Canadiens' new coach is a familiar face

785076.jpg

Canadiens' new coach is a familiar face

From Comcast SportsNet
MONTREAL (AP) -- Michel Therrien is coach of the Montreal Canadiens again, a home-grown product who rejoins a storied franchise that fell to last place this season and angered many Francophone fans across Quebec over a previous coaching hire. Therrien, a Montreal native, succeeds Randy Cunneyworth. He coached the Canadiens from 2000 until he was replaced by Claude Julien in 2003. The announcement Tuesday ended weeks of speculation over the choice by new general manager Marc Bergevin. Former NHL coach Marc Crawford and the popular former goaltender Patrick Roy, now coach and general manager of the junior Quebec Remparts, were also believed to be top candidates. Therrien has been working in television since he was let go by the Pittsburgh Penguins a few weeks before their run to the Stanley Cup in 2009. He inherits a Canadiens team that went 31-35-16 this season, finished last in the Eastern Conference and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Therrien acknowledges he's different from the time he first coached the team. "We all change," he said. "There's a lot of people in that dressing room here and I could tell you guys (media) changed a lot, too." "It goes with maturity," he added. "I got a lot of experience coaching that club before and I brought that experience and knowledge when I left Montreal." Cunneyworth was made interim coach after Jacques Martin was fired in December. The move provoked howls of protest among many in Quebec because he was the first non-French speaker to hold the job in four decades. Canadiens President Geoff Molson apologized and promised the next coach would be bilingual. At the end of the season, the team announced that Cunneyworth was no longer the coach and it would be up to the new coach to decide whether to keep him as an assistant. Therrien was hired by Montreal in 1997 to coach their top farm team, which was then in Fredericton after taking the junior Granby Predators to a Memorial Cup the previous year. He was hired as coach of the Canadiens in 2000 to replace the fired Alain Vigneault. Therrien's team ended a four-year run of missing the playoffs by reaching the second round in 2002. He had a 77-77-36 record in his first stint with the Canadiens. "I'm certainly a better coach now than I was 10 or 15 years ago. I learned a lot about myself. I learned a lot about the game, too. And when I did pro scouting I saw the game in a little different way. The experience I got will certainly help me a lot." After leaving Montreal, he joined the Penguins' AHL club in Wilkes-Barre from 2003 until he was called up to Pittsburgh to replace Ed Olczyk in 2005. "I got a chance to work with some great, young kids over there (Wilkes-Barre) and we reached the Calder Cup final and when I moved back to the NHL I was confident," Therrien said. "I got a great challenge in Pittsburgh and got the chance to work with some great young players and the confidence in all those things helped me a lot." The following season, a Penguins team led by Sidney Crosby made a 47-point jump to 105 points. In 2007-08, they reached the Stanley Cup final, losing in six games to Detroit. The team was faltering late in the 2008-09 campaign when Therrien was replaced by Dan Bylsma, who took the club to its first Stanley Cup since 1992. Therrien has coached 462 NHL games with a 212-182-68 record. He is 21-16 in playoffs games. Between the NHL and AHL, he has coached an even 1,000 pro games. He is the sixth man to have a second stint as Canadiens coach, joining Newsy Lalonde, Leo Danderand, Cecil Hart, Claude Ruel and Bob Gainey. Gainey, who also was general manager, coached two seasons -- in 2004-05 after Julien was fired and 2008-09 after Guy Carbonneau was let go. "I found a guy who learns, who adapts well and who understands that things change," general manager Marc Bergevin said. "His work ethic is second to none and that's important to me. I made the decision and I'm really comfortable with it."

Quick Links

Lots of talk about Trent Williams at guard instead of tackle - don't listen

Lots of talk about Trent Williams at guard instead of tackle - don't listen

With Trent Williams eligible to return to the Redskins after serving a four-game suspension, much chatter has emerged about the All Pro left tackle moving inside to play left guard.

Don't listen to that chatter.

Williams made the move inside to guard once this season, during a win in New York when injuries decimated the Redskins offensive line. He played well, especially considering Williams said after that game that he had never played guard in his life. 

For Washington moving forward, some fans want Williams at left guard and Shawn Lauvao sent to the bench. That would mean Ty Nsekhe stays at left tackle. 

A few problems with this plan: 1) Trent Williams is the best left tackle on the team, and maybe in the NFL. 2) Injuries are mounting up for Nsekhe and right tackle Morgan Moses, not to mention the rest of the offensive line.

Nsekhe left the locker room in Arizona with a walking boot on his foot. Moses has dealt with a severely sprained ankle since Halloween. A healthy Williams returning to the team allows Nsekhe or Moses sit and get the rest they need for their injuries. 

Further, on Sunday in a loss to the Cardinals, center Spencer Long sustained a concussion. His backup John Sullivan came in and handled the center duties well. 

Some might suggest that Long move to guard, Sullivan stay at center, and Lauvao go to the bench. That move has more merit than moving Williams inside, but still seems like it would be a reach. And now with Long forced to enter the NFL concussion protocol, it's unclear when he will be back on the field at all.

Another suggestion has been to move Nsekhe inside to left guard. Consider that Nsekhe has been a development project; he's bounced around lower professional football leagues and at age 31 only has six career NFL starts. Couple that with his size - he's 6-foot-8 - and it's a tall task to move from tackle to guard. 

Lauvao played poorly against the Cardinals, that's indisputable. But as much as some fans believe a reworked offensive line is the answer, moving those pieces is not very simple. Coaches and players like and respect Lauvao, and his play can only improve with Trent Williams back standing next to him. 

Like all things in sports, the situation will remain fluid. More injuries could force more changes, but speaking with folks that know the situation, do not expect to see Williams at guard when he returns to the field next week in Philadelphia. 

Quick Links

3 bold predictions: Can Caps end their skid against Sabres?

3 bold predictions: Can Caps end their skid against Sabres?

The Capitals beat the Buffalo Sabres the day after Thanksgiving. That was the last time they've won. Now Washington will look to end a three-game skid as they host the Sabres again on Monday (7 p.m. on CSN).

Here are three bold predictions for Monday's game:

1. Jack Eichel will record two points

Buffalo managed only one goal the last time these two teams met, but that was without Jack Eichel. With him back in tow, this is a completely different offense. He should expect a heavy dose of Matt Niskanen and Karl Alzner, but Eichel is the real deal and has registered four points in his first two games back this season.

RELATED: NHL POWER RANKINGS: JUST A SLUMP OR IS IT TIME TO PANIC?

2. The Caps will not score on the power play

That's not really too bold these days considering Washington has only one power play goal in their last 16 opportunities. This would look like a good opportunity to get back on track considering Buffalo has the 29th penalty kill in the NHL (77.2 percent). The Sabres, however, do not take many penalties. Buffalo is ninth in minors taken this year and are 2-1-0 since losing to the Caps. They are not playing frustrated and are less likely to take foolish penalties. With fewer opportunities, the Caps' struggling power play is not likely to return to form.

3. Both teams will take roughing penalties and/or a fight in the third period

Considering that these two teams met last week and will play again on Friday, things will get physical late as both teams will look to send a message. That will result in some extended scrums and pawing, maybe even a fight. But I don't expect either team to really run away with this one, making a late fight unlikely.

MORE CAPITALS: DAILY QUOTE: 'WE NEED TO BE A LITTLE MORE GRITTY'