Guy Carbonneau: The Weakest Link, The Final Chapter
This is the third and final article in the weakest link series.
The first appeared last April as Guy Carbonneau stumbled through his rookie playoff appearance as a coach.
Without rehashing everything from the two previous articles, it was for some, the first time that Guy Carbonneau's coaching deficiencies set off alarm bells.
After coasting through a season under the radar and benefiting from a roster relatively free of injuries, Carbonneau's coaching abilities were tested.
The rookie playoff coach failed miserably.
When opposition coaches dissected and defended Carbonneau's feared power-play, the coach did not respond. When his pet fourth line center bobbled an exchange, he threw his rookie goaltender to the media wolves.
Carbonneau who had been successful coaching from the gut was left exposed as he had nothing to draw upon.
Old wounds were re-opened and exploited: his feud with Kovalev; his disappointment when Huet was traded.
As the Canadiens floundered, Carbonneau scuttled the ship but made sure that the media sights were set on Kovalev and Price as the scapegoats.
In truth, the Canadiens were unprepared—Carbonneau went golfing before the Canadiens final playoff game.
The Habs were outcoached in every playoff game. When other teams countered their system, the Canadiens' coaches were slow to make any pre-game or in-game adjustments.
During the playoffs, we did not see the coach as a tactician, someone who came well-prepared or someone with the coaching experience to draw upon.
Carbonneau isn't a motivator or a coach who could communicate with his players. Instead, we saw his well documented traits of bitterness and stubbornness.
This season has been a huge disappointment.
Carbonneau was given a roster that was significantly better than last year, but, by November, it was already clear that he had lost the team. The team, as a whole, has been under performing.
The Canadiens have lost more man-games to injury this season. Injuries require the coach to make decisions.
The “how-to-defend-the-Canadiens-power-play” manual used by Boston and Philadelphia during the playoffs last spring was copied throughout the league.
Devising a new power-play strategy requires coaching skill.
Given their performance last year and publicity of the centennial celebrations, the Canadiens could no longer fly under the radar this season.
The team needed to be well prepared for each game with focused practices. An intelligent game plan was required from the coaching staff.
As the team struggled, the players needed a good communicator and motivator. They needed their coach to be a leader who inspired confidence and stability.
Guy Carbonneau did not have the skill, aptitude, experience or interest to be effective in any of those areas. Motivation, communication, preparation were all areas of weakness.
Carbonneau's team was unprepared for games because he was unprepared to be a head coach.
When communication with his players was required, Carbonneau painted a bullseye on his players to focus media attention.
When he should have been doing an analysis of his opponent and preparing game strategy, he used a roulette wheel to form line combinations. When players needed to trust in the skills of their teammates, he took them bowling. When he realized that his coaching cupboard was bare, Carbonneau turned to a lucky tie.
As a result of Carbonneau's mismanagement, the Montreal Canadiens are now a very fragile team with razor-thin confidence.
It has produced inconsistent performances.
The players were given a confused set of expectations.
Good play often meant a trip to the press box and poor play was rewarded with extra shifts.
Third line players were given first line minutes. Fourth line players found themselves on the power-play.
It is clear that Guy Carbonneau had very little respect for his players and vice-versa.
Throughout his coaching tenure, Carbonneau was blessed with a smart and loyal general manager who intervened to clean up his messes.
Carbonneau blamed players for the conflicts but there was such a long list: Kovalev, Higgins, Ryder, Price, O'Byrne, Kostitsyn, Dandenault, Begin, Laraque and others.
Finally, it became clear to Gainey that the players had not been the problem.
Guy Carbonneau will likely move on to a front office position with another team.
Carbonneau craves the attention and the media spotlight. His cozy relationship and reliance on the Montreal media did not serve him well.
One would hope that he has realized that he cannot simply rely on the skills that made him such a successful and adored player. He should be willing to work hard to learn a new craft rather than simply coast on his name.
Carbonneau's coaching legacy should be separated from the greatness that he achieved as a player. He will benefit from a 2007-2008 team who surprised people.
He may not be put in the Mario Tremblay category of coaches but his negative effect on the team will take quite some time to reverse.
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