The Politics of the Montreal Canadiens

As more and more is discussed about the dismissal of current Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien, my thoughts go toward who would succeed his tenure. These thoughts are not happy ones, as all that comes to mind is the French language aspect of the Canadiens, and the question of why the Habs need a French-speaking coach.

Photo: Graham Hughes, The Chronicle Herald

Photo: Graham Hughes, The Chronicle Herald

All Québécois political jokes aside, why is it that the Canadiens can’t hire a translator for media purposes? Is it because Montreal, or more so the province of Quebec, sees this as a loss of cultural identity? That would be a fair point to discuss, but maintaining a cultural identity for a province is vastly different than what occurs in Montreal. It is almost like the infamous Bill 101 also applies to the Canadiens, where the French language overshadows everything. That comparison is an extreme overreaction, but the point remains. Why does the French language control every aspect of this team? I for one, am sick and tired of it.

Bob Berry Coach from 1981-1984

Bob Berry Coach from 1981-1984

It is agreed upon that 1984 is when the French superiority train began. This is when head coach Bob Berry was fired, ironically the last coach who wasn’t fully bilingual, but was able to converse in basic French. Of course, with the Quebecois referendum occurring four years earlier and a sentiment of French dominance raging through the province, it set in motion years and years of prioritizing language over hockey ability, that goes for both management personnel and players.

When Jacques Martin was fired in 2011, he was replaced by interim coach Randy Cunneyworth, who did not speak French. When that happened, that season was no longer about hockey, it was about the battle between languages, and Cunneyworth was not given a fair shot because of it. There was even a staged protest at the Bell Centre, although it was largely ignored, the sediment is there. Funny enough, Cunneyworth’s record in his 50 games as head coach, is actually better then Therrien’s last 50 games, but they had no problem firing him.

French language protest (Photo: REUTERS/Christinne Muschi)

French language protest (Photo: REUTERS/Christinne Muschi)

Over the years, the Canadiens have been criticized for acquiring players based on their language; most recently Daniel Briere, who was reaching the end of his career and the Canadiens committed 4.5 million dollars to. This brings us to the present coaching situation, why are the Canadiens so committed to Therrien? Is it because they believe in him? Or, is it because they believe that he is the best French-speaking coach available? (If we were discussing that, they would be wrong).

Now is the time to act. How Marc Bergevin’s legacy with the Canadiens will unfold, lies in his decisions that need to be made. Michel Therrien needs to go, and if he hires his next coach based off language, he will be known as the GM who wasted away the prime years of his star players, and refused to act, when his team was going down the toilet. Or, he can break the mould, hire the coach that is best suited for the job and if that coach happens to be French, by all means, continue. This is where the Canadiens become who they want to be, a team who solely exists to appease the Quebec government and make Geoff Molson money, or a team who wants to bring glory back to Montreal, and make the city proud.


Do you think the Habs need a French-speaking coach?

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Make your choice Marc, because the fans have made theirs.

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8 Responses to The Politics of the Montreal Canadiens

  1. Hello,

    does anyone know if you can send this (or other) pools to the CH management and be sure that they receive it?

    I think that it is ridiculous enough.

    Let’s think about this scenario: MB keeps MT for the beginning of the season and everything goes well (it is possible, especially if Price will play most of the games as he used to play lately). And then, they start to crawl, again. Than, MB decides to fire MT.
    Whom would he employ? Because, if there are some (good?) coaches available now, or at the end of the season, chances are they won’t be available then…
    Suppose that the Bruins don’t make it to the playoffs, which I dearly hope, and they fire CJ… Would MB even consider to hire him?
    (I, for one, hate him, but… I have to admit he’s superior to MT… I love Alain Vigneault, but it is not likely he’ll be available soon. )

    Than, who are the non french speakers available, and (probably) good coaches?



    Cristian Moldovan March 30, 2016 at 11:46 am Reply
    • Exactly, the time is this offseason. Waiting could prove even more costly. If the Bruins do fire Julien if they don’t make the playoffs, regardless of how some feel about him, he is definitely a better option than Therrien and MB would be foolish not to call him.

