Speculation has been rampant over the past few days that Montreal’s coaching
search was nearing a completion. However, at this time, the club has not
named their new bench boss. Earlier this month, we asked our readers to
give their thoughts on the various candidates out there; today, our writers
weigh in with their thoughts on who could and should be behind the bench.
Matt Gauthier: The Canadiens can’t risk not hiring
Patrick Roy. If they do not, the media and the fans will undoubtedly be on the
back of Marc Bergevin at the first opportunity for not making the obvious choice.
Furthermore, snubbing Roy could have monumental repercussions for the franchise
which is in serious need of continuity and tradition. Roy signing and having success with
another NHL team would be a serious blow to the organization, failing again to
recognize talents in its own backyard, from its own tradition. There is no other
Habs legend better suited to coach the Habs. He has won it all in the NHL. He is
recognized as the top – or second to Brodeur – goalie of all-time. He is a
proven leader. After retiring, he went all the way down and managed-coached a
junior team, travelling in a bus while still having millions in the bank. He has
shown his passion and commitment for the game. Okay, he is not always
politically-correct and will drive his boss(es) crazy. But that’s a small price to
pay to have the hottest stallion lead the pack. I believe he has an unmatched skill set to be a successful leader of millionaires. However, there’s a part of
me that wants Roy to be snubbed by the Canadiens. Sport is entertainment and
having Roy manage-coach the Nordiques would bring the old rivalry to ecstatic
Brian La Rose: I think I speak for a large section of the fan
base when I say I’m not a big fan of any of the names being bandied about out
there. I’m not in favour of hiring an inexperienced coach (at the
professional level) which rules out a lot of the junior-based candidates.
The thought of a coach returning not all that long (relatively speaking) after
being fired by the Habs blows my mind, that rules out a few more options.
The other veterans like Hartley and Crawford have some positives but also some
drawbacks that in part are why they’re interviewing for the job instead of
having one with another team. Deep down, I’m holding out hope that there’s
another candidate that everyone else hasn’t figured out yet but management has.
In terms of who my preference is of the names being discussed, it would have
to be Marc Crawford. Below, Alex makes a good case for him so I won’t
repeat much here. During Crawford’s various tenures, a lot of them were
marred by the lack of quality goaltending. The system was good, the
structure was there…so too was Dan Cloutier which did him in on more than one
team. That issue isn’t there with the Canadiens. If he could build
the Habs around the same style as his previous teams, there’s a good chance
they’ll have some success.
As Bob Hartley is the flavour of the day so to speak, I’ll add some thoughts
on him. I’ve long been skeptical of hiring him, something just doesn’t sit
right with me dating back to his rather interesting departure with Atlanta.
Personally, I think where there’s smoke, there’s fire with regards to the
rumblings that the players went out of their way to have him ousted. That
said, I have to give him some credit for going over to Switzerland to get back
into the game and help repair his reputation in the process. He could have
just kept his job with RDS and sat around hoping another offer would come his
way (something a few on that network continue to do) but decided to be proactive
instead. He’s still not my top choice but I’m more receptive to the idea
than I was this time a month ago.
Norm Szcyrek: The availability of bilingual coaches is rather sparse, at least among candidates with NHL experience. The two most interesting candidates include former Colorado coaches, Marc Crawford and Bob Hartley. Both had similar starts to their NHL careers, experiencing a Stanley Cup within their stay in Colorado. I would lean more towards Hartley for a few reasons. He has had a more successful record both with a good team [Colorado] and with an average one [Atlanta]. Even during his 3 1/2 seasons with the Thrashers, his teams records’ average was around .529, respectable despite a general lack of success [ie. one playoff appearance, a first round defeat]. However, given the lack of depth of the organization and relative youth, the results are not surprising. Crawford has had more experience in the NHL, with 4 tours of duty with different pro teams, versus Hartley’s two periods of pro employment. However, rumours out of his last stay lead many in the media to believe that his coaching style has become outdated. Hartley however, has not been in the NHL since the start of the 2007-08 season. To his credit, he has found employment in the Swiss league as a head coach for the past couple of seasons, including a championship this season, after barely qualifying for the playoffs. Rumours are floating that he’s also in consideration for the head coaching positions in Washington and Calgary, which may be why the Canadiens are looking to make an announcment soon.
Alex Létourneau: With mixed reports pointing to Bob Hartley about the imminence of him being
appointed the next Canadiens head coach in the last few days, I have to say I
don’t like it. He coached a stacked Avalanche team, taking over the reins from
Marc Crawford who I will get to in a moment, and won a Stanley Cup with them. He
had a less than stellar second go at coaching with the Atlanta Thrashers, who
granted were not a juggernaut to begin with. I don’t like his playoff pedigree
to be honest. With the team he had in Colorado, I figure he could have done more
than fail in three out of four trips to the Conference Final and only make one
Stanley Cup Final. And, the one time he got the Thrashers into the playoffs for
the first time in their history, they laid an egg and failed to record a single
victory. I think he inherited a cup to be blunt. He also seems to have a no-out
clause in his contract with the Zurich Lions so I guess that ends that discussion based
on the information available.
The candidate I think will most likely get the position is Crawford.
Despite having missed the playoffs for five consecutive seasons in his last
three head coaching gigs, the man was a winner with Quebec/Colorado and turned a
Canucks team around into a playoff team, albeit one that struggled to
get out of the first round of the playoffs. His stop in Los Angeles was rough
but that was not a very good team. He missed the playoffs twice with Dallas but
the second year was decided in the 82nd game of the season with the
Stars finishing with 95 points (a record number of points for a non-playoff team
I believe). He’s an animated guy and from what I can remember, players bought
into him and played for him. And he speaks le français, which shouldn’t be
central to the discussion but, we are in Montreal and it is an issue. The no
playoffs in five consecutive coaching seasons is troubling but most out of work
coaches have some negative baggage with them.
Martin Raymond’s name has also been tossed around but I would personally like to
see a head coach with NHL experience behind the bench take over. He’s a highly
decorated coach at the University level and achieved success with the Hamilton
Bulldogs and the Tampa Bay Lightning, so there’s obviously something there, but
with this hell pot atmosphere in Montreal, I’d prefer someone who has taken heat
at this level.
While I think Marc Crawford has all the tools to succeed and will get the job,
my sentimental favourite remains Patrick Roy. I’m a St-Patrick homer and I
would’ve loved to see him explode on the bench at bad calls and underperforming
players. But reports also indicate that he’s out of the running so there goes
that one. Pure, unfiltered anger behind the bench will have to wait.