One thing that has been consistent in general manager Marc Bergevin’s tenure with the Montreal Canadiens has been his unwavering loyalty to head coach Michel Therrien. Even after the train wreck that unfolded last season, Bergevin refused to fire his coach and showed an incredible amount of faith in him. With all the new additions this summer, how much of a leash does Therrien have if things falter once again?
How Much Leash Can a Coach Have?
The addition of associate coach Kirk Muller was a smart move. If Muller makes the expected positive impact, Therrien’s job remains secure as ever. If the team falters, Muller could be seen as a viable replacement. The hope is that Muller’s influence will fix the power play and properly utilize the forwards.
Alex Galchenyuk has 7 points in his last 7 games. That's how many points David Desharnais had in 33 games prior to Friday in Buffalo #Habs
— Nik (@NikkF07) February 14, 2016
These two things are especially important as one of Therrien’s biggest flaws is player usage. Case in point, playing David Desharnais over Alex Galchenyuk and denying Galchenyuk has chemistry with Max Pacioretty, despite both players showing that they work well together. With everything that happened last year, every odd move that Therrien makes will come under even more fire. If someone like Paul Byron or Brian Flynn is playing in the top six, it will be a problem considering the amount of better options available.
Despite all the crazy decisions, Bergevin has defended Therrien every step of the way. He has referred to Therrien as someone he would have in his foxhole, which has met with mockery by fans. Both men make excuses for their actions and used the “Carey Price is injured” card far too often to excuse every misstep. What prevents Therrien from getting fired is the fact that he and Bergevin are on the exact same page and are a united front in every way.
— Eyes on the Prize (@HabsEOTP) August 23, 2016
No One Left to Blame
When things went poorly last season, Therrien had no problem throwing PK Subban under the bus and for the most part, he got away with it because upper management didn’t seem entirely enamoured with Subban. Now that Subban is gone and Shea Weber is here, Therrien has lost his biggest scapegoat. Slim chance that Therrien would throw Weber to the wolves like he did with Subban. Weber fits Therrien’s system and he commands far too much respect in the league. Players and coaches go out of their way to praise Weber so there is no way Therrien can rip him without a ton of backlash.
For now, Therrien has a lot of leash but if things start to go sideways again, the Habs will have to consider making a change. Montreal is out of excuses especially with Price healthy and solid new additions to the team. The Price excuse won’t work again and Subban isn’t around anymore to pin the blame on when things go south. No coach can last forever especially one as flawed as Therrien.
I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from Ryerson University. I am a freelance journalist and a Montreal Canadiens writer for The Hockey Writers. I previously wrote for Simcoe.com and Last Word on Sports as well as interned at TSN.