Exclusive: ‘Would have been interesting,’ Robinson says of Habs post

Larry-jersey

All members of the Canadiens wore a No. 19 jersey for warmup on Nov. 19, 2007 when Larry Robinson’s Canadiens jersey was retired.
François Lacasse, NHLI via Getty Images

For nearly an hour on Sunday from his home in Florida, Canadiens Hall of Famer Larry Robinson spoke to Hockey Inside/Out’s Dave Stubbs about his latest brush with a coaching position with his former team. Robinson took the high road, but there’s no question he would have enjoyed the chance to work with some of the Habs’ young blue line prospects.

Here is that story:

DAVE STUBBS
The Gazette

It’s probable, even likely, that the coaching career of Larry Robinson is not over.

It just won’t be continuing with the team on which he became a Hall of Famer, winning six Stanley Cups as one of the greatest defencemen of all time.

Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin rounded out his club’s coaching staff last week, naming former Habs defenceman Jean-Jacques Daigneault as the second bench assistant for head coach Michel Therrien. Daigneault joins Gerard Gallant, with Clément Jodoin contributing perspective from the press gallery and Pierre Groulx continuing his work as goaltending coach.

There had been considerable talk in the Canadiens universe since Bergevin’s May 2 hiring that Robinson, at that time an assistant coach for the New Jersey Devils, would be an ideal choice to nurture a young Montreal defence corps.

Ultimately, the composition of the coaching staff was left up to Therrien, and last Friday he decided on Daigneault as the final member of his staff.

There is no bitterness in Robinson, who a few times in the past half-dozen years has been in a contractual position to return to the Canadiens in a coaching capacity.

On several occasions, long-time Robinson friend and business agent/adviser Donny Cape has attempted to broker a deal to bring Robinson back to Montreal as a coach, team ambassador or both. For a variety of reasons, from awkward timing to telephone calls that were not returned by the club to team brass saying it was satisfied with its incumbent staff, a Robinson-Canadiens reunion has not taken place.

It is not happening again, Robinson’s NHL career now unlikely to end in the city where it began.

On Sunday, from his Florida home, Robinson spoke to me for nearly an hour.

“I understand the Canadiens had to get going, they couldn’t wait,” he said, settling into the off-season with his wife, Jeannette.

“They decided, and they chose Daigneault. They had to move on in their task to improve their club.”

It’s no secret that a number of NHL clubs have expressed interest in Robinson’s coaching talents. Complicating matters with the Canadiens was the fact that he was unable in recent days to come north for a face-to-face interview, tied down in Florida dealing with the onslaught of Hurricane Debby and the torrential rains that overflowed his swimming pool and swamped the 12-acre polo farm he co-owns, stabling and training polo horses.

I had suggested in a May 10 Gazette column that Bergevin, who was searching for his head coach, could do worse than to consider a bench tandem of Guy Carbonneau and Robinson. Carbonneau, I wrote, could return to the head-coaching post from which he was fired in early 2009 and Robinson, Carbo’s longtime friend and former teammate, could serve as one of his assistants.

Several media instantly spun this suggestion into stories that had Robinson actively courting a job in Montreal, which wasn’t the case. Still under contract to the Devils and in the heat of the playoffs – Robinson had been an assistant coach, head coach and special assignment coach on New Jersey’s Cup victories in 1995, 2000 and 2003 – he denied any such interest.

“Things are always going to be taken out of context, that’s what happens,” he said. “It didn’t bother me, (a Montreal job was) nothing I was thinking about.

“Our game is filled with rumours. That’s what gives you (media) guys your jobs and it’s what makes the world go around. People love hearing that kind of stuff. I’ve been around it all my life. You take it with a grain of salt and life goes on. Twitter, Facebook … it’s amazing.”

But a couple of days after the Devils’ Stanley Cup final loss to the Los Angeles Kings, Bergevin contacted New Jersey president and GM Lou Lamoriello to ask permission to speak to Robinson to explore coaching possibilities. Under contract until midnight on June 30, the Canadiens were obligated to follow this route.

Lamoriello gave his permission and Bergevin placed his call, which preceded a brief phone chat between Robinson and Therrien.

“The fact that the Canadiens even thought about me coming there, Marc asking Lou permission, that’s an honour,” said Robinson, who forever has taken the high road in discussion about his former team. “It honestly took me by surprise.”

The 61-year-old was packing up in New Jersey when Bergevin called, Robinson arranging to ship his belongings and two vehicles to Florida on a trip that became a nightmare because of a clumsy mover and the violent arrival down south of the hurricane.

