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The Montreal Canadiens are currently in a playoff spot and are closer to first in the Atlantic Division than they are to fourth. But, after 47 games I have seen enough to think that this team would be better without Michel Therrien.
I don’t take this opinion lightly. I hate looking like a person who thinks they know it all. But the moves he makes get harder and harder to explain and the things he doesn’t see become more and more obvious to everyone except for him.
Yes, this team is currently above expectations. Not many people expected Montreal to be ahead of Detroit and Ottawa at this point of the season and seven points ahead of the best team not currently in the playoffs. However, I believe that this team, with better coaching, would be ahead of both the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning.
What is the best thing that Therrien has done so far this season? We can give him the way he’s managing his goaltenders and the way he scratched David Desharnais to get him going. We’ll even give him the resurgence of Daniel Briere, though I’m still skeptical. Those are three things.
Let’s contrast that with decisions that are, let’s just say, questionable. His handling of Alexei Emelin and refusal to put him on the other side. His insistence for a few games that both Francis Bouillon and Douglas Murray were better than Raphael Diaz. The fact that he played Alex Galchenyuk one game at center against one of the best teams in the league before deciding he wasn’t ready. The fact that he continues to make examples of P.K. Subban that he doesn’t make for anyone else on the team. The fact that this team was much better, both by fancy stats and regular stats, before Therrien had a full training camp to implement his system. There may be even more.
Oh right. I was missing one. The power play. Yes. The fact that a power play with Subban, Andrei Markov and Max Pacioretty is considered successful if they enter the zone successfully. How is that even possible? How is this coaching staff missing the creativity to do something other than hope Markov and Subban can get a shot on goal that goes in?
The power play is so predictable that I know what the Canadiens are doing from my chair in front of my television. Considering I have no coaching experience in the slightest, I’m pretty sure that NHL coaching staffs can see it too. Except of course this one. I won’t even get into the fact that Rene Bourque and Francis Bouillon have roles with the man advantage while Lars Eller needs a David Desharnais injury to get some PP time.
The main arguments I hear for not making a coaching change are that this team is not expected to compete this year and there are no other candidates available. Let’s tackle these one at a time.
The Canadiens might not be in a position to go for it all this year, but that doesn’t mean they should just punt this season away. Subban is in the last year of his discounted deal. The team still has Brendan Gallagher, Galchenyuk and Eller on very team-friendly contracts. Why not go for it this year? They are only three points behind Boston right now and no one is running away from the East.
The Los Angeles Kings weren’t expected to contend in 2011-2012. However, they weren’t happy with a close to .500 record and decided to make a coaching change. They eventually hired Darryl Sutter. They went on to win the Stanley Cup and have been one of the best teams in the league since. That’s a path I can see the Canadiens making. The talent is there.
The second argument is that there is no one available to take over. First, that’s not entirely accurate. Second, the coaching market is always the same. It is always filled with people who have been fired or people who have never been tested in the role. That’s always the case. If there was someone really desirable as a coaching candidate, they would already have a job.
Second, Guy Boucher is going to get another opportunity in the National Hockey League. That much is pretty much a certainty. Why doesn’t Montreal give him that second opportunity before someone else does? He knows a lot of the young players on this team. He has probably learned something from his time in Tampa Bay and this Canadiens team is much more suited to his style of play than the Lightning were.
Yes, Marc Bergevin was the one who hired Therrien and firing him would be a black mark against Bergevin. But you know what? General Managers are never going to be perfect. But the best ones know when they’ve made a mistake and know when to admit that. The time is getting dangerously close to that point for Bergevin.
I’m sure that Therrien is a nice guy. I don’t like to call for the firing of someone who has a family and feelings. However, at this point, I’m also pretty sure that his decisions behind the bench are costing this team wins.