News broke on social media late Monday night with rumours and unconfirmed reports at around midnight of the Canadiens hiring Michel Therrien as their new head coach, and the topic has been trending on Twitter and other social media ever since. Therrien previously coached the Habs from 2000-01 (he replaced Alain Vigneault) to 2002-03, when he was fired and replaced by current Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien. At the press conference announcing Therrien’s hiring on Tuesday, there were a total of no fewer than 21 cameras.
Early reactions after the news broke have varied, but the prevailing viewpoint is critical. Therrien is a hard-nosed disciplinarian who is known for a grand level of candor, and his first tenure as Habs coach didn’t go particularly well. But Therrien has gained much experience since then. Under his belt, the Pittsburgh Penguins went from a 58-point team (when he took over) to a 105 point team. They went from missing the playoffs (in 2005-06) to a first round ouster (in 2006-07) to a Cup Finals appearance (in 2007-08, when they lost in six games to the Detroit Red Wings).
Therrien is a Montreal native and is completely bilingual, making him very familiar with Montreal and its relentless media. It’s also well-known that he has had a good off-ice relationship with Marc Bergevin. In his first stint as Habs head coach, he amassed a 77-77-36 record, and that was as a very young and inexperienced NHL head. Overall, Therrien has coached 462 NHL games with a 212-182-68 record, is 21-16 in the playoffs, and between the NHL and AHL has coached an even 1,000 pro games. In other words, he’s not-so-quietly gained tremendous experience since his prior stint with the Habs.
He becomes the sixth man to have a second coaching stint with hockey’s most storied franchise, joining Newsy Lalonde, Leo Danderand, Cecil Hart, Claude Ruel and Bob Gainey. The fact that Bergevin decided Therrien was worth a second chance in the constant pressure-filled atmosphere hockey hub of Montreal is in itself a vote of confidence.
Therrien isn’t the most popular choice among Habs fans. But those same fans have put their faith in Bergevin’s plan so far. He has had some solid moves already, bringing in respected hockey names such as Rick Dudley and Scott Mellanby to the front office. The question today is whether the fans’ faith with eventually extend to returning head coach Michel Therrien. It should…