There are a number of former Canadiens coaches taking part in the Stanley Cup final.
Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien coached the Canadiens from 2003-06, posting a 72-62-25 record in 159 regular-season games. One of Julien’s assistant coaches is Doug Jarvis, the former Canadiens player who was also a Habs associate coach for four seasons, starting in 2005.
The Chicago Blackhawks have Hall of Famer Scotty Bowman on their side as a senior advisor, hockey operations. Bowman posted a remarkable 419-110-105 record while coaching the Canadiens from 1971-79, winning five Stanley Cups during that span.
Bowman’s son, Stan, is the Blackhawks’ vice-president/general manager.
There’s another Montreal connection behind the Chicago bench. Blackhawks assistant coach Jamie Kompon is a former captain and coach of the McGill Redmen. Kompon is looking to win the Stanley Cup for the second straight year after working as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Kings last season.
Below is the column Red Fisher wrote in The Gazette after Julien was fired as Canadiens coach in January 2006.
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gainey couldn’t wait
PUBLISHED IN THE GAZETTE ON JAN. 15, 2006
Come back with me to an early afternoon news conference on a sun-filled June 2, 2003. Bob Gainey, wearing a dark suit, shirt and snazzy tie, was there. On his left, Canadiens president Pierre Boivin. On his right, GM Andre Savard, the man Gainey was replacing barely three weeks after the end of the Canadiens’ regular season – a dismal, disappointing and, at times, desperate year.
“The great players and the great victories of the Montreal Canadiens of the past make up the rich history that we can all remember and enjoy and share,” Gainey said at the time. “But my presence here is not about the past. It’s about the present and it’s about the future.
“My goals are to bring my knowledge and experience and my determination to win in every area of the hockey department: in recruitment and development and coaching of the players. I have a full commitment to helping this club become a stronger and a better team and to better represent the city of Montreal.”
He was a man of his word in 2003-04 with a 93-point team – a team which upset the 104-point Boston Bruins in the first round of the playoffs before being swept by the Stanley Cup-winning Tampa Bay Lightning.
Now, fast forward to yesterday’s early afternoon press conference on a day when the heavens wept. Gainey was there, again wearing dark suit, shirt and a tie. At his side, Guy Carbonneau, also wearing a dark suit, a bright, white shirt and a tie.
Carbo was there because at 7:15 a.m., Gainey had telephoned coach Claude Julien to tell him that he (Gainey) would take over this slumping, desperate bunch (a laughable seven victories in the last 25 games) until the end of the season, and that Carbonneau would be behind the bench next season.
“When I talked to him, I got disappointment,” Gainey said. “I got regrets. I didn’t get shock.”
Shock, it’s imagined, was what most of you felt when you awoke to the news that Julien and assistant coach Rick Green, decent people whose contracts run through next season, were let go, but why should anybody be surprised? The soaring hope of the first six weeks of the season (12 victories in the first 16 games) had disappeared into the mists of mediocrity. The bleeding had to be stopped, and it was Gainey’s responsibility to do it.
The surprise is that it wasn’t done earlier.
Toe Blake was the best coach I’ve ever seen in any sport, Scott Bowman a close second – mostly because Blake was his mentor. Yes, they won 13 Stanley Cups between them, partly because they were blessed with a flood of the NHL’s most talented players, but the constant among this special pair was that they were able to get the best out of their best players.
Julien wasn’t getting it from his best players during the team’s free-fall since mid-November, and with the Canadiens embarking on a six-game road trip after games with San Jose last night and Dallas tomorrow, he had to go.
“Hockey is a team sport,” Gainey said yesterday. “You bring people from different groups together … you want them to be happy to play together. A number of our players haven’t played up to their potential … important players have underachieved for a long period of time and when that happens, the nerves, the anxiety and the frustration set in. I’m going to address those things to allow the players to be comfortable and relaxed.”
Two of the players Gainey mentioned were Sheldon Souray and Andrei Markov. Another was Jose Theodore for all the right reasons, one being that he wanted his No. 1 goaltender to face the San Jose Sharks last night instead of Cristobal Huet, who on Friday had been penciled in by Julien to make a third consecutive start.
“Call it a coach’s decision,” interim coach Gainey said with a small smile in reply to a question from a member of the media.
When Gainey was named to the GM job, he accepted it with his eyes wide open.
“Montreal provides me with a great challenge and a much different environment than the one I competed in for the last 10 years,” he said at the time. “It’s going to be different. It’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be testy. It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be fun!”
It has been anything but fun this season – some of it self inflicted. Shipping Mathieu Garon to Los Angeles for Radek Bonk and Huet has been a disaster thus far. Hindsight tells us providing Theodore with a three-year deal worth $16.5 million U.S. is another, unless Jose can find his ‘A’ game again. This season, Gainey opted to sign off with several veterans to make room for fresh, young blood from the farm. Not a bad idea, really, but the returns have been meagre thus far.
Gainey has gone behind the bench until the end of the season for another good reason.
“There really was no reason to drop him (Carbonneau) into a pot of boiling water when we can drop him in and warm it up gently,” Gainey said. “Guy will grab on to where we are and where we’re going and what is needed quickly.”
It’s Gainey’s game to win or lose, and the good news is that there’s still one-half of the season left, as he put it, “to push back so that we’re moving up the standings by putting points on the board, rather than the other direction.”
Knowing Gainey as I do, I can promise his players this: it’s going to be different. It’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be testy. It’s going to be tough.
Is it going to be fun? All you have to do is win, chums.