March 09, 2009
Here's the good news for Guy Carbonneau, who was fired this afternoon by the Montreal Canadiens as their centennial season continues its descent into potential disaster: The last time GM Bob Gainey canned a coach and replaced him behind the bench, it was Claude Julien back in 2005. Today, Julien's the coach of the first-place Boston Bruins and a Jack Adams candidate.
(OK, so the bad news is that Julien first had to go to New Jersey and be fired and replaced by the Devils' general manager. But hey, it all seems to have worked out in the end.)
Carbonneau was fired less than 24 hours after a Canadiens victory over the Dallas Stars, but not exactly an inspiring one: Carey Price had to bail the team out after the Habs gave up 10 power plays and 31 shots on goal. Before that, it was a two-game losing streak preceded by a four-game winning streak. Inconsistency, thy name is Canadiens; and there's the exit, Guy.
"We've got a number of players who have been a little below their potential this year for different reasons, this is their time to prove me right ... and for the coaches to take the players that they have and squeeze as much or more out of this team than we've seen to this point," he said.
It was an unusual shot across the coaching staff's bow from Gainey, who has a close relationship with head coach Guy Carbonneau and his assistants.
Was it a scape-goating?
There's no question that Carbonneau was overwhelmed by the challenge this year; imagine trying to keep a child's attention during a year-long birthday party. There's also no question injuries, especially the one that took Robert Lang from the Habs, didn't help the coach's cause.
But the Habs also never looked like the same squad that played, for our money, some of the best team offense and especially defense in the NHL last season.
Gainey's coached teams to the playoffs in five of his seven seasons behind the bench. This is a decision that screams "accountability" for the players, much like when Lou Lamoriello took over for Julien.
Gainey has consistently said the Habs have the horses to make the playoffs and win; his inaction at the trade deadline followed by the firing of Gainey's close friend strips away the last vestiges of an excuse for these players.
It's a desperation move in a desperate struggle to avoid calamity. Will it make a difference on a team that's made more news off the ice than on? Will Alexei Kovalev become Alexei Kovalev again? Does this combination of a new coach and Price finally snapping into form put the Canadiens finally on the right track? There are 16 games left to find out.
More from Habs Inside/Out. Over on Four Habs Fans, they think it's about six weeks too late ... come to think of it, Montreal did lose to Tampa six weeks ago. The National Post has a look at the Habs' history of changing horses in mid-stream. Hey, a Michel Therrien sighting!