Well, Christmas seems to have come early for many Habs fans as we woke up to the news that Jacques Martin had been canned by General Manager Pierre Gauthier. For now, Randy Cunnyworth has been promoted to Head Coach, although I’m sure a search is already underway to find Martin’s successor. The move comes in advance of a rather important hockey game for the Canadiens who face the tied for sixth-place New Jersey Devils. A win would allow the Canadiens to keep pace in a dog-fight of a race in the Eastern Conference where 3 points separate 6th from 12th.
Martin became expendable as the Canadiens search for answers as to why they have struggled so mightily this season to create any sustained success. 11th place is never acceptable in Montreal, but the opinion of many in the hockey world is that the Habs have under-achieved to the point that a move was unavoidable.
I have to say that although I feel bad for Martin the man, I’m excited as any about the opportunity for a philosophical shift away from the all-out defense strategy that seems to handcuff the team’s most gifted offensive players, and make winning hockey games an exercise of attrition, rather than skill. The amount of blown leads in the past month alone dictated that something needed to occur to shake up the club. And while the trade for Tomas Kaberle certainly was a shot across the bow, a statement has been made today that the organization is responding to the on-ice product.
So who becomes the next Head Coach of the team? Will Randy Cunnyworth retain the job for as long as he’s capable? Will the public demand a french speaker within that position? Or will Montreal come to its senses and realize that for most of its glory years, the city was fine with an Anglo Coach, so long as the team played well on the ice?
I can’t imagine the fans running Dick Irvin or Scotty Bowman out of town because of their linguistic acumen.
Is it possible that the team will turn again to its past to fill the role? Many are calling for the return of St. Patrick to the tea. Its an intriguing thought. There couldn’t be a coach less like Martin in personality.
For now, I’m hoping that this move injects some life into the team. Its time to play for jobs here. The bad play of the team cannot simply be attributed to Martin – whatever we think about his “system”.
Go Habs Go!!!