A good friend of mine, a die-hard Habs fan and a habitual pain in my rear when the Leafs and Canadien play each other in their mammoth hockey clashes, uttered words of shock and horror just moments after he had found out about the Montreal Canadiens firing Carbonneau.
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If you haven't heard - Guy Carbonneau has been fired by the Montreal Canadiens, with Bob Gainey taking interim coaching responsibilities.
Though many are shocked and surprised, we shouldn't be really. The Montreal Canadiens have pretty much been in a free-fall since January, and while they have shown signs every now and again that they are about to get out of their rut, the relief just doesn't come. Being a Toronto resident and a Leaf fan, I've heard a lot of Montreal Canadiens referring to this, their centennial year, as being their year. In all honesty, it wasn't hard to understand where they were coming from with the way that they started off this season: a 7-1-1 record through October, and 13 wins in their first 23 games led many people to believe that the Habs were on a ruthless route to another cup. Another hot run stretching from late December into early January re-enforced that belief. However, since then this team has looked nothing like that team - it's been merely a shadow of their former selves.
Guy Carbonneau is a good, young coach, and will leave after posting a respectable 124-83-23 record with Montreal. The timing may confuse people, seeing as it's close to season's end, with the playoffs around the corner, and after the trade deadline. However, this is where I give Bob Gainey the thumbs-up: he has recognized that his team needs a massive shake up to disturb the status-quo. This is a team that has performed like one of the best teams in the league at times this season, and that was rightfully selected as the bench mark for future performances. Also, considering the fact that key team personel including Alex Tanguay, Saku Koivu, Alex Kovalev, the dearly missed Robert Lang, Mike Komisarek, and Christopher Higgins are all playing in contract years means that Gainey can be forgiven for suggesting that the time for winning in Montreal is now.
He's an astute manager who felt that doing nothing at the trade deadline was the right move, even when it seemed that a (indeed, ANY) move was required. It didn't work out for him, and he's reacted, and he deserves a big thumbs up for that. Whether the Canadien win the Cup or not, remains to be seen. However, there is no doubting that Gainey's shake up will elicit a reaction amongst the player personnel to right the ship, secure home-ice advantage, and pursue the cup.
Change was needed - change, geared to going back to the ruthless Habs of the early season.
NOTES - The injury plagued Mike van Ryn had his disappointing first season as a Maple Leaf come to an end officially today, with news that he would miss the remainder of the season with a torn MCL picked up in Saturday's defeat against the Oilers.
van Ryn has been plagued with injuries for extended periods of his career: he played just 20 games as a Panther last season, recovering from a wrist injury, and missed a further 13 games when he was brutally concussed by Tom Kostopolous' hit from behind in November.A second concussion, this time at the hands of big Milan Lucic, caused a further 16 games to be written off, and was again injured against the Canadien with an undisclosed lower-body injury in February. The luck-struck defenceman has only managed to play 27 games this season. However, in those 27 games he managed three goals and eight assists, and showed that he's the rugged, defense-first, simple defense man that Brian Burke likes. He is contracted through next year at 2.9 million, and at 29, should be a stop-gap piece during the transitional years at the Air Canada Centre. If he can perform next season the way he has this season, and remain healthy and consistent, then don't be surprised if Brian Burke deems the NHL veteran one worthy of sticking around in the long run.
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