Do we all remember the not-so-distant past, when we all were calling for the head of Jacques Martin? Do you remember the disdain that we all felt when his name was mentioned?
What was it about that man that sent us all into a crazed fit?
Was it because he had no emotion behind the bench? Was it because he finally had acquired a more physical offensive team that he kept playing a defensive strategy with, that made our blood boil?
But what about his replacement? Randy Cunneyworth wasn’t long on the job before he started taking heat from the Habs fans around the globe. They considered him soft. He didn’t have the experience. Above all else – apparently being an Anglophone was his biggest shortcoming.
We were reminded day after day, and week after week, that Cunneyworth was only an “Interim Solution”, so as soon as the air from the Canadiens 2012 season balloon expired, the speculation started flowing, and I believe it’s fair to say that there was genuine shock at the outcome.
As a newly appointed GM himself – Marc Bergevin (article to follow) – proudly announced the new appointment of Les Boys head coach on June 6th of 2012. Before the meeting was completed, there were already grumblings to be heard from the epicenter of Montreal and reaching out across Quebec, Canada, and the world.
Michel Therrien was coming back to Montreal and many were none too happy.
It’s to be mildly understood, based on the track record of Therrien’s previous tenure here in the mecca of hockey. Taking over the 2000-2001 NHL season from a failing Alain Vigneault, the Montreal native failed to turn the club into a post-season contender. The Habs went 23–27–13 under Michel and missed the playoffs.
The following season, he managed to post a 16 point progression for the Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge and they even managed to defeat their rival Boston Bruins in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 6 games. Unfortunately, those hopes came to a dashing conclusion to the Carolina Hurricanes in a six game battle in round two, sending the Habs to their summer vacation all to early.
In Therrien’s final season coaching the Canadiens, the acceptable start (16-12-6) came to a grinding halt as La Flanelle failed to win more than 2 games in the next 12.
That would prove to be the end of Therrien’s tenure here in Montreal …. at least for the time being.
So a quick look at the “histiore” of our ancient coach doesn’t necessarily paint the prettiest picture of a comeback to our beloved franchise. Youth and inexperience didn’t make for a very good CV for Therrien, had the story ended where we left off.
But time has a way of changing things, and it has done just that for the hope of the Canadiens franchise under the new leadership of an old captain.
Since walking away from his home town, Michel Therrien has done some remarkable “growing up”. He has matured as an NHL head coach and set some seriously powerful milestones that should have fans of the Habs smiling in some disbelief.
Therrien picked up his boots and moved on to Pittsburgh to become part of the Penguins organization. It began in Scranton where he led the AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to a Calder Cup berth for both 2004 and 2005.
This did not go unnoticed by the Pens franchise, and earned Therrien a place behind the bench of the failing Penguins halfway through the 2005 season.
There was no immediate turn-around, but in time, Therrien lead the Pittsburgh franchise to some glorious results in the post-season. He managed to take a team in dire straits, and convert them into a Stanley Cup finalist in 2007 against the powerhouse Red Wings.
So what does all this say about the stature of the man returning to Montreal to lead a team that clearly has made some strong escalations to it’s roster?
Thierren is a dominant and outspoken coach that has shown backbone, passion, and a clear understanding of the game since he left his hometown. He has grown, matured, and excelled.
In my humble opinion, there’s not much he can’t do with the newly changed offensive line-up that now dons the bench at le Centre Bell. He has size in Pacioretty, Cole, Bourque. Eller, Prust, White, and Moen. He has incredible hands and skills with Desharnais, Gionta, and Plekanec. All the types of players that suit his style of coaching.
With his progressive style of leadership, Montreal may find themselves in the best place they have seen themselves in for years. Not just a “one goalie streak” from Stanley Cup hopes, but rather a team that truly wears the term “contention” on it’s sleeve.
To look back on his accomplishments in Montreal in the past, without appreciating the growth he has experienced since leaving here, wouldn’t make for a fair assessment of Mr. Therrien. But one who looks deeper into his accomplishments and growth since makes it hard to argue against the fact that he will make for one heck of a bench boss in the coming seasons for the Canadiens.