Looking at the awards nominations this year, I wanted to make a trip back in history to celebrate my coach of the year: Guy Carbonneau.
If you are a Montreal fan, a St. Louis fan, or a Stars fan, you must have heard of him. Everywhere he went, he made a statement.
Born in 1960, Guy Carbonneau played for the Chicoutimi Sagueneens from 1976 to 1980. The team retired his jersey when he left in 1980, and he is currently the President of the organization.
He moved to the AHL with the Nova Scotia Voyageurs (formerly the Montreal Voyageurs). He finally broke in the NHL at the age of 22 with an impressive 47 points in 77 games at his rookie year.
His first Stanley Cup came in 1986, with rookie goaltender Patrick Roy, Captain Bob Gainey and legend Larry Robinson. In 1989, he succeeded to Bob Gainey as the Captain of the team, along with Chris Chelios. They led the Montreal Canadiens to the team's last Cup in 1992-93.
That season was not his best, with the injuries and the poor statistics, and trade rumours started to swirl, but Carbonneau stepped up as the great player he's always been.
In the finals, they faced the Los Angeles Kings, with Wayne Gretzky. They lost the first game 4-1, with one goal and two assists for the Great One. After the game, Carbonneau had a talk with coach Jacques Demers, asking him to be the one to follow Gretzky. Montreal eventually won the next four games. "Guy Carbonneau proved me something, recalled coach Demers, there were not a lot of players who could do that, but he did it, and he did it perfectly". (translated)
He was traded to the St. Louis Blues in 1994 - playing with Esa Tikkanen and under the eyes of Mike Keenan as head coach; and then moved to the Dallas Stars where he eventually got his third Stanley Cup in 1999.
Former teammate Bob Gainey was the head of the team as the Stars General Manager, and behind the bench, another familiar face: Doug Jarvis who was assistant coach. On the ice, he would meet again with Mike Keane, and Craig Ludwig among others. "There’s a lasting effect on people who learned how to play the game for the old Montreal Canadiens. There’s the tradition, the winning attitude they had", tells Stars Mike Modano.
The Stars eventually lost the next Stanley Cup finals to the Devils, and Carbonneau retired from playing in 2000.
His defensive and scoring abilities combined earned him three Selke Trophies during his playing years in the NHL.
In 2005, the Junior Hockey League in Quebec named a Trophy after Carbonneau, to award the best defensive forward player. This year's winner of the Guy Carbonneau Trophy is Montreal prospect Olivier Fortier, playing for Rimouski.
Carbonneau moved back to Montreal to be part of the coaching staff with Michel Therrien for two years; and then returned to Dallas to work with General Manager Doug Armstrong.
In January 2006, Montreal GM Bob Gainey fired head coach Claude Julien and replaced him behind the bench. Gainey chose his long time teammate and friend to be his assistant coach as the team could push to the first round of the playoffs.
In 2006-07, Carbonneau took the reins and became the 28th head coach of the team.
In October 2006, for the first official introduction of the team at the Bell Center, when Michel Lacroix introduced the new head coach of the Montreal Canadiens, the crowd went with an amazing ovations and the "Guy! Guy!" chants that those of you who saw him play will recall.
During his rookie year, he had highs and lows, like his team. After a great start for the first three months of the season, they finally had long sequence of losses and millions of intern problems to eventually miss the playoffs.
No one really knew what the 2007-08 season was going to be. But working closely with his veteran players, and keeping an eye on his numerous rookies, coach Carbonneau could manage to bring the Montreal Canadiens to further than anyone could ever believe he would.
Well known for switching his lineups after a loss , the coach made some decisions that only sometimes his coaching staff could understand. But in the end, he proved everyone wrong several times.
They lost in the second round, and some people would say that Carbonneau made some mistakes somewhere in there.
However, if we look at the big picture: first year, not even one playoffs; second year behind the bench: Eastern Conference title, second round playoffs and a Jack Adams nominations. With a young team, it is pretty good I would say.
No one knows what the future holds for Guy Carbonneau and the Montreal Canadiens. But he has been a true legend on the ice, and I hope it is just a matter of time before he makes his marks off the ice.
*article compiled with information from http://www.livingbeyondreality.com/GuyCarbonneau.html; and www.legendsofhockey.net
*Next Spotlight: Alex Kovalev
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