“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.
Randy Cunneyworth has entered into his final week as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens.
Interim head coach, that is.
Cunneyworth and the Canadiens play host to Tampa Wednesday night. Then they’re off to Carolina to take on the Hurricanes Thursday night, before they return home to close out the season Saturday night against the Leafs.
Saturday night hockey against the Maple Leafs. Remember when games like that meant something!?!?
But I digress.
I suspect Cunneyworth will get a chance to address the media on garbage bag day, when the players will report to Brossard to clean out their lockers before scattering to the four corners of the globe.
In past seasons, management would also meet with the media at the conclusion of the season for a formal post-mortem. But it seems to me that team owner Geoff Molson essentially held the post-mortem last Thursday; the day he anounced the dismissal of Pierre Gauthier as general manager of this team.
Which brings us back to Randy Cunneyworth.
You can speculate all you want as to who the next head coach of this team will be. The only person who knows who the next coach of the Canadiens will be, is the next general manager of this hockey team. There is absolutely no reason to believe that Cunneyworth will be given an opportunity to hang on to his job. Not with the team bringing on a new GM. And certainly not with the way the Canadiens threw him under the bus when he was named to replace Jacques Martin.
You could also make a case that Cunneyworth doesn’t deserve to be considered for the position, based on how the team performed under his watch. But then again, how would you expect the players to react to a lame-duck coach?
Regardless, Randy Cunneyworth deserved better. He took one for the team when he agreed to take over behind the bench. And he was further left twisting in the wind with five games left, when the Canadiens fired the guy who gave him the head-coaching gig: Pierre Gauthier.
As Randy Cunneyworth soldiers on over the remaining three games, he does so with his CV tucked in his back pocket.
His answer when I asked him if he plans to re-apply for the job he’s held since mid-December:
Prior to the start of the 2011-2012 NHL season, I predicted that the Canadiens would finish in 7th place in the Eastern Conference.
I was wrong.
I never thought the Habs would move to the next level with the roster that they had (Bob Gainey often talked about the strides the Canadiens would have to take to become a top-four club in the East.) However, I never thought that they would, on Feb. 29, 2012, find themselves in last place in their conference.
As a result, instead of leading Habs’ fans through the inevitable finger-biting associated with a last-gasp effort to secure a playoff spot, as has been the case in recent season, Canadiens’ supporters are left wondering what kind of top draft pick the team will emerge with, as a result of this season of futility.
Are the Canadiens a better team than their 15th-place record would indicate?
Offensively, they are a one-dimensional club led by the line of Desharnais-Cole-Pacioretty. That’s it, that’s all.
Defensively they are a team in shambles as a result of the injured Andrei Markov, the underperforming Chris Campoli, the overrated Tomas Kaberle, and the underwhelming Yannick Webber.
In goal, Carey Price has been good on most nights with gusts of terrific. He needed to be great this season to give this team a shot at the playoffs.
Forget about the guys behind the bench. Jacques Martin didn’t deserve to be fired any more than Randy Cunneyworth deserved to be thrown under the bus when he was given the job as head coach.
Sorry. INTERIM head coach.
And so it goes. With five weeks left in the regular season, most Habs fans can’t wait until its over.
Mercy rule, anyone?
If we can all agree that Pierre Gauthier’s tenure as general manager of the Montreal Canadiens will come to an end at the end of the season, then it should come as absolutely no surprise that he walked away from the trade table with only significant move under his belt today: a deal that sends Andrei Kostitsyn to Nashville for a 2nd-round pick in 2013.
From all accounts, Gauthier’s day at the office is done.
It would be hard to imagine Gauthier getting carte blanche to overhaul this team if he’s not going to be around next season to see this thing through. That’s not to say, of course, that Gauthier WON’T be back next season. But if I were a betting man…
I know plenty of Habs fans were clamouring for the team to jettison players like Tomas Kaberle, Chris Campoli, SCOTT GOMEZ, among others. But seriously, why would there be any takers for ANY of those players???
It’s called supply and demand. And the Canadiens have a large supply of players that there was no demand for.
In addition, those of you fretting that the Canadiens might deal players like Tomas Plekanec, PK Subban or Erik Cole can breath easier right about now. The Habs did NOT throw the baby out with the bath water.
More decisions will be made at the end of the season (the end is near!!!) when it comes to keeping, or signing, unrestricted free agents. Those decisions will not be made by Pierre Gauthier. And the players who end up on this team next season will not be coached by Randy Cunneyworth.
If I were a betting man.
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Canadiens netminder Carey Price wore his heart on his sleeve today some 24 hours after veteran defenceman Hal Gill was traded to the Nashville Predators.
