Montreal Canadiens Coaching Options

With Marc Bergevin not guaranteeing Michel Therrien’s return for 2016-17, a list of potential coaching replacements is beginning to shape up.

On Tuesday, Montreal Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien went from being a near-lock to return to the Canadiens helm to not having the full support of General Manager Marc Bergevin, all within an eight hour span.

So, where do we go from here?

If I had to make a wager, I would bet that Michel Therrien is not behind the bench next season. I don’t necessarily believe he will be fired as Therrien has 3 years remaining on his extension that was signed in June 2014. I think Bergevin will shift Therrien’s role into a hockey advisory position and he will remain within the Montreal Canadiens organization in that capacity.

Now the question shifts to who would replace Therrien behind the bench? First and foremost, the coach will almost undoubtedly need to speak French fluently due to political and media influences. That essentially eliminates two-thirds of the potential candidates.

So who’s left?

Guy Boucher – 97-78-20

Guy Boucher’s name has been an extremely popular candidate for the Habs since he coached the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2009-10. His lone season with the Bulldogs resulted in a .719 Win Percentage and a 1st place finish and catapulted Boucher to coaching the Tampa Bay Lightning for two and a half seasons.

Boucher is a master of the 1-3-1 defensive trap system and he used that to near perfection in his first year in Tampa, getting the team to the Eastern Conference Finals. The following season, Boucher’s system was figured out and his success waned. Boucher was ultimately fired after being unable to regain the success he had from the 2010-11 season.

Since exiting Tampa, Boucher coached SC Bern of the Swiss National League A. Boucher enjoyed a very successful 2014-15 season where Bern posted a 32-13-5 record while being eliminated in the 2nd round of the playoffs.

Boucher was fired this past November from Bern. It came about a week after Boucher declared his interest in returning to the NHL and that it was his last season in Switzerland. Bern had also lost its previous four games prior to Boucher’s dismissal.

Marc Crawford – 549-421-103-78

Crawford represents the veteran in this list of candidates, having coached over 1,200 NHL games with the Quebec Nordiques, Colorado Avalanche, Vancouver Canucks, Los Angeles Kings and Dallas Stars. Crawford won the 1995 Jack Adams Award for Coach of the Year with Quebec as well as the 1996 Stanley Cup after Quebec moved to Colorado.

Since his Nordique/Avalanche days, Crawford has been hard-pressed to recapture that level of success. Though he had a solid run in Vancouver, fans last memories of the veteran coach are from his rather disappointing years in Los Angeles and Dallas.

Crawford has been accused of favoring veteran’s over utilizing prospects, a similar criticism as Therrien. But I’m not entirely sure that is the case. Yes, Crawford likes his veterans, every coach does, but Crawford has also been a key influence to names like Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Todd Bertuzzi, Markus Naslund, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Jack Johnson, James Neal and Jamie Benn. That’s a pretty impressive list.

Since being let go by Dallas in 2011, Crawford has been in Switzerland, coaching the Zurich Lions for the past 4 seasons, culminating in a league title in 2013-14. Most notably, he was Auston Matthews coach this past season, who scored 24 goals and 46 points in only 36 games as a 17-year old.

Kirk Muller – 55-60-15

Apr 5, 2014; Raleigh, NC, USA; Carolina Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller reacts against the New Jersey Devils at PNC Arena. The New Jersey Devils defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 5, 2014; Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Captain Kirk holds a special place in the hearts of many Habs fans due to his time as a player in Montreal, which led to the 1993 Stanley Cup win. He is also one of the few coaching candidates in which I believe the Habs faithful would waive the “Must Speak French” prerequisite.

Since retiring in 2003, Muller has been a prominent member on multiple coaching staffs, most notably as an assistant in Montreal for five seasons.

After leaving Montreal and a small stint in the AHL, Muller took the reigns in Carolina but lasted just 130 disappointing games. Muller ultimately got caught up with a team that was stuck in transition and just was not built to win at the time.

Since leaving Carolina, Kirk has taken his familiar post as an assistant coach in St. Louis under Ken Hitchcock.

Pascal Vincent – 407-278-33-52 **QMJHL only

Admittedly, I don’t know too much about Pascal Vincent other than he played 4 years in the QMJHL and 1 year in the ECHL in the early 1990’s. He has also spent 11 years as a Head Coach in the QMJHL from 2000-2011, never winning a league title but making the playoffs every season.

Vincent has spent the last 5 seasons as an assistant coach with the Winnipeg Jets, first under Claude Noel and now under Paul Maurice.

While in the QMJHL, the only notable NHL talent developed under Vincent includes Marc-Andre Fleury, Ondrej Pavelec, Jake Allen, Adam Pardy, James Sheppard and Xavier Ouellet. It’s not exactly impressive but Vincent’s ability with goaltenders sparks my interest as a potential replacement in St. John’s.

Other Candidates

Guy Carbonneau – 124-83-23 with Montreal

Claude Noel – 90-87-24 with Columbus and Winnipeg

Dan Lacroix – 9 seasons as an Assistant Coach with NY Islanders, Tampa Bay, NY Rangers and Montreal

J.J. Daigneault – 4 seasons as an Assistant Coach with Montreal

Benoit Groulx – 14 seasons as Head Coach in QMJHL and 2 seasons as Head Coach in AHL

My Choice

If I were in charge, my candidates would be Guy Boucher and Kirk Muller. Marc Crawford finishes a close 3rd as I am intrigued by his ability to develop young talent. My only real concern with him is how in-touch with today’s game is he as he hasn’t been in the NHL for almost 6 years.

Between Boucher and Muller, it would likely be Boucher who is named coach and he likely should be the choice. He has had success in the NHL. The only real worry is how he has evolved since his last stint and all indications are he has moved on from the highly criticized 1-3-1 system.

Ultimately though, with Montreal’s restrictions on who “can” be coach, the list of candidates will always be limited and the best candidates will generally never be seriously considered.

 

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