“The mover and I got into a yelling match over the phone. It started at the side of the (polo) barn and by the time I got finished yelling at him, I was in the middle of one of the paddocks,” Robinson recalled, laughing. “I told him to stick his company up… He told me he had my $600 deposit and I said it was almost worth the deposit just to tell him to stick his company.

“It felt so good,” he said of the full-decibel venting. “I didn’t get my $600 back, but at least I felt better.”

Robinson’s assistant-coaching contract with New Jersey was to expire as the calendar turned to July 1.

“We don’t know what’s going on there right now,” he said of the team’s fragile financial situation.

Robinson’s departure ends his long New Jersey relationship with Lamoriello. The bond of the two men is so special that Robinson chose Lamoriello, and not a former coach or teammate from his glory years with the Canadiens, to introduce him on Bell Centre ice on Nov. 19, 2007 for the retirement of his No. 19 sweater.

“Lou’s an incredible person,” Robinson said. “He’s a man of his word, and there’s not many like him in this world any more. He’s one of a few special kind. I can’t say enough about what he’s done for me.”

As Robinson mopped up in Florida, Cape kept in touch with Bergevin about the versatile role Robinson might play. Other teams had expressed interest in Robinson so the Canadiens broadened their defence-coach search, casting a wider net.

Therrien apparently liked Daigneault so much, the decision was made to hire him before Robinson had a chance to interview for the job.

“Nature didn’t help me get up to Montreal and have a formal discussion with them,” Robinson said of the hurricane and his delay to meet, upon the Canadiens request, with Therrien. “We can speculate all we want about whether that made a difference. This was a decision they made and I have to live with it.”

He hears the suggestion that perhaps a hockey man of his stature, winner of nine Stanley Cups as a player and coach, might have been viewed by Therrien as a threat and would reduce the returning head coach’s comfort level.

“I would have made (Therrien) feel comfortable,” Robinson said, cutting off this theory in mid-sentence. “A lot of people think because I won a Cup as a head coach and coached for so long, I’m there only to watch (Therrien) fail so I can take the job myself.

“Believe me, that’s the furthest thing from my mind. All I want out of the game now is the fun of working with whoever I’m working with, trying to give whatever knowledge I’ve gained through my experiences to help do whatever I can to make the team better to win another Cup. That’s all I’m there for.

“I’m not there to threaten anybody’s job. That’s not the way to go through life. You have to be a pretty vindictive person if you’re there, working with a guy, and you’ve got a big dagger in your hand ready to stab him in the back. It’s not the way I was brought up and it’s not the way I work.”

Robinson says he has not personally had any discussion with Canadiens principal owner Geoff Molson about a role as a team ambassador, though Cape has had a few informal talks.

Even if Robinson wasn’t involved in coaching, a goodwill/public relations role would make perfect sense, given the greatly limited roles now of ambassadors Jean Béliveau and Henri Richard. Robinson was, in fact, named by the Canadiens themselves to their all-time dream team.

“You never close any doors,” Robinson said of returning one day to the Habs. “I don’t want to coach forever. At some point I want to lay back and enjoy my kids. I’ve got a grandson, Dylan, playing Little League baseball, I’ve got twins in California (grandchildren Blake and Brian, the latter named for Robinson’s late brother) whom Jeannette and I want to be able to spend more time with.

“And I want to be able to spend more time with my horses. I can’t continue playing polo when I’m into my 70s, though some do.

“There’s going to come a point when I don’t want to be involved in hockey on a day-to-day basis. That’s why we were thinking about some kind of job in Canadiens public relations.”

Robinson’s most recent communication with the Canadiens came last Friday when after a couple of days of phone-tag, Bergevin finally reached him to explain the team’s direction. The call came as the team announced by news release the hiring of Daigneault.

“Marc told me they’d interviewed a couple of people, Michel liked his interview with J.J. and decided to go with him,” Robinson said. “I told him, ‘It’s a business, you have a job to do and that’s what you’re doing.’

“Marc just kind of explained what went down. He had talked to Donny, who’d mentioned others teams had interest (in me) and that we weren’t going to make a decision while I was trying to clean up in Florida. I suppose the Canadiens had to cover themselves in the event I didn’t sign with them. So they chose someone else.

“I wished Marc luck and thanked him for the opportunity – at least for the thought – and we left it there.”

And just like that, one more opportunity for Larry Robinson to rejoin the Canadiens had evaporated.

