Montreal Canadiens' Coach Guy Carbonneau: Should He Stay or Should He Go?

Rocket All HabsCorrespondent IMarch 8, 2009

I received a comment on the Canadiens-Thrashers game review that was beyond the a good way! I thought that it was important to move the comment to the main page to allow everyone a chance to read and react to it.

KyleRoussel has taken a good deal of time to share his thoughts and to make his argument. I want to publicly thank him for his contribution to All Habs and for engaging in this debate.

In a point-counterpoint format, we will discuss the merit of the Canadiens ending the coaching tenure of Guy Carbonneau.

POINT: Hold on to him...for now.
by Kyle Roussel

I think the time to face facts has just about arrived...Carbo has pretty much lost this team, or so it seems.

They don't respond to line changes, many players (including veterans) have regressed since last season, punishing practices are responded to by getting shut out, days off for team-bonding bowling games are met with another ass-kicking...I don't think we need any more evidence.

So what's the answer at this point? Is it as simple as turfing Carbonneau? Has it come to this point?

When you fire a coach, especially this late in the year, you'd better know that the replacement will have an immediate impact. At this point I think only Gainey can take over the team.

And then what? Who is a better replacement? Who's better qualified, given the realities of the Montreal marketplace? I think the only real candidate with the experience, and "requirements" is Bob Hartley. But I don't know if he's open to the opportunity.

There's also ramifications for Gainey. He's got a lot of personnel issues to take care of, nevermind the on-ice circus. And how does Gillet factor in to this? Is he paying close attention? Will he have a problem if Gainey fires Carbo?

My sense is that he gives Gainey free reign over players and coaching staff, but Gainey can't have a infinite leash can he? I don't know the answer to this, but if Carbo's on a long-term deal, will the organization be willing to pay him to stay home? I'm not so sure, especially given the economy we're mired in.

In the end, I think Gainey has enough faith and friendship with Carbo that he will give him until the end of the year (and playoffs?) to get this back on track. But I think Carbo also has to see this team through at least 1 playoff round if he wants to save his job.

As for the GM, he needs to look at himself in the mirror too. Was letting 10 guys enter this season on the last year of a contract the best idea? The assumed play there was that guys would go all out to post a great season and receive lucrative contract offers.

In just about every case, that has not happened. He has to shoulder blame for this too. Could he sleep at night knowing he turfed a friend when he's plenty at fault?

If you dig even deeper, what does firing Carbo send as a message to the rest of the league? For would-be coaches, it says that you are walking in to a pressure cooker with unbelievably high expectations, and should you fail, your leash is so short that you can be out on your rear again in no time flat.

For players, and particularly free agents it can say that the franchise is once again in a state of flux and lacks stability. Free agents don't want that, especially in Montreal when there's already enough shit to put up with.

Every coach deserves the chance to coach his way out of a bad situation. This is the worst stretch he's had as coach of the Habs.

It would be unfair, and it speaks to the point I made earlier about messages to other coaches: you only get one chance. Don't fall in to a slump because you won't be allowed to see it through.

In Carbo's case, I don't think 20 games can be considered a "fair chance" to fix it, unless the players have truly quit on him. But who really knows the answer to that question? We speculate, but none of us can claim to know for sure.

I think Gainey is going to let it ride and hope that there's enough talent behind and on the bench that they will put it back together before season's end.

So I've waffled a bit in this post, but what I can't stand is a knee-jerk reaction. Does Carbonneau really deserve to be fired? How much of this mess is the players fault? They are pros afterall. They ought to act like it, and this year they have not.

What's my official position right now? Every day I have less faith in the team as a whole, but I have NO faith in knee-jerk moves and firings just for the sake of doing something. If you KNOW that there's a better replacement out there, go for it.

If you're doing it because you're trying to squeeze in to the playoffs...the ensuing chaos may not be worth it. This Habs team won't go all the way whether Carbo is behind the bench or Scotty Bowman.

