Hockey is the only thing that keeps Canadians from committing mass suicide during drawn-out winters. And perhaps no one has been so close to suicide lately as the people of Montreal. When the Habs stumbled to a 13-12-7 start this season, head coach Jacques Martin was canned and replaced with interim Randy Cunneyworth. Many Quebecois were peeved that Cunneyworth didn't speak French. Today, the Canadiens hired Michel Therrien. He speaks French, but he's a bad coach.
The Canadiens made the playoffs four years in a row, from 2007-08 to 2010-11, but 2011-12 was an absolute disaster. Not only was Martin canned, but veteran Michael Cammalleri was shipped to Calgary after he trash-talked the team. "I can't accept that we will display a losing attitude as we're doing this year," he said. "We prepare for our games like losers. We play like losers. So it's no wonder why we lose."
The new GM, Marc Bergevin, hired in May, was supposed to change things. He's a rising star in the hockey world, a successful scout and assistant GM in Chicago. His first challenge was finding Cunneyworth's replacement, and, judging from the response in Montreal, he's bombed it.
This will be Therrien's second stint as head coach in Montreal; he took over for Alain Vigneault 20 games into the 2000-01 season, made the playoffs in 2001-02 (in his only full season), and was fired in 2003 after 46 games. Therrien wasn't successful the first time around—why should we expect his second run to go better? That's why Adam Proteau of The Hockey News said, "[Therrien's] hiring has the stench of a stopgap measure."
Some Habs bloggers are already using Therrien's hiring to predict that the tenure of the newly-hired Bergevin will be a failure:
[If Bergevin's] judgment and the advice he's taking led him down a road that ended with Therrien being considered, interviewed and hired, the flag I see is red and it tells me that we are very much on the same course as before and any expectations of a great franchise turnaround might have to wait until the next big clean out.
That being said, this hiring feels very much like Bergevin's first big mistake, and while it may be harsh to be that absolute before the team's roster has been overhauled, it's easy to see why so many fans feel this way. Therrien represents a coach from the Habs deeply depressing dark ages that NOBODY wants to revisit, and he represents Molson's lie that the best man for the job would be hired, language be damned.
Christ, that's upsetting. The Habs have a new coach, a new GM, and no hope.