“It would have been interesting maybe to get back to Montreal,” he said. “But this is a business. There are decisions made by people. Things go on in everyday life as far and business and life. If you’re a person who takes everything to heart and has a chip on your shoulder, you’re going to be an awful miserable person.”

dstubbs@montrealgazette.com
Twitter: Dave_Stubbs

578 Comments

  1. Habitant in Surrey says:

    …for all the ‘right-moves’ i observe of Bergevin, I really struggle with His decisions not to add the character and ‘presence’ of Robinson and Roy
    ,,,how much more interesting and fun this coming season would have been with that Royal Jelly behind Our bench
    …Big Bird and Patrick would have had much more rope to play with too if We struggled …but Therrien will certainly have ‘not so much’
    …wait & see I guess, but no Robinson or Roy will represent a very large hole in My enjoyment this season
    …My Habs always seem to leave ‘something’ for Me to bitch & complain about, eh ? :)

  2. logical 46 says:

    The idea that SUBBAN is a RDA means that you don’t have to pay him the big contract. If need be you go to arbitration. Another guy who is way over rated by many fans. Because he is full of himself doesn’t mean he is a great hockey player. He is still weak defensively.

  3. D Mex says:

    CP live on TSN 990 discussing contract etc now

    ALWAYS Habs –
    D Mex

  4. Adidess says:

    A little on the high side for Carey… my preference would have been $5.5M, $6M top, but it’s not my money.

    If Rinne is worth $7M, maybe Price is worth $6.5M. But when this is the kind of money young players make in this league, you can’t look at your own young guys and say we’ll pay you when you win something. You just pony up.

    Same thing goes for PK though. There is no way you turn to him now and insist on paying him less than $4.5-5M, looking at market price.

    • D Mex says:

      According to 990 this contract puts CP at top 5 money (tied @ 4th with Bryzgalov) for NHL G-Men : none in the group with a Cup – yet …

      ALWAYS Habs –
      D Mex

  5. Gumper Knows Best says:

    Gumper Knows Best says:
    July 2, 2012 at 4:50 pm
    Well GMMB-hope you have something after the Parise announcement like a Price contract. :-)
    ______________

    What? The CH signed Carey? No. No way. :-)

    The Gumper will never lead you down the garden path.
    I called Bergevin before the many knew he even existed. Like I already said, Gomez will not be at training camp. He is gone.
    Some other things coming down not now. There will be a time out before a Subban announcement.

  6. HardHabits says:

    My take on the presser. Bergevin stated that he is open to signing free agents but is hesitant to go after contracts that are asking for both too much money and too much term. He also stated that at the same time they don’t want to close the door on potential call-ups from their stock of prospects. He mentioned the character of the team as being a work in progress. He said that Price is one of the best young goaltenders in the NHL and that a player like him would be a necessary part of building a successful team moving forward so it was important to secure him and not let him slip through their fingers as he would need to be replaced if he was lost to free agency.

    The Habs have many cards to play with and even have a few up their sleeves. What they are not looking like is a group intent on spending thriftily and going all in now. I like this shrewd slow build because they are posturing themselves to deal from a position of strength. There should be less of a propensity for panic moves or knee-jerk reactions. I have a feeling this group is going to have all options on the table and have each and every one of them picked to pieces well in advance.

  7. HabFab says:

    Armstrong signing is on Canadiens.com

  8. Stars trade for center Derek Roy in return for Steve Ott and Adam Pardy. Buffalo got hosed wow.

  9. Price has been signed for 6 years, 39 M. Annual cap hit of 6.5 M.

    • jedimyrmidon says:

      I guess the rumours were pretty accurate. Some posters will not be happy at all. Still, maybe this puts a ceiling on the size of contracts for the team, which could turn out to be decent as long as Price proves worthy of the term and the money.

  10. Hali_Hab says:

    Still think the habs are trying to work a trade.

  11. HABSGUARDIANANGEL says:

    Carey Price Signs… 6.5 for 6 years!

  12. naweed235 says:

    I will lose hope in MB if it turns out that Price is getting more than M 6$… Even that is overpriced in my opinion but acceptable since it’s MTL

  13. db says:

    Price is right!! 6 years!

  14. Ian Cobb says:

    2012 HIO Fan Summit Game Tickets. As many as you want! But act now!

    Oct. 27th against Koivu and his Ducks.
    Total Summit Weekend Itinerary to follow.

