|Randy Cunneyworth - Sacrifical lamb?|
The newspapers, radio and television are talking of nothing else and for once, reflect accurately what Quebecers want to talk about.
As is always the case, language rules and the first topic of discussion is new coach Randy Cunneyworth's lack of French.
Lost in the discussion is the fact that he wasn't given a real mandate, just the opportunity to finish out the year with the elusive promise of 'we'll see what happens.'
The decision to replace Jacques Martin was perhaps no surprise, but the promotion of Cunneyworth was. It signals a certain level of panic by general manager Pierre Gauthier who now appears to be working to save his own job.
Gauthier admitted that he's been mulling over the change for a couple of weeks, so he had plenty of time to look around for a French-speaking coach, something even he, in the Ivory Tower of the executive offices of the Bell Centre understands is necessary.
But as I mentioned in a post last week, when it comes to francophone coaches, at the moment, the pickings are slim, the most talented already having been used up and spewed out by the impatient Habs or otherwise gainfully employed and under contract by other teams.
A bunch of former francophone coaches are working for the RDS network (the French version of TSN) and on a post-game show on Saturday night, recounted the circumstances of their firings and the residual bitterness that they still harbour.
Since 1985 the Habs have had twelve coaches averaging just two years, a shameful display of panic and immaturity that reflects not on the coaches, but management. The average amount of games coached by these gentlemen is less than 200 each.
Having grown up watching the legendary Toe Blake and Scotty Bowman coach for a combined 23 years behind the bench, it's a bit depressing to watch the panic and fear that rules upper management's decisions vis-a-vis coaches this last quarter century.
In the 39 years between 1940 to 1979, the Canadiens had but four coaches and won sixteen Stanley Cups and by the way, of the 23 Stanley Cups won by the Canadiens, 19 were teams led by Anglophone coaches.
And so it seems that the Canadiens have given up on the year, a shame because the fans haven't quite been ready to throw in the towel just yet.
No doubt Cunneyworth understands his position as caretaker, holding the fort until a francophone can be found.
It appears that last year's wonder boy, Tampa Bay Lightening coach Guy Boucher has gone from hero to zero with the team wallowing in last place and might be available sooner than later.
The same goes for Bob Hartley who is having a dreadful time over in Switzerland and is likely to be canned soon.
These two, in my mind, are the most likely candidates to take over in the off season.
By the way, the Canadiens never considered Patrick Roy, who admitted that his phone hasn't rung.
As for Cunneyworth's lack of French, the reaction was mostly subdued with most commentators warning that if he turns around the team, he might be tolerated, but if things remain the same or deteriorate, he will be mercilessly hounded out of the job.
Perhaps he can turn the season around, the 2011 version of the Canadiens have been hopeless under-performers, with player after player turning in sub-par performances, so far.
Was that Martin's fault?.... It remains to be seen.
Of course injuries haven't helped, but blaming the Markov fiasco, wherein the 5 million dollar plus man hasn't played a single game this year, is no excuse. Other teams such as Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have shown how good they can be despite injuries that make the Canadiens look healthy.
But the long term looks grim for the team, francophone or anglophone coach aside. The team has tied up millions of dollars on long-term contracts for players who are notorious for their lack of production or absence through injury.
Perhaps the saddest of all player moves was the acquisition of ex-Maple Leaf castoff, the overpaid Thomas Kaberle.
There was a time that the Leafs were manned by Montreal Canadiens rejects and sadly, that seems to have reversed.
As for language, get ready for some interesting times as the Press spoils to crucify the Habs new Anglophone coach.
After the 5-3 loss to the Devils in Cunnyworth's first game, he was already criticized for running the same old game plan as Martin.
After one game!
For that matter, there will be no honeymoon with the fans either. In the third period with the hometown Habs trailing the Devils, the new coach was serenaded by the boo-birds, something not heard in the Bell Centre for quite a while.
As the Habs melt down, one of the last vestiges of Quebec pride is fading to black.
At least the fans and the Press can content themselves with blaming the fiasco on an Anglo coach.