Contrary to a large and very vocal segment of Montreal fandom, who would blame him for everything from losing hockey games to global warming, I always thought Jacques Martin is a very good hockey coach.

We in the media would have liiked to see  more openness when it came to the nuts and bolts of running the team, but there was never much doubt among his players about the systems he put in place and what he expected out of each of them.

Hanging over the team though was the persistent lack of  consistency and that clear and present danger of an elongated slump that would push the team out of playoff contention.  Jacques Martin wasn’t on the ice when those third period leads were being blown,  but he may have had something to do with that fall-back defensive mindset that allowed opponents to completely dominate his team in the late stages of far too many games.

When the Canadiens beat the Islanders on Tuesday it was the first time they had won two in a row in a month.  Even then, the Canadiens blew a 3-0 lead in the third period and had to get a late goal to salvage the win.  At that point, if they hadn’t started already, I’m sure Pierre Gauthier was starting  to have negative thoughts.

Make no mistake.  As currently constructed, the Canadiens are a very mediocre group.  170 man-games in injuries have a lot to do with it.   Blame the schedule, blame the injuries which now total almost 170 man games, ultimately and inevitably – blame the coach.    Whatever the excuse, the coach is the ultimate victiim.

Martin worked in front of a tough, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately crowd.  On his Montreal coaching obituary it should be remembered that he got his team to the Easern Conference final two years ago and last season lost in a seventh game overtime to the eventual Stanley Cup winning team.

So now it’s Randy Cunneyworth.  Who knows what kind of NHL head coach he’ll be.   He had a very good year as head coach of the Hamilton Bulldogs last season.  He’s unilingual which inevitably will be an issue.  Canadiens assistant GM Larry Carriere will move behind the bench, joining Randy Ladouceur in an assistant coaching role.

From the Canadiens Publicity Department

MONTREAL (December 17, 2011) – The Montreal Canadiens announced today that Jacques Martin has been relieved of his duties as head coach of the Canadiens and that assistant Randy Cunneyworth would take the reins of the team through the end of the 2011-2012 season.

The 50-year old Randy Cunneyworth joined the Canadiens organisation in 2010-11 as head coach of the team’s AHL affiliate in Hamilton, leading the Bulldogs to a record of 44-27-9. Cunneyworth, who joined the Canadiens coaching staff in 2011-12 had spent two seasons as an assistant with the Atlanta Thrashers, from 2008 to 2010. Previously, Cunneyworth was head coach of the AHL Rochester Americans for nine seasons, leaving the franchise as the second winningest coach with 268 victories. The Etobicoke, Ontario native played 15 seasons in the NHL, recording 414 points in 866 career games.

Appointed Assistant General Manager of the Montreal Canadiens on July 16, 2010, Larry Carrière will join the Canadiens coaching staff as an assistant to Cunneyworth. Carrière has over two decades of experience in hockey management as General Manager, Director of Player Personnel and amateur scout. The Montreal-born Carrière, played 367 games in the NHL with Buffalo, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Toronto and Atlanta between 1972 and 1980.

Jacques Martin was in his third season at the helm of the Canadiens in 2011-12. In 196 games behind the Montreal bench, he led the team to 96 wins, 75 losses and 25 overtime losses. Throughout his NHL head coaching career, Martin recorded 613 wins, 481 losses, 119 ties and 81 overtime losses in 1,294 games