    I have been given as many tickets as we need for a very short time limit. But I must pay for them ASAP.
    So this is the procedure to follow! Two prices, the first 56 seats are together.
    And the rest will be scattered in groups of 1 to 5. Both prices.

    IMPORTANT!
    Do not order or send your information to me, other than by sending me a money order with a self addressed envelope and stamp on it, to send your tickets back to you.
    FIRST COME FIRST SERVE.
    (international money order works best from U.S., Courier also works best)
    Two levels of seats, two prices. $90ea. and $110ea.
    This includes game ticket, Hall of Fame Tour ticket and one ticket for the draw at the Montreal Canadiens Children’s charity Foundation Raffle.

    All orders must come to me in the form of a money order (only, not a check) with a (self addressed envelope and stamp) so I can mail your tickets back to you.
    We only have a short window for this deal, so get your money orders to me ASAP. Cut off date for this deal, is coming up soon.!

    Everyone is welcome, but we ask that you attend the Pre Game dinner and participate bringing a gift to the Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation Charity Raffle.

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    63 Village Dr.
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    For Summit tickets, News, Pictures and comments
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  15. Habs_4_ever says:

    Price for six years

    ————————
    “Can we lose the parade float?…..Thank you!”
    -This Old House, GMC commercial-

  16. SlovakHab says:

    Price signed for 6 years!!

  17. HABSGUARDIANANGEL says:

    “Jagr…weve sponken… but for the moment..no!”
    MB

  18. Rudy says:

    Carey Price 6 year deal. Still don’t understand why they couldn’t have just announced that to save face.

  19. HabFab says:

    News flash from the presser;

    BWildeCTV – According to Twitter, some very discouraging news here from Brossard as I have apparently been dealt to Phoenix. #rumoursgonewild

  20. Ron says:

    It has to be something big to announce or he would have gave his two cents about the signings and left it at that. Either a trade is looming and he has to wait for league approvals and conformation signing. Getting interesting.

    • HabFab says:

      With Tom’s story on the trade with Chicago and now with Chicago apparently seriously going after Parise…maybe a spark of flame under that smoke.

  21. Hali_Hab says:

    Sooo what’s going on. Any ideas? Is there a chance that what ever MB has up his sleeve is tied to Parise decision.

  22. Habilis says:

    TSN radio just said that MB has delayed the presser “indefinitely”.

    Something weird going on here.

  23. Bill says:

    Bergevin press conference, originally scheduled for yesterday, then today at 1:00, then today at 4:30, then until 5:00, has now been delayed “indefinitely”.

    LOL, Bergevin’s first gong show, not pretty.

    Full Breezer 4 Life

  24. Gumper Knows Best says:

    Looks like the Bergevin presser is postponed indefinitely

  25. D Mex says:

    TSN 990 now reports MB press conference delayed indefinitely.
    Edit-1 : MB is on 990 now.
    Edit-2 : CP signed to 6-year extension.
    Edit-3 : $39M (cap hit 6.5 per)

    ALWAYS Habs –
    D Mex

  26. D Mex says:

    Let’s take the Gomez buy-out option off the table for a minute :
    – Is there an obstacle beyond money to prevent the Habs from assigning him to Hamilton to get his $$ off the books in Montreal (eg : his 2011-12 end-of-season ‘ injured ‘ status) this season ?
    ALWAYS Habs –
    D Mex

    • HabFan in Edmonton says:

      I don’t think there is an obstacle other than the Habs being a classy organization although the way some things were handled this season didn’t seem too classy.

    • twilighthours says:

      Only the question of how his potentially poor attitude might affect th youngsters on th team

      • D Mex says:

        Attitude is another question :
        On one hand, we hear Gomez is liked / good in the room, on another, he is referred to as ‘ G-Love ‘ and may be a smartass.
        Thoughts anyone ?

        ALWAYS Habs –
        D Mex

    • Un Canadien errant says:

      My fear is that the new CBA will end that loophole. Gary Bettman and the smaller market teams don’t want rich teams to be able to get out from their mistakes.

  27. Rudy says:

    This is crazy, probably “nothing” to announce other than he is happy with the recent signings, blah, blah, blah.
    But yet I stillkeep hitting the refresh button!

  28. Hobie Hansen says:

    Prust nails Chara…got to love it!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjCmnLi9DZs

  29. Captain aHab says:

    I know what’s going on….the Habs had a deal in place to sign Parise, made the announcement of the presser and then Parise changed his mind.

    Now the Habs are looking for something to announce.

    —————-
    Me skull and crossbones arn’t the only thing I plan on raisin’ tonight.


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