It's deja vu all over again

According to multiple reports — the first of which came from Darren Dreger of TSN — Michel Therrien is slated to become the next head coach of the Montreal Canadiens. The move comes after Bob Hartley, who was previously the odds-on favorite to take the job, caught on with the Calgary Flames and actually recommended Therrien to replace him in the Swiss league as head coach of the ZSC Lions.

The move is a confusing one and something that’s hard to get on board with for a number of reasons.

First and foremost I’m never a fan of teams recycling former coaches. Historically, I can’t really think of an instance where it truly pays off beyond Jacques Lemaire in New Jersey. The old adage goes, “Do the same things and get the same results.” As a team mired in complacency on a staffing level, this can’t be the way to go.

There were plenty of quips and quibbles about how recycling former players at the executive level has led to this current mess on the ice and while the Marc Bergevin hiring as GM is a former player in a leadership role, he doesn’t have the immunity that comes with being a Habs legend — something three of their last five general managers can claim.

Recycling former coaches can’t do too much good either.

Beyond the fact he’s worked for the Habs before, the issues with Therrien are pronounced on a coaching level. There isn’t an instance you can point to a team he has coached at the NHL level and say he really got the most out of the team — Calder Cups are an achievement and I won’t knock his AHL accomplishments but the level of competition is drastically different. At some point Calder Cup winning coaches need to put up or shut up at the NHL level and there are plenty that have. Therrien is not one of them.

The problem with Therrien’s NHL track record isn’t so much in his record — it’s actually quite good — it’s the fact there is no instance where his presence has improved a team. The record each season generally reflects the play of his best players.

His best season in Montreal (2001-02) came when Jose Theodore was the best goaltender in the world. He wasn’t successful in Pittsburgh until Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal joined the fray and even then they didn’t win a Stanley Cup until Dan Bylsma replaced Therrien to GET THEM BACK INTO PLAYOFF CONTENTION in 2008-09 and then on to the finals that summer.

Not exactly a sparkling record.

Now, Therrien wouldn’t be the first coach to be hired and exceed expectations — there are plenty of cases like that historically — but for a hire based on merit, it’s tough to approve given the needs of this Montreal Canadiens team.

The Montreal Canadiens have been stagnated for years, getting by on stellar goaltending while ignoring structural issues on the roster and in the development system. What this team needs is to strip away its recent history and go forward with a clean slate. Build around Subban, Plekanec and Price and move on from the rest.

Bringing in a man who coached the team 10 years ago to give it another shot won’t do anything for innovation and is unlikely to help the immediate or long term prospects of the franchise winning games. Just ask Paul Maurice who was asked to do the same in Carolina, who have been following the same template as the 21st century Habs, recycling the same roster each year and hoping star power gets them through.

Michel Therrien may end up being a winner in Montreal. It doesn’t mean he was the right man for the job.

Comments (5)

  1. O-kay…. I hope they saved some of the old cigarette vending machines from the old Forum. And some cases of Coke Zero. Sorry – Zéro, estie de tabarnacle. ;)

    Well, I guess we can venture with 1000% certainty that any chance of getting Hal Gill BACK just flew out the window!!!

  2. My bad. I meant to say cases of Diet Pepsi. Huge difference.

  3. Build around Price, Subban and PLEKANEC? No, more like build around Price, Subban, Pacioretty and Gorges. Plekanec is easily expendable.

    • Good catch.

      Excluding Patches was a misstep on my part, but Plekanec is a guaranteed 50 point (minimum) scorer who plays a very solid two-way game. Those don’t grow on trees and aren’t ‘easily expendable’. His role on the team, as I see it, ought to be cemented going forward. He’s certainly no less expendable than Josh Gorges.

  4. I pretty much agree on your views about Therrien, he’s been out of head coaching work for 3 seasons and that always happens for a reason.

    But I don’t think that he having coached the Habs before is any sort of hindrance to his chances to success. Last time he coached the Habs there was different GM, different ownership group, game was played with different set of rules and the roster has changed (I’ll say Markov is the only player left from his last gig). Maybe he has learned something in his time away from the league. Sutter and Hitchcock did alright after a little time away from coaching, so give the guy a chance.

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