It was a very subdued morning skate at Brossard following last night’s 4-3 shootout win in Buffalo. The mood didn’t change much when the players made their way into the locker room.
Up until yesterday, you would have had Hal Gill’s name plate next to Yannick Weber’s locker. Gill’s locker, complete with name plate, was cleared out after the big defenceman was sent packing to Nashville.
Weber tried to make light of the fact that he’d now have more elbow room, but it was clear his heart wasn’t in it. “There’s a joke there somewhere, but it’s just not coming,” said Weber as he looked over to team mate Chris Campoli.
Goalie Carey Price said the Canadiens are going to miss Gill a lot, but he acknowledged that trades are part of the game.
“There’s no getting around it,” said Price. “We’re going to make moves that the GM feels are going to improve this team. We’re just pawns in this game and we have to learn to deal with it.”
Head coach Randy Cunneyworth was asked if he felt the decision by management to trade Gill is a signal that the team brass has given up on the playoffs.
“I don’t believe so,” said Cunneyworth. “I believe every general manager works at this time of year to improve his team. That’s the sole goal. There is no giving up, not in our GM and not in our team.”
Carey Price gets gets the call tomorrow night when the Devils come to town in a 6 p.m. start.
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Kirk Muller says it wasn’t often that he got nervous as a player. But he admitted to me today that he’s likely to have a case of the nerves tomorrow night when he walks across the ice at the Bell Centre to take his spot behind the opposing bench as the Carolina Hurricanes take on the Montreal Canadiens.
Are you disappointed that Muller didn’t get a chance to take over behind the bench as head coach here in Montreal? Do you think that Randy Cunneyworth got the job that might have gone to Kirk Muller, had the timing been different?
And do you think that Randy Cunneyworth even has a shot at returning as head coach of the Canadiens next season?
We’ll talk about that tonight, in The Locker Room. We’ll hear from Kirk Muller and another former Hab, defenceman Jaroslav Spacek, about some critical comments Spacek made several weeks ago about the situation in Montreal.
And as former Expo Gary Carter battles an aggressive form of brain cancer, we’ll talk to a teammate of Gary’s, and a long time friend, former first baseman Tommy Hutton, about Gary’s valiant battle.
Tonight, 6-7 p.m., in The Locker Room.
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Canadiens assistant captain Andrei Markov has finally seen the beginning of the end of his long rehab. He and Habs fans can only hope.
MORE ON THIS STORY FROM CJAD’S RICK MOFFAT CAN BE FOUND HERE:
Now that the giddiness of the all-star break is behind us, it’s time for the Montreal Canadiens to get back down to business.
It starts with a 2 p.m. skate at Brossard on Monday, followed by the arrival of the Buffalo Sabres for a game at the Bell Centre Tuesday night.
The Canadiens go into the post all-star break in 11th place, eight points out of a playoff spot. If that isn’t scary enough, the Habs are only two points removed from the Eastern Conference cellar.
Now what? Will Carey Price, the all-star, play like an all-star down the stretch and drag this team, kicking and screaming into the playoffs?
Will Erik Cole, David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty continue to lead this team, up front, as they have for most of the season? More importantly, will the Canadiens get some consistant production from the likes of Andrei Kostitsyn, Lars Eller and Tomas Plekanec?
Will Scott Gomez play the way he did down the stretch during his first season as a Hab? Or does the Scott Gomez saga start and end with his salary?
Will PK Subban settle down and play the kind of hockey he played the second half of last season, when he stepped in and stepped up at a time when he was needed the most?
Will we see Andrei Markov in a Candiens’ uniform at all this season?
Will Canadiens’ management continue to apologize for their decision to hire Randy Cunneyworth as their “interim” head coach? Or will Cunneyworth shove the “interim” tag down their throats by proving that he has the goods to be a “full-time” head coach in the National Hockey League.
For the Montreal Canadiens, so many questions, so little time. Thirty-three games, in fact, until the final horn goes on the 2011-12 NHL regular season.
Jacques Martin bashers were dancing in the streets last night. At least up until around 9:45 p.m., when the siren went on a 5-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils at the Bell Centre.
Some 12 hours after General Manager Pierre Gauthier fired Martin, the Habs took to the ice with Randy Cunneyworth at the helm. Cunneyworth was named interim head coach after Gauthier had determined that the results he was seeing on the ice were unacceptable.
Funny. That’s a word I would use to describe last night’s effort, as well: unacceptable. After Gauthier pointed a finger squarely at Martin and the team’s inability to hold a lead, the Canadiens promptly went out and blew another lead: this one, a 3-2 advantage that Montreal had built up through the opening 30 minutes of last night’s hockey game.
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