear that I’m in the minority.
So, with the Canadiens playing .500 hockey over their last 14 games, Peter Budaj will get a chance to right this ship against the Penguins, while Carey Price gets additional time to stew in his juices until his next scheduled start, Thursday, when Tampa comes to town.
Now that he’s back with the Montreal Canadiens, Francis Bouillon hopes he’s here to stay.
The recently re-acquired Habs’ defenceman was putting in a personal appearance at the Port Lewis Marina near Valleyfield, less than a week after signing a one-year contract to return to Montreal after a three-year stint with the Nashville Predators.
“It feels great to be here, like I’m going to play at home again,” said Bouillon. “I was really disappointed to leave Montreal last time. I found a great city in Nashville but I’m so happy to be back.”
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Although he returns with a one-year contract under his belt, Bouillon hopes to continue playing when the season is up, and would like to be able to perhaps finish his career as a member of the Habs.
Bouillon admits his last season as a Hab, 2008-09, was a frustrating one for him.
“I was pretty much injured all that season. I had a groin injury and an abdonimal injury and tried to come back for the playoffs. I think that was a huge mistake because I hurt myself again. But now I’m looking forward.”
Bouillon, hugely popular with the fans during his earlier stint with the Canadiens, said Michel Therrien is the main reason why he elected to return to Montreal after the Predators informed him he was no longer in their plans.
“He helped me a lot in my professional career. We won a Memorial Cup together and I played for him in the American Hockey League, as well as in the NHL. He’s a great coach. That’s the main point why I signed in Montreal.
Bouillon met with GM Marc Bergevin last week and is scheduled to meet with Therrien next week, after speaking with the coach after signing with the Habs as an unrestricted free agent.
Only a handful of players remain with the Canadiens when Bouillon left town following the 08-09 season, including Tomas Plekanec, Josh Gorges and Carey Price. Bouillon received a text from Gorges, welcoming him back to Montreal. He also got a phone call from Price.
“Carey left me a message I have to call him back. I’m not the best guy to return a call. But I’ve got to talk to him next week.”
Georges Laraque is eyeing a comeback in the NHL.
“You never know, it could even be Montreal,” said the former Hab. “Gainey’s gone, Gauthier’s gone.” “It’s a matter of going to the right team. I have no idea where it could be.”
In January 2010, then-GM Bob Gainey informed Laraque that his services were no longer needed. Now, two years later, with his bad back healthy again, according to Laraque, he says he’s ready to find out if there is a market for his services.
“I have a chance to change the way things ended,” said Laraque. “I have something to prove.”
Laraque says it was “awesome” playing for Michel Therrien as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“He will make sure that the little small Canadiens’ team that was taken advantage of by clubs like the Bruins and the Flyers…that’s not going to happen with him as the coach.”
Laraque says he’s instructing his agent to reach out to NHL clubs to find out who might be interested in his services.
GEORGES LARAQUE IN HIS WORDS:
“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.
Karl Dykhuis, who patrolled the blueline for the Montreal Canadiens when Michel Therrien was behind the Habs’ bench for the better part of three seasons, says Terrien was able to instill a sense of confidence on the team.
“We enjoyed going to the rink under Therrien,” said Dykhuis. “He was able to get the guys to bond together. The passion is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Michel Therrien.”
Dykhuis said Therrien isn’t afraid of telling the guys to be physical.
“He understands that part of the game. No teams were going to take it easy against us. Hopefully he’ll bring some toughness to the team. That’s what I saw when I played for him.”
“I think it’s going to be a great decision,” added Dykhuis. “We’ll see how it goes.”
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Let me make one thing perfectly clear.
What I’m about to say comes from my gut.
If you have any questions about what I’m about to say, then I ask that you direct all inquries directly to my gut.
However, I’ll save you the time by saying: my gut isn’t answering questions. What my gut IS saying, however is this:
Michel Therrien will become the next head coach of the Montreal Canadiens.
This is the same gut feeling I had when Marc Bergevin was named general manager of the Montreal Canadiens. My colleague, Rick Moffat, and I were having a conversation when Serge Savard and Geoff Molson were busy looking for a new GM. At the time, I told Rick that my gut was saying that Marc Bergevin would get the job.
Now my gut is saying that Michel Therrien will return as head coach of the Habs.
I don’t believe Patrick Roy was ever given serious consideration. I believe that Marc Crawford, was. I don’t believe that Guy Carbonneau was ever seriously on Bergevin’s radar, although Bob Hartley obviously was.
There is nothing scientific about what I’m saying. I’m drawing my conclusions based on my sense of the situation here in Montreal as it relates to the Canadiens’ quest for their next head coach.
And my gut tells me that Michel Therrien will end up being behind the Canadiens’ bench.
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Four weeks into the job as general manager of the Montreal Canadiens, everything was coming up roses for Marc Bergevin.
Until today’s announcement that Bob Hartley had taken a the job as head coach of the Calgary Flames.
If you believe everything you read on Twitter, Hartley was destined to take over as bench boss of the Habs. Mind you, we were hearing the very same thing about Patrick Roy up until just a few short weeks ago, when he seemed to fall off the Twitter radar.
But I digress.
Hartley was going to be “the one.”
Well, he’s not. Not in Montreal, at least.
The optics of today’s developments are not good for Marc Bergevin, through no fault of his own. Bergevin, first in Shawinigan during the Memorial Cup, and then, just yesterday, at the NHL GM’s meetings in New York, made it clear that he was in no rush to name a new head coach. He said the move could come quickly, or it could take awhile. Yesterday he stated the obvious when he said there would be no annnouncement coming from the Canadiens this week.
In fact, Bergevin might not have a head coach with him at the draft table when it comes time for the Canadiens to make their picks next month in Pittsburgh.
So, basically, Bergevin has said a whole lot of nothing about the team’s vacant coaching position over the last week or so — because there hasn’t been anything to say.
You can’t fault the guy for that.
But Habs fans who were hoping to see Bob Hartley behind the Montreal bench are going to equate Bergevin’s decision-making process as “waffling.” They are going to see this as Bergevin’s inability to land the big coaching fish in what is a very small coaching pond for the Canadiens. They are going to accuse Bergevin of being asleep at the switch.
Was he? I don’t know. I have no idea how close Bob Hartley might have been to becoming the next head coach of the Montreal Canadiens. In my view, only two people know the answer to that question: Bob Hartley, and Marc Bergevin. And, at the news conference held today in Calgary to introduce their new head coach, Hartley acknowledged that although the Canadiens had shown an interest in his sevices, he called Bergevin to tell him that he would be joining the Flames.
So while Marc Bergevin was wowing them with his initial front-office signings of Bobby Kinsella as a U.S. scout, Rick Dudley as assistant GM, and Scott Mellanby as Director of Player Personnel, he still hasn’t given Canadiens fans what they’ve been lusting for.
A new head coach.
Welcome to Montreal, Marc.
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