      Michael Gomez March 30, 2016 at 12:01 pm Reply
  2. this is a North American team with a common language of English, Montreal will only suffer under the language issue

    Gerald March 30, 2016 at 6:10 pm Reply
  3. Great post by Ben Fraser!✔️

    Yes, so much history, so many bad/poor moves this year let alone the last 30 plus by: Coaches, GMs and ownership have prevented this team from really being a dynasty team. To today’s fan we are as bad as some expansion teams that haven’t been in the Cup finals in the last 20 years. So all those old Cup wins are way back in time called Team History. But the age old question still comes around to hit us square on the nose. “What have you done lately for me?” Squat could cover it but all in all a few laughs, some thrills and plenty of losing…….especially when we get to the playoffs. In the last 10 years we have gotten to the conference finals and LOST both times. We had two similar coaches that a) were French Canadian, b) both could write a book on what they know about “Creating Offence and How to run a deadly Power Play?” On a half sheet of paper, double lined and written with a size 36 font and they both would have more than half the piece of paper to give a nice fancy autograph. Seriously both of these teams had pop guns for Offense and really good goaltending. But when you can’t or forget how to put the puck in the net you lose! I could right/rant a lot more about the dolt stealing ice chips behind our bench but how many easy beatings can you put on this guy? No, I want to concentrate on the GM identified by Ben in his post who is on the proverbial dime.

    Marc Bergevin, Montreal Canadiens GM is about to make history maybe as early as a week this coming Monday. The real question comes down to what kind of history –> Good or Bad? I really do hope he sees the poll on the Coaching situation concerning the “French only” policy currently running amok at the Bell Centre. Backing up a step I had a bit of a rush when it was announced he was in the serious running for our GM post after the 2012 season. He made a few moves I was okay with but the one that bothered me bothered many of you. Re-hiring Michel Terrien. At first I thought I had heard that news incorrectly and thought they had said Tremblay as in Mario was being resurrected. But for as long as it took to find a coach this was the best he could Getz?? I mean he made candidates wait so long Bob Hartley moved to Calgary. I guess his name wasn’t French enough or maybe he thought it was a fake accent….but Therrien. The man/pseudo coach who had been pretty much blackballed out of the league for messing up that Penquin thing in trying to get Crosby and Malkin converts of the famous “Chip and Chase” program that bedevils teams for not even a nanosecond. But not only did he hire him he became his “bitch”! I’m sorry but that had to be said. MB, for a guy who played several years in the NHL and then worked for the Chicago BlackHawks winners of 3 of the last 5 or 6 Cups you would “assume” he new something about good hockey, goal scoring, Defense and goaltending that went along with the game. So he comes to Montreal with a fabulous opportunity to put HIS stamp on this team, have them play a system he saw big dividends in the Windy City. Instead, we got more of the same hockey we’d seen before. No scoring, leave it on the goalie to win us the game. The trouble with that strategy is goalies don’t do a lot of goal scoring in this particular league. Maybe the “Foxhole buddies” remember their friend Raymond who played goalie on their Road Hockey team and scored tons of goals and the decision was made. Clearly the thing other then his doing everything Therrien asks for is his collecting of 4th liners for this team. There are if you don’t know only 3 – 4th liners that can play at one single time. But somehow we have about 12 or more on our roster. When you specialize in collecting low end cast offs others(peers) will notice. They and fans also take note that he has a difficult time obtaining Top 6 players with solid offensive talent. He also has a difficult time with contracts and how you determine what kind and how much is an extension going to cost. Bergevin prefers to over pay and penalize the team with that. He currently has 3 “beauty’s” on the roster: everyone’s favourite Elf – DD, 2nd favourite Russkie – Emelin and lastly that wild and crazy guy and one half of the Czech brothers -Pleks. Over payments alone or with a NMC on questionable talent/production is killing this team now along with a quartet of poor coaches here and the Rock.

    Bergevin needs to decide whether he really does want to be the “Man” here for this team. Does he want to be a Leader or just another follower. At present and based on his track record to date I’m more confident of him getting a team jacket with “follower” on the back of it.

    I don’t want that from him. I really want him to be strong and really step up and do what’s best for business of the team NOT the French Press, not for RDS, not for Geoff Molson or the provincial political hacks who think they deserve a seat at our table. To do this will take an enormous amount of courage in taking on this challenge/Quest. The fans will be watching, the players will be there too, the league will be looking on and so will the full “Pro Quebec” group. I grew up with kids teasing me “my” team was a bunch of Frogs! I toôk all that crap but I never waivered away from this team. The 60’s and 70’s were very exciting as a Habs fan. But my dream has almost been burst as an adult. We got one in the 80’s and one in the 90’s and its drought city ever since. Does Bergevin care about any of this? Does he actually have a vision for this team? I do t think he has a vision unless it’s supposed to play out as an ongoing nightmare. Can this really be the team he wanted: 25th in Goals for, 25th in power play efficiency, no Habs in the Top 20 in scoring and on and on the list goes with a few firsts: Best All World Goalie in Carey Price, Award for Most 4th liners acquired, in the starting lineup and pretty much tie for dead last in their scoring. This is just purgatory that the team is stuck in with this French rules thing. It’s got us no where.

