Well, I can’t say I wasn’t surprised by the news today that Guy Carbonneau had been fired by the Canadiens.
One of the main reasons for my surprise is the close relationship that Carbonneau and Gainey enjoy. Considering the closeness of the coach and GM, it is hard to say today’s news wasn’t surprising.
Carbonneau was seen by many as one of the up-and-coming NHL head coaches after the Habs’ performance last season. The Canadiens finished 1st in the Eastern Conference and eventually lost in the 2nd round to the Philadelphia Flyers. The first place finish was not expected, and Carbonneau was given full credit around the NHL for helping develop this team at a faster pace than many believed would happen.
As for this season, the Habs were favored by many to take the Eastern Conference and possibly win the Cup in their centennial season. It appears the expectations were too much for this team to handle, as the Habs have been mired in controversy all season. However, how much of that should be put on Carbonneau? He really doesn’t have control over his players off the ice, and many of his players are coming up on free agency. So, these distractions are not exactly within his control.
What may have been Carbonneau’s downfall was the regression of the team’s young players. Carey Price has struggled immensely between the pipes–and has been the subject of Carbonneau’s ire on a couple occasions. Additionally, the Kostitsyn brothers haven’t exactly set the world on fire and Tomas Plekanec and Chris Higgins have certainly not been as good as they were in 2007/08.
Combine the young players’ struggles with the veterans’ average showing this season and the Habs have been among the bigger NHL disappointments.
But for all their struggles, the Habs still stand 5th place in the Eastern Conference. Gainey must think this team is salvageable, because if he didn’t, he wouldn’t jump behind the bench with so little of the season remaining. Think about it; if he didn’t think this team had what it takes, he’d let the year play out, release Carbonneau from his duties and then, with all the team’s free agents, give the team a facelift in the summer. His decision to put himself behind the bench puts the spotlight squarely on Gainey’s shoulders.
Habs fans can take solace in the fact that Gainey has a solid record as a head coach (guiding the North Stars to the Finals in 1991), but at the same time, so did Guy Carbonneau (124-83-23).
I guess we will find out soon whether the Montreal’s problem was the players or the coach. Either way, I don’t see Carbonneau being out of work for long.