Michel Therrien2

La question qui tue. Has Michel Therrien reached his best-before date?

I think he probably has but I doubt that Marc Bergevin will make him walk the plank just yet. But he will soon enough if the bleeding continues.

Hey it’s not fair. I’d be the first to admit it. It’s not all Therrien’s fault. But someone will eventually have to pay the price. You know why Bergevin will eventually fire Therrien? To cover for his own mistakes.

Really. I penned a post in November titled ‘What has Marc Bergevin done for us lately?’ and in said missive, I ran through the many Bergevin deals, most bad for the Habs. Too pricey contract for Desharnais, picking up Parros, Brière and Murray, all bad, bad, bad. I said, at the time, the one good move was snapping up Brandon Prust but let’s all admit that, to paraphrase Macca, he’s not half the man he used to be.

So the team’s woes are not all Therrien’s fault. Bergevin had a big hand in molding a team that’s lost four in a row, five of the last six, and is 3-6-1 in its last ten games. But no one’s gonna be firing Bergevin any time soon. So who pays the price? Therrien.

There’s something very wrong with this team right now. They’re not just losing, they’re getting massacred. Losing 5-nothing at home on a Saturday night after coming home from a disastrous road trip isn’t just a loss. It’s a humiliation. When Carey Price got the hook mid-way through the second, shot were 26-3 in favour of the Caps. This is not being outplayed. This is one team not playing. And they looked just as bad in Pittsburgh a few nights earlier.

So what gives? It’s easy to conclude they’ve given up on their coach. Of course they’ll say they haven’t, just as surely as they’ll say, when he gets fired (and he will get fired, all coaches get fired), that they feel terrible, that it wasn’t the coach’s fault, blah blah blah.

I hate to sound like Knuckles Nilan but these guys should be ashamed of themselves for coming out in front of their fans who’ve plunked down their hard-earned cash and not making the slightest effort. But the real question is why are they refusing to play?

One theory making the rounds – in my tormented head at least – is that this is a white-collar team with a blue-collar coach. Therrien is old-school. He’s made comments to the effect that he’s got a team that’s should be all about grit. Fact is all this team has going for it is skill. There is little to no grit – and that’s a huge problem.

But they’re not a dump-and-chase-and-battle-along-the-boards team. If they go anywhere it’s with the smarts of folks like Galchenyuk, Pacioretty, Plekanec, Eller, Subban and Markov. So is this a disconnect between players and coach? We’re not in the room so we just don’t know. But if it’s not that, what is it?

Here’s what a couple of people opined on my Facebook timeline when I launched the question:

Daniel Weinstock: Yesterday seemed like a statement game. The statement was: we don’t want to play for you anymore. No better sign of this than the play of Brandon Prust. He has basically disappeared, and seems to take every opportunity to avoid getting on the ice. That fight yesterday with a 19 year-old was a joke, and his reaction to his dive (we all know it was a dive) was pretty unprofessional. Not the Prust we have come to know and love. The job of the coach is to get his players to buy into his system. Therrien has lost the players’ interest and passion. He’s got to go. (So, by the way, do Bourque and Brière).

Ned Bouhalassa: If all the actors on a big film or TV set suck at the same time, there’s something wrong with the director. Same thing here.

Arjun Basu: It happened in Pittsburgh. It’s happening here.
J.K. Maclean: Another option might be a shake-up trade… I think it boils down to who Bergevin might be able to get to coach… Or who he might get for (dare I say) P.K.!? After all, we do need a real scorer…

Daniel Weinstock Redux (hey these philosophers have a lot to say): Trading PK would imho not be a good idea. He is a fan favorite like this town has seen maybe only two in my lifetime: Lafleur and Roy. Any good team is built from the ground up: good drafting, good player development. Markov, PK, Price, Galchenyuk, Paccioretty, Plekanec, Emelin, Desharnais, Gallagher, and maybe Beaulieu and Tinordi — they are your success stories in this regard. And they are the core around which you build (to this core you add Gorges). Their history with the team gives them some degree of loyalty and motivation. Everyone else on the team seem like they are clocking time and picking up a paycheque. So: buy out Brière and Bourque, give Gionta, Murray and Bouillon, who have all played like they cared, a dignified farewell. Bring up Beaulieu and Tinordi. For me the only plausible trade bait we have is Eller and Diaz. Eller has not been performing up to expectations, but he is young enough that someone may be convinced that in the right environment he can be the 2nd line centre he has the potential to become. Diaz is a victim of the numbers game. Package them together, get a draft choice and hope for the best. Keep on developing the talent. Be patient. This team is at best 5 years from being a legitimate contender. But do not blow any of your stars on an aging scorer who will arrive in Montreal and promptly drop production by 50%. Been there, done that.
And I launched the same question qui tue on Twitter: (These answers are shorter! One of the beauties of Twitter.)
Jean-François Bégin: What took you so long?
(To which I replied: I’m a slow worker Jean-François. Like the bumper sticker says – I’m on Irish Time.)
Tom Burke: It ain’t Therrien’s fault. It ain’t Price s fault. This team has zero toughness except a few guys. The NHL season is tough.
Francis Morin: Le groupe d’entraîneurs n’est pas le problème. Quand t’a des Bourque 3.5M , Gionta 5M, Desharnais 3.5M…
Sebastien Gagne: Too easy. Why should coaches always be the ones to pay?
Tony Russo: Therrien is only as good as the team. Question ? Has the GM help the coach at all by getting players he needs ? NOT REALLY. Until the GM has the balls to hire a coach than can coach, not one than can speak 2 languages will never win. Point final.
Hugues: not yet…Help on the ice is needed first and foremost…also looks like the other teams have figured out Therrien’s system…
Myles Dolphin: no! His system works, he proved that in November. Onus is on players to respect it and they’re not doing that.
Olivier Pinsonneault: Si CH n’existait pas, il y aurait 0 coach franco. And why no Euro coaches?Still old boys club.
Short version? Opinion divided. But if this continues until the Olympic break, I think Bergevin will have to act, either by firing Therrien or making a major trade. The good news is that he doesn’t appear to operate in the management-in-perpetual-panic mode of the Gainey & Gauthier years. You may recall that in a panic the not-so-esteemed firm of G&G tossed Jacques Martin overboard and replaced him with “interim” (i.e. lame duck) coach Randy Cunneyworth – where is he now? – and along the way, these two guys who’s lived and worked in Montreal for years forgot the team was located in a francophone province.
So no, don’t panic. Until we lose another game 5-0.
  1. Vince B says:

    To the guy who commented the team is 5 years from being a contender, wow, what can I say. You do realize the Habs have a Norris Trophy winner, a Canadian Olympic goalie, two of last year’s top rookies, and an elite American Olympic winger. That’s a helluva nucleus, and I might add the Canadiens won their division last year while finishing ahead of the Bruins. The differences this year are Therrien’s boneheaded decision to change styles from possession to dump and chase, and heavy usage of the two worst defensemen in the NHL, Bouillon and (especially) Murray.

  2. jay sokoloff says:

    Cunneyworth is now Special Assistant and Player Development Coach/Administrator of the AHL Rochester Americans. That’s a mouthful.

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