    Bergevin, to do’s:
    1) 2-3 days after regular season –> Fire: Therrien, Dagenault, Lacroix, Jodin and Lefebvre and any other Therrien clone or toady on the spot.

    2) announce that their is a vacancy for the Habs job, the French rule is dead. Instead, the Habs will use a system of the best qualified person – Man or Woman who can work with existing, new and especially young players. A strong systems guy who know scoring more goals than the other team wins games, a coach who will not sit on a one goal lead late in the First Period and hope the Goalie can Win it for us approach. One who cherishes “Fire Wagon” hockey and bring that approach to the team.

    3) prior to the draft once you have locked up your coaching staff put 9-10 4th liners on waivers/trade/release. Aldo send an ambulance to Therrien’s house prior to this announcement for obvious reasons.

    4) we finish in the very front part of the NHL draft. Do the right thing, no stretches, no picking because he has a cool name, no picking a Quebecker unless he’s in the Top 3 of the draft and still available and fills a definite need for this team and on and on

    5) Start the troop movement: surplus 4th liners,, DD, Emelin, maybe Markov if he won’t move to the lower tiers on Defense, Pleks,

    6) Incoming: along with our #1 pick, we need a Top 6 LW, RW as the big starters….we have to fill the roster with 2 Offensive attack lines, a third line that can be dangerous with the puck but is solid defensively and lastly an energy line – players here must know how to get shots on net and score.

    Of course that list goes on for three pages or more. But back to MB……..can he pull this off? I think he has the ability to change his approach and he does have some good guys on his management team. But can he buy off the owner with we’re doing it this way to get into the Cup collecting business or I walk.

    That’s a lot to ask of a guy. My hopes are that he does take on that crusade and makes it happen. The “but will he”? I am not holding out hope for very much of any of this. I do hope to be proven wrong by him but I have this nagging feeling this “gotta be French” no matter what theme is going to continue. Just look at last off season when we could have flushed Therrien and picked up one of the NHL’s best in Mike Babcock. Hopefully, he’ll have an out in his contract in the next few months.

    Roger Steels, London, Ont. Hab Fan since Spring of 1965 March 31, 2016 at 6:30 am Reply
    • Mister,
      (I couldn’t finish reading… Too long for a dream, too long for a pamflet, too long for a comment!)
      IF it couldn’t be written in fewer words, it CERTAINLY can’t be done for real! Too many things!
      Sure, Lefebvre should be fired, but maybe he’s just executing what the boss tells him…
      Thank, Pleky… I don’t know, will see next year.


      Cristian Moldovan March 31, 2016 at 5:13 pm Reply
      • I wish I could say that Sly is just doing what he’s told but I’ve seen him visibly lost for many years in person. I don’t think anyone was telling him to play Louis Leblanc between Stortini and Hagel either.

        Michael Gomez April 1, 2016 at 12:26 pm Reply
        • To: Cristian M. & Michael G.,

          My apologies for carrying on too long on my previous reply on this subject.

          Therrien can add 4 more wins to his name providing the Habs win out but I still want him gone asap! Plus each of his clone monkeys: Danneault, Lacroix, Jodin and Lefvbre. All of these guys are loyal to MT and coach the same way –> no Offense and spotty Defense. The league has changed but these guys are still stuck in a time warp in the past.. None of these “coaches” is going to get us playing into the finals. Today you need to be able to depend on your youth to be good and contribute. Therrien still believes in the old saw you play your vets and sit the kids. Look at the last couple of games with us officially out of the playoffs. Markov and Emelin are playing close to 26-30 TOI. Meanwhile the kids that we want to get a read on in how they play in tight situations. But nope the grand master keeps them on the bench to take it all in. With the return of DD it didn’t take long to knock down Gally27 another notch as he’s getting 2nd line time now.

          I’m begging Bergevin to “Man Up” and do the right thing for the fans and the team by following suggestions to the proverbial “T”.

          Roger Steels April 2, 2016 at 2:39 am Reply
          • I guess we’re too many to think the same, about MT and MB. We’ll see…
            Although, playing more minutes, in the case of Emelin and Marky will have something good in it (too long to explain), I would definitely like to play more the youngsters …
            And, you’ll laugh, I consider that having Pleky in the team will be a good thing. The return wouldn’t be great, anyway, in case of a trade …
            Let’s hope we’ll have a good pick at the draft!

            Cristian Moldovan April 5, 2016 at 4:52 pm

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