Sunday, 15 June 2014

How About Four More Years?

If there is one person on a hockey club who can never truly feel like his job is safe, it's a head coach. Far too often, they become scapegoats for poorly-performing players, underachieving teams, and general malaise surrounding the franchise. While some of those problems can be attributed to the head coach, not every problem should be squarely placed on the shoulders of the man behind the bench. After all, he's one guy. In saying that, I found it interesting that the Montreal Canadiens - fresh off their loss to the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final - decided to ink Michel Therrien to a four-year contract extension that kicks in next season.

There's no denying that the Canadiens have been fairly successful under Therrien's tutelage. They fell in the first-round in 2012-13 to Ottawa, but advanced past the Tampa Bay Lightning in impressive fashion before eliminating their division rivals in the Boston Bruins in what most would consider an upset despite the Canadiens having won the season series. Therrien is showing that he knows the game and his players well, and he's been rewarded for his work in going 75-42-13 over the last two regular seasons.

"It really shows the stability that Marc Bergevin and Geoff Molson want to establish with the Canadiens," said Therrien on a conference call. "We've progressed a lot over the past two years and we want to continue to progress. It's a sign of confidence."

I, for one, am pretty satisfied with this move. Therrien has proven he can take a team of younger players and mold them into a contender. It helps that he has a world-class goalie, some solid veterans, and some good talent, but his usage of his fourth-line in the playoffs really proved to be the difference in the series against the Bruins as he matched skill against grinders. While his team fell short in the Eastern Conference Final after Carey Price was injured, the Canadiens were still in most games against the Rangers with an inexperienced Dustin Tokarski minding the fort, and Tokarski looked not only capable but ready for an NHL job next season.

If there was one thing that should be noted, his interaction with his players - seen very clearly on the TV series CH24 - has improved dramatically from his previous stints in both Montreal and Pittsburgh. Therrien appears to have excellent rapport with his stars, and was seen talking to younger players in offering advice and knowledge. Yes, there were times he chewed out a player like PK Subban or Josh Gorges, but he has refined his coaching style and has become a better motivator and nurturer when the times call for it. This development was, I believe, a major key to Montreal's run this year in the playoffs.

If a head coach wants job security, the results will guarantee that. Michel Therrien deservedly has that security.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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