The end of the season is almost here which means the questions about Michel Therrien and his assistants will intensify. Our writers make their predictions as to who may stay and who may go.
For the purposes of this scenario, we’re operating under the assumption that no matter what changes may or may not happen, goalie coach Stephane Waite will still be around.
Gordon Black: What I’d like to see is different from what I think will happen. I don’t think the Habs will clean house from the AHL up. I think maybe we’ll see the departure of one or two of the assistants (though not J.J. Daigneault), but that Therrien will be allowed ten games with a healthy Price next year to make amends. Sylvain Lefebvre will likely stay in the AHL as well, although I feel that is a bit more justified as he has been handcuffed by a system that may not be the one he’d prefer to use.
Despite the lack of transition and the constant grind, (which does just that to the players’ health as the season wears on), Marc Bergevin is not going to want to cut bait with his coach just yet. It’s not that he isn’t capable of making hard choices in the face of Therrien’s recent extension; but rather, that Bergevin doesn’t seem like the type of GM to second guess his own plan after one devastating season that could be chalked up to injuries without too much of a stretch.
However, if Molson forces the GM’s hand (and we all hope he does) I will predict that it happens almost as soon as the season ends for Montreal – as he will want to seem as decisive as possible in reversing his previous vote of confidence. If Therrien keeps his job, I expect that we will see a MAJOR trade of some kind by the draft – as the message that it is the players being held accountable for the season will have to be reinforced.
Brian La Rose: I’m leaning towards thinking that Therrien stays. Bergevin has inexplicably stayed with Lefebvre this long (four straight subpar seasons now) so I find it hard to believe that he’ll part with Therrien after one admittedly disastrous season. I suspect that all of the injuries are too big of a crutch to simply be ignored and that Bergevin will want to give Therrien the benefit of the doubt and see what happens at the start of next year with a revised roster and (hopefully) a healthy Carey Price.
That said, I also think Bergevin is smart enough to realize that the status quo in its entirety behind the bench isn’t the right message to send either. I can see both Daigneault and Dan Lacroix being let go with the thought of getting a couple of new(ish) voices in the room. I don’t really know what to make of Clement Jodoin’s future. He and Therrien go back a long way and assuming Therrien stays, I could see him pushing to keep Jodoin around.
There is an obvious risk to keeping Therrien around to start next season. If the struggles continue and an in-season change is warranted in 2016-17, the pickings for midseason hires are really slim. With that in mind, I would not be the slightest bit surprised if Lefebvre ultimately replaces Daigneault as the defence coach. That way, they have an in-house replacement to serve in an interim role while allowing them to bring in someone new for the farm team. Bergevin could also argue that Lefebvre’s experience coaching a lot of the younger talent would be beneficial to the coaching staff, not to mention the fact that he has NHL experience as an assistant. I don’t particularly want that to happen but I wouldn’t be shocked if it did.
Alex Létourneau: I’m not sure how Therrien, or his assistants, keep their jobs. It looks like this club has already hit its ceiling and is in full regression. Yes, injuries played a huge part, and none more than Price, but this is not the look of a team that’s ascending into the contention discussion. There’s fault and accountability across the board, but it starts with the coaches and the tactics. A porous power play and a declining year-on-year penalty kill do not bode well for the coaching staff. Bizarre lineups, strange in-game changes and an inability to read and react to what was happening just over the boards is unacceptable with a team that they seemingly molded and are comfortable with. The ease in which players are publicly thrown under the bus is unsettling as well, to say the least.
It has been a season of sideshows and much of that falls on the management group and the coaching staff. I can’t see Therrien behind that bench again, and if he is, anything short of a Conference or Stanley Cup Final won’t save either Therrien or Bergevin. In my humble opinion.
Paul MacLeod: What I think should happen and what I think will happen are actually the same. Therrien and all of his assistants will be let go immediately after the end of year reviews. While there might be a temptation to give the coaching staff a free pass on the season due to the injuries, particularly Price’s, Therrien will be let go for his utter failure to adapt his system to the players he had available during the catastrophic slump (rather than adapting his system to the players and changing the team’s approach) and because neither he, nor his staff, have been able to fix an abysmal power play despite seasons worth of opportunities. See Boudreau, Bruce as an example of how this could and should be done.
Craig Scharien: While Therrien has been on the hot seat for months, for better or for worse, I really don’t see Bergevin firing him this offseason. While you can’t blame all of the troubles on injuries, they give the GM a great reason to give Therrien another shot next year. Though he frustrates many, Therrien has been remarkably successful since rejoining the Habs and I’d imagine he’ll get to right the ship with a healthy team before the ax falls. Though if Montreal opens next season the way they’ve finished this one, he could be shown the door without hesitation.
While I think Therrien will be given the chance to start next season with the club, I do wonder if Daigneault, Lacroix and Jodoin will do the same.
Bergevin can’t simply sit by and watch after this season’s collapse, and tinkering with the assistant coaches may help address some of the issues without blowing things apart – if there are coaching changes this could be where we could see them.
While the problems are many, I’ll just focus on one: the powerplay. It clearly needs a rethink: with the talent that’s available a proficiency rate around 16% is nowhere near good enough regardless of the injury situation. Last season was just as bad too. Whether it’s Lacroix (last season) or Daigneault (this season) running the show, it’s not working and the Habs would be well served by mixing it up.
It certainly won’t be a quiet offseason in Montreal but, save a new assistant or two, I don’t think the major changes will be behind the bench – unless the Canadiens stumble out of the gate…