Top Candidates for the Montreal Canadiens Head Coach Position

Now that Bob Hartley has been officially hired by the Calgary Flames to coach for his good friend and current general manager Jay Feaster, and not for the Montreal Canadiens as I stated on Monday (my sincere apologies for being wrong), the search for the next head coach of the Montreal Canadiens continues. Feaster made a strong push on Sunday night when he called his friend during the final game of the Memorial Cup in Shawinigan and convinced Hartley to coach the Calgary Flames instead of the Montreal Canadiens.

After rounding up his managerial staff by hiring Rick Dudley as assistant GM and Scott Mellanby as director of player personnel, recently appointed GM Marc Bergevin will turn his attention to finding the best man for one of the toughest jobs in hockey. The search will resume when Bergevin returns from Toronto where he is attending the 2012 NHL Scouting Combine where the top 105 prospects for the next NHL Entry Draft are gathered to perform physical tests and interviews.

Bergevin mentioned that he expects to make his choice before the draft, which is slated to happen on June 22-23, 2012, in Pittsburgh.

With Hartley’s hiring by the Flames, and the confirmation that Joel Quenneville (Chigao Blackhawks) and Alain Vigneault (Vancouver Canucks) will remain with their respective teams for the 2012-13 season, the list of interesting candidates is getting thinner.

Below you will find a list of the remaining candidates in alphabetical order:

Crawford.is a top candidate for the job (photo by/Wikipedia)

Marc Crawford

Now an analyst for TSN, Crawford broke into the NHL as the head coach of the Quebec Nordiques in 1994-95, earning the Jack Adams Trophy for best coach of the year and winning his first and only Stanley Cup the next year as a member of the Colorado Avalanche. After two successful campaigns as the Avalanche head coach, Crawford accepted a new challenge with theVancouver Canucks where he coached for seven seasons, but failed to lead the team to the second round of the playoffs. There, Bergevin played nine games under Crawford in the 2003-04 season. He then coached two years in Los Angeles with the Kings and two more in Dallas with the Stars before being relieved of his duties in April 2011. Born in Belleville, Ontario, Crawford is not fluent in French any more even though he used to speak it frequently when he was hired to be the Nordiques’ bench boss 18 years ago.

Crawford, 51, was also in the middle of the Bertuzzi-Moore incident. During a March 8, 2004, game, Todd Bertuzzi grabbed Steve Moore from behind, and rode him into the ice, causing Moore to suffer 3 broken vertebrae, multiple facial lacerations, and ultimately ending his career. In the ensuing commotion, while Moore was lying on the ice, Crawford was allegedly laughing at the situation. The Ontario’s Superior Court is expected to hear the Bertuzzi-Moore court case in September 2012, which could become a distraction for the team that decides to hire Marc Crawford as their head coach.

Finally, it has been reported that Crawford, who is married to a Sauvé girl from Cornwall, has been taking intensive lessons of French recently “in case he gets the head coach in Montreal”.

Benoit Groulx

Currently coaching the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL, Groulx is a dark-horse candidate as he might be ready to make the jump to the NHL after spending two seasons in the AHL with the Rochester Americans from 2008-2010. Groulx also took the Olympiques to the Memorial Cup in 2003, 2004 and 2008, before making the transition to the AHL. However, two years later he returned to Gatineau after an early playoff exit with Rochester. The emotional Groulx is a long-shot at the moment for the position and it’s highly improbable that Bergevin would pick him as the next Habs head coach. But should Patrick Roy be named Montreal’s head coach, Groulx could become one of his assistants as Roy approached him about two months ago to offer him a bench position should he graduate to the NHL.

Roy is apparently not in the running any more to become the next Habs head coach

Patrick Roy

The former NHL goaltender won the Stanley Cup four times with the Montreal Canadiens and the Colorado Avalanche. A close friend of Serge Savard, Roy is currently managing and coaching the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL and his son Frederic. Also a native of Sainte-Foy, Quebec, Roy is obviously bilingual and has played for a decade with the Canadiens before asking to be traded following an incident with head coach Mario Tremblay back in the 1995-96 season. A very hot-headed and vocal head coach, Roy doesn’t have any experience at the NHL level as a head coach.

While some experts believe Roy is a serious candidate to replace Martin, I would believe that Bergevin will lean towards a more experienced head coach to run the ship he just embarked on. Roy, 46, is very popular in Quebec among the fans and the media, but will Bergevin have the guts to name a rookie head coach to lead a young and rebuilding team back into playoff contention? I have my doubts about it. According to Le Journal de Québec, a French newspaper from Quebec City, Roy is not in the running any more for the position as he only spoke to Bergevin’s special adviser, Serge Savard, once over the phone.

Roy loves his job with the Quebec Remparts and refused offers to coach in the NHL by the Colorado Avalanche and the Washington Capitals in recent years. Many believe, including me, that Roy is waiting for the arrival of an NHL franchise in La Vieille Capitale, whether it is via relocation or expansion, to make the jump to the NHL.

Michel Therrien

When Michel Therrien replaced Alain Vigneault as the Canadiens head coach in 2000-01 he had no coaching experience in the NHL. A former AHL-defenceman, Therrien had coached five years in the QMJHL and three years in the AHL prior to joining the Canadiens. Therrien, 48, lasted only two and a half seasons at the helm of the Bleu Blanc Rouge before being fired by Andre Savard in 2002-03. Following his firing, Therrien returned to the AHL where he coached the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins before being named the Pittsburgh Penguins head coach midway through the 2005-06 season to replace Eddie Olczyk. Therrien, lasted four seasons in Pittsburgh, leading the team to the Stanley Cup finals in 2007-08 against the Detroit Red Wings. Unfortunately for Therrien, the team lost the series and he then lost his job in the subsequent year after a poor start. Dan Bylsma took over and led the team to a Stanley Cup win that Spring, leaving a bitter taste in Therrien’s mouth. The native of Montreal is now employed for RDS as a hockey analyst and is also working as a scout.

Fellow TV analyst and former assistant coach in New Jersey and Minnesota, Mario Tremblay, predicted Therrien would get the Canadiens’ job on the Wednesday night edition of L’Antichambre, a TV show where both Tremblay and Therrien frequently appear. It has been confirmed that Bergevin has interviewed Therrien twice for the position in recent weeks.

Pascal Vincent

Vincent, a native of Laval, Quebec, became head coach of the QMJHL’s Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in 2000 and spent eight seasons in the position before being named the coach of the Montreal Junior (the team is now defunct), leading the club for three seasons and coaching Habs forward Louis Leblanc in 2010-11. Vincent, 40, joined the Winnipeg Jets staff as an assistant coach when the Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg last season. The young and inexperienced Vincent will need a few seasons as an assistant coach before taking the reigns of an NHL team. If the Canadiens are looking to hire a rookie coach, they are most likely going to pick Roy instead of Vincent, as Roy is a former Hab who is used to face the day-to-day media frenzy surrounding the Bleu Blanc Rouge. While Vincent might bring a fresh and refreshing perspective as how to coach an NHL team, he will most likely make the transition to a head coach position a few years from now.

According to TSN Insider Bob MacKenzie, it’s down to Therrien and Crawford for the Habs’ head coach job:

Other potential candidates: Bob Boughner, Guy Carbonneau, Gerard Gallant, Clement Jodoin, Paul Maurice, Andre Tourigny

Who would you like as the Canadiens’ next head coach? Therrien, Crawford or someone else?