Monday, December 19, 2011

And in Montreal they bid (a fond?) au revior to Jacques Martin!

The warning shot and sacrificial lamb that was Perry Pearn earlier this year wasn't enough it seems, so on Saturday, with game time once again coming close, Pierre Gauthier, the General Manager of the Montreal Canadiens tossed his long time friend Jacques Martin off the bridge of the SS Canadiens.

The move to replace Martin certainly won't be considered a surprise, a good number  of Montreal fans had been anticipating (er, make that praying for) the day for more than a few seasons, the Canadiens tumble down the standings and with a playoff appearance once again in peril, the odds were short on a longer relationship between coach, players and fans.

Still, considering the history of both Gauthier and Martin, most observers didn't really see the move coming  when it did, more than a few figured that Gauthier would end up fired first, taking Martin with him upon departure day.

Perhaps with that possibility staring him down, Gauthier chose career path over his friends list, or perhaps the choice was made for him.  Things have been rather tight lipped at the Bell Centre under the Gauthier regime, not that the Habs were particularly chatty during the Bob Gainey years mind you.

Still, with one of the NHL's marquee franchises, an original sixes, stumbling badly, something that Montrealers just can't really relate to, change was inevitable, with Randy Cunneyworth the one tapped on the shoulder to lead the floundering Canadiens for the remainder of the season.

A decision, which has of course inflamed emotions among the fan base and stoked the commentators fires across the province owing to the fact that Cunneyworth is not schooled in the French language, he's the first unilingual head coach in Montreal since the days of Bob Berry.

It will provide for an added bit of attention to his coaching situation that makes one wonder how the rest of the season will play out,  with five months or more where wins and losses on the ice may be overshadowed by vowels and consonants in the media briefings.

Already, with but two days on the job, the media and political knives are out for Cunneyworth, politicians in the province making political hay over the appointment, the battalion of journalists and reporters that are charged with the Canadiens story already churning out the copy, more than a few expressing their incredulous reaction to the appointment of Cunneyworth to the job, much of that reaction based not on his hockey knowledge but his lack of French.

Cunneyworth it is said hopes to learn French during his time at the helm of the Canadiens, as would make sense if you're going to coach a team in a predominantly French speaking city, the example of Bob Gainey being used frequently in the last 48 hours as someone who conquered the syntax and pronunciation hurdles of the language.  Though one wonders how much time Cunneyworth will have at the moment to devote to any Rosetta Stone discs, considering the struggling nature of his hockey club,

The General Manager stressed (make that went out of his way) it seems the temporary nature of the appointment, a term but for the rest of the season with a reassessment  to be made at seasons' end. Where he said Cunneyworth would gain consideration for a full time appointment.

Considering all that swirls in Montreal these days, that's a pretty bold declaration and not one that the coach might want to hinge and big life time decisions on.

There's no guarantee that Gauthier himself will be in charge by that point, let alone that Cunneyworth's skills as a coach alone will prove to be enough to secure a position in the NHL's most challenging city. (In other words, don't go buying a house just yet Mr. Cunneyworth)

Though if nothing else, his time behind the bench in Montreal should prove make for a heck of a resume builder, considering the pressure from so many directions that the job holds.  Many GM's will be watching how he handles all of the sideshow events of coaching in Montreal, should things go sideways, depending on his success, there are still 29 other teams that will be watching with interest.

Should the slide continue on into January and beyond, neither Cunneyworth nor Gauthier may be there when training camp breaks in September 2012, the list of names of possible replacements no doubt already percolating in the taverns, newsrooms and living rooms of Quebec.

One name to keep an ear open for, Patrick Roy, many in Montreal have long held the belief that Roy would provide behind the bench the competitive fire that Montreal seems to lack on the ice, he would no doubt be a popular choice across the board for many who hold the Canadiens as cultural icons far above a competitive hockey team (though they clearly would prefer the Canadiens become the latter as well).

While Jacques Martin packs up his boxes and exits the Bell Centre, he might be inclined to leave a few empty ones behind, there's a good chance they'll be used before they gather much in the way of dust.

Montreal Gazette-- Jacques Martin's dismissal won't change Habs' fortunes
Montreal Gazette-- Coach takes the fall, but management shares some blame
Montreal Gazette-- Canadiens fans thank Santa for Jacques Martin firing
Montreal Gazette-- Gauthier fired the wrong guy, says Jack Todd
Montreal Gazette-- Basic system will likely stay the same under Cunneyworth
Montreal Gazette-- Were players expected to impress new head coach on first night
Montreal Gazette-- Okay, now what?
CJAD Montreal-- New coach, same old !@!!*?&!!
CJAD Montreal-- Cunneyworth's lack of French not going over well with some
CTV News Montreal-- Francophones decry hiring of unilingual anglophone coach
Globe and Mail-- Habs coaching appointment stokes Quebec nationalist sentiments
Globe and Mail-- For the first time in decades, there's no French behind Habs' bench
Globe and Mail-- Pierre Gauthier could be next in Habs' firing line
Globe and Mail-- Habs strike a nerve in Quebec's language debates
Globe and Mail-- Habs fire coach Jacques Martin
National Post-- Martin most recent in long line of scapegoats
National Post-- Montreal Canadiens axe head coach Jacques Martin
Toronto Star-- Montreal Canadiens fire head coach Jacques Martin
Toronto Sun-- Sacre bleu: New Habs coach unilingual
Toronto Sun-- Will Cunneyworth survive the meat grinder?
Toronto Sun-- Habs GM deserves boot, not well-respected coach
Toronto Sun-- Canadiens fire head coach Martin
CBC Sports-- Jacques Martin fired
ESPN-- Martin firing won't solve Canadiens' woes
NBC Sports-- Another coach bites the dust: Montreal fires Jacques Martin
Sportsnet-- The root of the problems
Sportsnet-- Habs strike nerve of Quebecers
Sportsnet-- All things related

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