For now I say see the season through, I think elimination is inevitable anyway. But unless some miracle occurs, Carbonneau is on a very, very short leash for '09-'10 regardless of the new faces he gets to coach.

COUNTERPOINT: The clock struck midnight...long ago.
by Rocket

I agree completely with your first two paragraphs. Guy Carbonneau has definitely lost his players. As you say, no further evidence it needed. It is abundantly clear.

There is no mutual respect. Carbo has lost the ability to communicate and motivate the team (if it ever existed at all).

I suppose that we only disagree in the remedy. You list in detail the reasons why it is not the right time to replace Carbonneau. Let me take issue with some of those.

It seems that the biggest objection is that you feel that this is a "knee-jerk reaction" to a recent minor slump. The most disappointing results on the recent road trip are the second major slump of the year.

The first was in November which resulted in a myriad of line combinations to know avail. The Canadiens only broke out of that slump when Carbonneau reverted back to the original lines.

The Habs have been inconsistent all season. I think it is fair to say that they have been underperforming as a team. Coaches have been fired already this season for less. I think that Carbonneau has been given more opportunities than most to turn this around given his friendship with Bob Gainey.

Carbonneau has had 65 games already to prove himself, and it clearly isn't working. Also, Guy Carbonneau has been outcoached almost every game since he took the reins in Montreal.

The root of the problems are not new. Carbonneau has limited experience and few tools to motivate players. In addition, there are a three seasons of personality clashes to examine: Alex Kovalev (several times), Michael Ryder, Carey Price, Saku Koivu, Chris Higgins, etc.

Bob Gainey has intervened in some way to resolve the issues. Communication with players is not Carbo's strength. Even Steve Begin, Mathieu Dandenault and Georges Laraque have complained about that.

I really don't think that there is an economic argument to be made. If the Canadiens play to their potential under a replacement coach, the revenue from one or two playoff rounds will eclipse any salary losses.

Having said that, Carbonneau would likely be retained in the organization in another capacity. Guy doesn't have the aptitude nor the experience to coach but neither does he have an interest. He has admitted that it is only the means to an end of a front office job.

There is already many impediments to bringing free agents to Montreal as you suggest: high taxes, education policy, and bigoted media. I don't think that firing Carbonneau would add to that list in a negative way.

If anything, I understand it would be seen as a positive thing to rid the team who doesn't always make coaching, line-up or icetime decisions based on merit.

As far as 'turfing a friend'? Frankly I am a little tired of friendship coming before team priorities. Carbonneau has choreographed his lineup so that he could help his friend Brisebois achieve the 1000 game mark while sacrificing points in the standings. Brise has been a huge liability in the line-up.

I'm not so sure that you must have a permanent replacement in hand before the coach is fired. Bob Gainey has gone behind the bench before. He can do it again. Alternatively, Don Lever would be a great choice as an interim coach. He knows how to communicate with and motivate many of these players.

Gainey could take some time to find the best qualified replacement. I advocated some time ago that the Canadiens hire Joel Quenneville when he was available. Quenneville has been good this season at changing the performance of an underachieving team.

Don Lever will certainly be a candidate but there are a number of good unemployed coaches who should be considered: Pat Quinn, Bob Hartley, Tom Renney, Peter Laviolette. Coaches who have positions and have connections to the team could also be considered: Andy Murray and Ken Hitchcock.

Whoever is chosen, it is clear that the former-star-player-with-no-coaching-experience experiment is over. The Habs could even look at a young career coach like Pete DeBoer. He has done an amazing job with the Panthers.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. A permanent head coach is a topic for the off-season.

I still think that an interim coach can have an impact for the rest of the season. Having said that, Bob Gainey is far more deliberate in his decision-making (usually to positive results). So I will agree with you that it is unlikely that Gainey will make a move at this time. But that doesn't mean he shouldn't.


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