Canadiens' new coach is a familiar face

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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."

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Development Camp players to watch: Who will emerge as the next Capitals star?

Development Camp players to watch: Who will emerge as the next Capitals star?

This year’s development camp for the Capitals will not include some of the bigger-name prospects such as Jakub Vrana, Madison Bowey or Christian Djoos. There is only so much the team can learn from players competing against other prospects making multiple return trips unnecessary.

The storylines for those players will play out in Caps' training camp in September and October. But, this camp still provides plenty of players for fans to keep an eye on.

Shane Gersich, F

Gersich enjoyed a breakout sophomore season at North Dakota last year with 21 goals and 37 points in 40 games. He was in the conversation for the Hobey Baker Award for the top college player in the nation through the first half of the season and highlighted his skills with an overtime goal off an incredible spin move. As a fifth-round pick, not much was expected of Gersich, but perhaps he showed last season that there is more untapped potential in him than once thought. Was last season an anomaly or evidence that the team may have something here?

RELATED: Four 2017 draftees among prospects attending development camp

Jonas Siegenthaler, D

The Swiss defenseman is one of the more highly touted prospects in the entire organization. He always seems to dazzle in international play, including the 2017 World Junior Championship, but his play has been spotty whenever he has comes to North America. Whether he can adjust to the North American game may be the biggest question facing his NHL potential. Siegenthaler dealt with a family issue in Washington's training camp last season which seemed to affect his play. The team will no doubt feel better about his NHL future if he can shake that off and show what he can do on this side of the pond this week.

Connor Hobbs, D

Hobbs turned a lot of heads last season with the performance he put on in the WHL. He tallied 31 goals and 85 points in 67 games as a defenseman. That’s an incredible rate of production. He can utilize both his booming slap shot and sneaky wrist shot from the blue line to score or set-up the offense. His defensive acumen needs some work, but he has clearly and quickly established himself as a high-potential player.

Lucas Johansen, D

The Caps’ first-round pick from last season, the team remains very high on Johansen and is also in serious need of some help on the blue line. Barring a miraculous performance at training camp, Johansen will likely not going make it to the NHL to start this season, but development camp should give us a glimpse of whether he has surpassed the talent of the young prospects and if he could be ready to make his NHL debut sooner rather than later.

Tobias Geisser, D

Do not underestimate the damage a lost draft can cause. Washington had only four picks in this year's draft which concluded on Saturday. The first player the team took was Geisser in the fourth round with the 120th overall pick. Just to put that in perspective, in 2012 the Caps made five selections before 120. The Caps need value to emerge somewhere from the four players they drafted and Geisser seems the most likely. He has great mobility for his size and is good on the transition which should translate well in today’s NHL. How he performs against fellow NHL hopefuls this week will show the team a lot about his potential.

MORE CAPITALS: Caps lineup projection: How do the Caps replace Schmidt?

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Pressure Points: New position should lead to more playmaking from Su'a Cravens

Pressure Points: New position should lead to more playmaking from Su'a Cravens

In the weeks leading up to training camp, Redskins Insider JP Finlay will look at specific people facing increased pressure for the 2017 season. 

Pressure Point: Strong safety Su'a Cravens

Cravens flashed his playmaking ability in spots during 2016, but finding the right position and injuries stunted his impact as a rookie. He lost time early in the year to a concussion against the Browns and then saw his season cut short after an arm injury in December in Philadelphia. 

Injuries can't be planned on, but in 2017, the position issue should be solved.

Cravens looks poised to open the season starting alongside D.J. Swearinger in the Redskins secondary. The rebuilt safety duo could go a long way towards an improved Redskins defense.

Swearinger established himself as a quality starter last year playing with the Cardinals. Pro Football Focus rated him the No. 8 safety in the NFL. For Cravens, however, this is the year to establish himself.

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

So far, Redskins coach Jay Gruden likes Cravens' developement.

"He’s doing a great job. We’re happy with his progress," Gruden said in June. "I think just the more he plays, the better he’s going to get. The more he can just go practice and watch himself on tape and watch his eye progression and his angles, that’s just going to be huge for him because he continues to develop."

One of the reasons he slipped out of the first round in the 2016 Draft was because of speed. At his USC Pro Day, he ran a 4.69. Is Cravens fast enough to play safety in the NFL? 

His 40 time might not suggest it, but the Washington secondary is not full of burners anyway. In fact, linebacker Zach Brown's 4.50 40 time at the NFL Combine was faster than any of the Redskins projected secondary (Cravens, Swearinger, Josh Norman or Bashaud Breeand). The Redskins coaches think proper positioning and communication will account for any lack of speed in their defensive backfield. 

In college at USC, Cravens played mostly safety but showed he could line up all over the field. In Washington last season, he played almost exclusively interior linebacker, mostly in dime and nickel situations.

He produced, 23 tackles and an interception in 11 games, but it seemed clear to all parties he was better suited for the secondary. Asked about Cravens late last season, one Redskins player said simply, "Su'a is a safety."

This year, Su'a is a safety.

Week 3 as a rookie, Cravens made arguably the most important play of the Redskins season, intercepting Eli Manning to secure the team's first win of the year. That pick showed exactly why the Redskins drafted Cravens. He was tight in coverage and made a leaping, athletic play on the ball to force the turnover.

As a strong safety, Cravens will inch up towards the box on plenty of snaps and will rarely, if ever, be wholly responsible for deep middle coverage. That should mean plenty more opportunities to make plays like he did in Giants Stadium. The pressure is on.

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