Call of the Wilde: Julien can't do it alone
Where General Manager Marc Bergevin is concerned I find myself saying “Wow, I didn’t see that coming” more often than I would like.
Last year the Montreal Canadiens had the biggest collapse in franchise history: from the best team in the entire league for the first two months of the season to the worst team in the entire league.
He was making fundamental errors at a level so low I didn’t think he could survive it.
He missed video reviews of goals that were offside.
He missed video reviews of goals where opponents ran into his goalie.
It was like he wasn’t watching the game.
He put his third power play unit out on the ice when down by one with five minutes left. When questioned he said that the other players were tired, but he had a time out left.
The same issue arose in putting the fourth line out in another game when down by one with minutes remaining and a time out. When questioned on it, he said reporters were second-guessing him.
He had massive usage errors, such as David Desharnais always getting the first shift as his top power play centre man for 34 games straight -- despite not getting a single point in that time.
I don’t lightly call for a coach to be fired, but the mistakes were so simple and so obvious and he was costing his team games.
What did Marc Bergevin think of my idea?
He said that he was in a foxhole with his coach and he would not rather have anyone else with him. No one else.
Inseparable buddies it seemed. Joined at the hip.
Next chapter: PK Subban is gone in another moment that, even though I actually said it live on the radio that Subban could and would be traded, I still ended up saying “wow, I didn’t see that coming” when it actually happened.
Bergevin just doesn’t care what the popular sentiment is. If he thinks he can get a better player in Shea Weber then it does not matter to him that Subban was the most popular player in town in decades.
Fast forward one year and wow, he’s done it again. I did not see that coming.
The man who was his go-to guy no matter what, was now his get-out-of-town no matter what.
With the worst collapse in history Bergevin said he had no worries.
Now with the team in first place in the division and fifth place overall in the conference, Therrien is fired.
Bergevin felt that Therrien deserved a pass because that .940 goalie Carey Price wasn’t there and he was replaced by that .900 goalie Mike Condon, Dustin Tokarski, Ben Scrivens.
This season, Carey Price is back so Therrien doesn’t get a pass, but guess what?
After a .940 start for two months, Price is a .900 goalie again.
Truth is: nothing gets you fired faster as a head coach than bad goaltending.
The irony here is I am the reporter who said the coach needed to get fired because he was an amateur and the GM said no way.
When the coach stopped making all of those amateur mistakes and had an excellent season behind the bench, with mistakes of a much less significant level and some very talented hockey players --including the world’s best goalie -- letting him down, I said it would be unfair for Therrien to be fired.
Then he’s axed.
You see what is at play here is two things.
One, something changed in Marc Bergevin, who said that he needed the team to change its energy.
Two, the players in Therrien’s fifth season seemed to have tired of his message.
Rumblings are moving in after the fact that there was some friction, though this is not from me.
The real reason a coach gets fired in his fifth year is the message is growing thin.
The players are tired of the same voice. The fatigue is everywhere.
I never thought I would be the guy to say this, but here it is: He should have been fired last year. He was horrible. He was an amateur behind the bench.
This year, I don’t think he should have been fired.
His system is the same as many systems in the NHL so there’s nothing there.
He didn’t make fundamental errors behind the bench of the same level as last season.
His player usage, except for Galchenyuk at times -- such as not using him in 3 on 3 overtime or a shootout -- was much improved.
He coached well this year.
The errors that made me feel he wasn’t adequate for the job were gone.
For me, the players let him down.
Carey Price let him down.
Secondary scoring let him down.
More than anyone, Marc Bergevin let him down by not getting him a centre.
Win the middle. Win the game.
Galchenyuk struggling with his game after an injury means Danault is the team’s number one at centre.
Everyone you talk to in hockey tells you that this is not good enough and it’s not close.
Bergevin has the finger pointing at him now because the players decide this.
I have made the joke before that coaches are a dime a dozen.
It’s just a joke but the point I am making is put Scotty Bowman in there and no strength down the middle and .900 goaltending and you’re going to think Scotty Bowman should be fired.
So six losses in seven games and he’s gone.
In comes Claude Julien.
He was vacationing in Vermont, out of work for only seven days.
The Bruins gave the okay that the Habs could talk to him and he was hired before Therrien even knew that his job was in jeopardy.
It’s a business. It’s not kid’s stuff.
At 1 pm, Therrien had no idea. At 4 pm, he was unemployed.
Julien is not only the right man for the job, he’s probably the only man for the job.
He’s a francophone.
He’s won a Stanley Cup.
He’s experienced at every level including representing Canada.
He can handle the fishbowl that is the Canadiens in this hockey-mad city because he’s already done it.
I think the world of Julien who would talk to me after a playoff game in Boston for an hour in the rain about hockey in general and the series.
No one has shown me even close to the respect that Julien has over my career.
I like him immensely as a coach and as a man.
Julien can do this, but he’s going to need some help.
He’s going to need Price to be better than .900.
He’s going to need Galchenyuk to be better than he has been after his injury.
He’s going to need more than 10 goals in 7 games from his team.
Most importantly, in the long run, he’s going to need his GM to get him a centreman.
If the team doesn’t get better down the middle, then he’s just putting lipstick on this to make it look pretty for a while.
He’s going to need all of this from the players that are on the squad and the better ones that are hopefully to come.
If Julien doesn’t get all these things, let’s be honest here, he’s just another Therrien.