With the announced extension of Alain Vigneault’s Vancouver Canucks coaching contract, it seems to me Marc Bergevin has only two head coaching choices left. Considering the language limitations attached to the Canadiens job description and the need for someone with NHL coaching experience, the two obvious candidates still standing are Marc Crawford and Bob Hartley, both of whom are French speaking Ontarians. We constantly hear the names of Guy Carbonneau and Michel Therrien but for a number reasons which include having already been fired by the Canadiens, their candidacy seems to be a non-starter. (more on that below)
So let’s get to it. Crawford and Hartley were both Stanley Cup winners at Colorado thanks to a packed Avalanche lineup that included Patrick Roy, Peter Forsberg and Joe Sakic. Crawford handed things over to Hartley when the Avalanche refused to give him more than a one year contract extension only a year after winning the Stanley Cup. Less than a year later he landed in Vancouver where he started the rebuild of the Canucks from a non-playoff team to the team we know today. He followed that with stints in Los Angeles and Dallas. He’s been out of work for a year.
After 4 1/2 years in Colorado Hartley had a four year run in Atlanta before being fired six games into the 2007-2008 season. He has been ignored in the NHL since although, in the first year of a two-year contract he coached Zurich to the Swiss National League championship in April.
They are much different in their coaching style. Crawford tends to lean more toward an offense oriented game whereas Hartley is a strict adherant of the Jacques Lemaire neutral zone trap .
Each has had difficulty controlling his emotions. Hartley’s constant brow beating of his players caused him to eventually lose the loyalty of both the Colorado and Atlanta dressing rooms. Crawford, on the other hand, is a co-defendant in the 19 million dollar Steve Moore lawsuit; accused, while coach of the Canucks, of ordering the March, 2004 Todd Bertuzzi on ice mugging that ended Moore’s career. The lawsuit is expected to go to trial this fall in Toronto.
Unltimately, Bergevin’s final choice may come down to the direction he wishes his team to take. The options are a Vancouver style offense which can dominate the regular season or a tight checking defense-oriented team such as the current New Jersey and Los Angeles playoff teams. Defense-first, it’s Hartley. If Bergevin wants a more open style game, it’s Crawford. Take your pick. After three years of Jacques Martin hockey, I would love to see some offense at the Bell Centre. Problem with that, offense is being lost to shot blocking and forechecking in recent playoffs.
As to the two other names being mentioned.
I never got the sense that Guy Carbonneau had a good grasp on complications of coaching the game the way it’s now played in the NHL and I say that knowing that his team won the Northeast division and a playoff round in his second season. There was a lack of purpose in the way his teams played which eventually led to Bob Gainey taking over from him with fewer than twenty games left in his third season. Carbonneau needs to figure things out with a head coaching stint inthe American Hockey League something he’s apparently not inclined to do.
And heaven forbid any thought of a Michel Therrien return. In Montreal, Therrien is best remembered for blundering his way through the 2006 Eastern conference semi final series against Carolina. With the Canadiens up 2-1 in games and leading 3-0 in the third period of game four, Stephane Quintal took a clear crosschecking penalty. Therrien went ballistic drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty putting the Canadiens two men short. Erik Cole scored to tie the game. In overtime Therrien neglected to put a second centreman on the ice for a defensive zone faceoff. With Yannic Perreault, the NHL’s leading faceoff man on his bench, centre Joey Juneau was kicked out of the faceoff circle and fourth line winger Bill Lindsay promptly lost the draw and Niclas Wallin scored to win the game. Carolina went on to win the series and eventually the Stanley Cup.
The Canadiens eventually fired Therrien. He wound up in Pittsburgh and gave the hockey world this famous January 2006 media directed slagging of his own team which, a la Bob Hartley, did little to promote the loyalty of his players. He was fired four years ago from what quite possibly was his last NHL coaching job.