Rabid Habs

The Habs Coach

Lets get one thing out of the way before proceeding further with this post: no coach ever built will ever satisfy Habs Fans. Heck, Scotty Bowman would be vilified by fans today for every line change, practice, handling of a player, in-game decision. This brings us to the current skipper of the Habs, Michel Therrien. As I said, no coach satisfies Habs fans in Montreal but the Therrien hate is on a whole different level. Some seem unable to let go of Therrien 1.0 who coached the Habs as a rookie and got fired ingloriously. The same Michel Therrien, reloaded and after a while got hired by the Penguins. He took them to the Cup finals and lost to Detroit. The following season he was canned and replaced by Bylsma who promptly won the cup with the team Therrien had molded. This happens a lot in sports. Thus Therrien vanished from the coaching ranks and worked in media. Then he was hired by new GM M. Bergevin. The coach that Bergevin hired is Therrien 2.0, yet it took a while for many fans to see the difference, myself included.

Let me be blunt, I was not a fan of the hire when it happened. However, a maxim says that only fools don’t change their minds. As a fan, I saw a team that went from missing the playoffs in 2012, to a playoff team in 2013 and now to a Conference finalist in 2014. Since taking over the Habs Therrien’s regular season record is 75-72-13. Let that sink in for a second and then consider that the calls to fire him are still heard. Let us assume that this is just part of the wild and often disturbing thing that Habsnation can be and move on.

When he was hired and since then, when the more viral criticism surfaces (mostly online or on radio call in shows) you will hear sewer-worthy rants on why Therrien got the job. The most popular one is that the only reason he was hired is because he is French. That accusation is popular and in my opinion a bit inaccurate and dishonest. Therrien was hired because he is competent, the fact he speaks french is a market requirement that makes perfect sense. It is an asset that Habs ownership and management sees as being critical in a Head Coach. It is in response to the fact that the bulk of the fan base (ie. the Habs clients) are of francophone origin. By the way, Therrien also speaks excellent English and communicates with his players in that language, so he is not unilingual french. That gets lost in the mix however. The Habs have made and will continue to make a choice to focus on coaching candidates that speak french so I guess people should be used to it by now. This has led to bad hires (Tremblay, Carbonneau) but also to great ones (Julien, Vigneault, Demers, Burns).

Therrien has 1 year left on his contract and everyone knows he will get an extension between now and the start of the 2014-15 season. He will not get fired, so those pinning for Therrien being tarred and feathered and run out of town will just have to put away their pitchforks and torches for a while. I am sure they will be back in full force after the first practice in training camp.

I think this coach fully deserves a contract extension and my guess is he will get 3 years on top of the year that he has left on his current deal. This would be fair considering his accomplishments. He has produced two winning seasons and one deep playoff drive in his time at the helm. He has done this with a team that is re-tooling and still growing. This would cut most coaches some slack with fans, not so in Montreal!

I think that like every other coach out there, Therrien makes mistakes. I also think he did some pretty good things with this team and with his players. Coaches are always stuck in a lose-lose scenario. In Montreal it goes thusly:

Habs win: It was despite the coach.

Habs lose: It is entirely Therrien’s fault.

Player performs/develops: It is despite Therrien (see the Subban mania).

Player does not perform/fails to develop now: It is Therrien’s fault.

Yet under Therrien’s tutelage, some pretty impressive players have grown in leaps and bounds. This is in part due to these players taking ownership of their own development, or maturing if you will but it is also due in part to the coach and his staff. PK Subban and Carey Price come to mind here. These two core-players have taken huge strides in the past 2 seasons, each in their own way. The coach holding back player development or performance lament is not new, heck Guy Lafleur said Scotty Bowman’s only contribution to the Habs winning or to his performances was Scotty opening and closing the gate of the players bench. If you pay attention, the same lament is heard when it comes to Subban. I personally think Subban has all the tools to be an elite d-man in this league. In fact, he is there already. He became that elite d-man under Therrien for the most part and won a Norris in the process. Subban deserves credit for his achievements but guess what, so does the coach!

The point in all this is that Therrien is winning. As an NHL-level coach, he has a winning record (287-224-24-57). His performance in Montreal since his return fully deserves an extension. However, the most anti-Therrien fans can take solace in one thing: at some point Therrien will get fired or he will retire. That is the nature of the beast for NHL coaches. When this happens, these fans can change the focus of their frustrations and aim their rants at the new coach or GM who will also not be the “right” one for the Habs.

The question to ask is which coach IS the right one for Montreal? I personally think he does not exist.

Article provided by @morningcalmdude.

One Comment

  1. Yves

    June 12, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    Based on the work he has done the last 24 months, you can make a strong argument that Therrien is a top current NHL coach. Maybe at some point his mojo wears off and Bergevin will need to look elsewhere, but at this point you can’t say he isn’t doing an excellent job.