Tag:Coaching Carousel
Posted on: December 19, 2011 10:44 am
Edited on: December 19, 2011 7:35 pm
 

Quebec group unhappy with Cunneyworth hire

By: Adam Gretz

There can't be a job in the NHL that carries more pressure and faces more scrutiny than being the head coach of the Montreal Canadiens.

Not only is it a rabid fan base that demands perfection, but you also have to deal with two separate groups of equally harsh media, one of which speaks English, and another that speaks French.

Shortly after he was named as the interim replacement for Jacques Martin following his firing on Saturday, Randy Cunneyworth is starting to get a taste of what it's like inside the belly of the beast. And it's all because he doesn't speak French.

Over the past 20-plus years the Canadiens have made it a point to hire coaches that speak both languages, and when looking at lists of prospective new hires it's almost always limited to bilingual candidates. That of course changed with the placement of Cunneyworth behind the bench over the weekend, and predictably, some people in Quebec aren't happy about it. Mainly those that speak French.

Impératif Français, a Quebec-based nationalist group, has criticized the hire and called it a "bodycheck to Quebec." Along with being overly critical of the hire and calling the ability to speak French a "prerequisite" for the job, the nationalist group has also called for a boycott of all Molson Products, the corporation that owns the team.

Pro-French activist Gilles Rhéaume, representing Ligue Québécoise contre la Francophobie Canadienne, released a similar statement as translated by CJAD in Montreal:
"There are many in Quebec and in all of French America who are asking, the day after a unilingual anglophone was given the head coaching job, if the Canadiens' management hasn't been stricken with francophobia, characterized by a total insensitivity to the French fact in Quebec," Rhéaume wrote. "Not being able to speak French is a severe handicap for someone who occupies such a position. Knowledge of the language of Quebec is an integral part of the skills required to lead the Montreal Canadiens."
What? And you thought the ability to lead the team to wins was the the only integral part of the job?

The problem is people like this -- along with having an obvious fear or bias against anything that's from outside of Quebec -- is that they are still stuck in the stone ages when NHL teams were mostly provincial due to territorial rights, and a team like the Canadiens was made up of almost nothing but French-speaking players from Quebec.

Knowing French may be helpful in his dealings with the media, but to be a head coach in the league today is to deal with a wide range of people from every possible background and culture. The Canadiens roster, as currently constructed, has just three players from Quebec. It has five players from the United States and 10 from various countries in Europe, including Finland, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Belarus and Russia.

It's a global game, and the Canadiens are a global team.

As long as Cunneyworth can communicate his message to his players and put them in a position to succeed, the language he speaks (or doesn't speak) shouldn't matter.

Previously at Eye On Hockey

Canadiens Fire Jacques Martin
More on the NHL's Coaching Carousel

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Posted on: December 17, 2011 4:21 pm
Edited on: December 17, 2011 5:02 pm
 

Kings to name Sutter head coach next week

ds1By: Adam Gretz

In news that is sure to be no surprise to anybody that's been following the situation, the Los Angeles Kings are expected to introduce Darryl Sutter as their new head coach sometime next week, according to Rich Hammond of Kings Insider. Immigration issues have held up the process, and once introduced he will take over for John Stevens, who was named interim coach last week when Terry Murray was fired after the team's disappointing start.

Three head coaches in less than two weeks seems about right for the NHL's head coaching situation this season, as the league has already had six changes behind the bench, including Saturday's announcement from Montreal that resulted in the firing of Jacques Martin. Since the end of last season 12 of the NHL's 30 teams (over one third of the league) has made a head coaching change. Needless to say, it's a tough industry.

In the two games since Murray was relieved of his duties, the Kings have split a pair of decisions, dropping a 3-0 game to Boston before a third period rally in Columbus gave them a 2-1 win over the Blue Jackets.

Sutter last coached in the NHL with the Calgary Flames during the 2005-06 season, leading the team to a 46-25-11 record before losing in the first round of the playoffs. That was one season after the Flames went to the Stanley Cup Final. In his 12 seasons as an NHL coach his teams have compiled a 409-320-101 record.

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Almost immediately after Murray was fired by the Kings last week Sutter's name was mentioned as a possibility, and now it's on the verge of becoming official.

Photo: Getty Images

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Posted on: December 17, 2011 10:04 am
Edited on: December 17, 2011 5:03 pm
 

Jacques Martin fired by Canadiens

By: Adam Gretz

It had been a couple of days since the NHL went through a coaching change, so it was probably time for another one. On Saturday morning the Montreal Canadiens announced that head coach Jacques Martin has been relieved of his duties and will be replaced on an interim basis by Randy Cunneyworth for the remainder of the season.

The Canadiens will be in action on Saturday night at home against the New Jersey Devils. They enter the weekend with a disappointing 13-12-7 record which puts them in last place in the Northeast Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference, two points out of the No. 8 seed. Crushed by injuries all season, especially along its blue line where the team has been without one of its best players, Andrei Markov, from the start, as well as several other key players at various teams, Montreal struggled out of the gate losing seven of its first eight games.

That slow start made assistant coach Perry Pearn the early-season sacrificial lamb, which really did nothing more than buy some additional time for Martin behind the bench.

This was Martin's third season as Montreal's coach, and during his tenure with the team compiled a 96-75-25 record. During his watch the Canadiens qualified for the postseason in each of his full seasons with the team, with the high point being the 2009-10 season when the team made an improbable run to the Eastern Conference Finals behind the stellar goaltending of Jaroslav Halak, eliminating the No. 1 seed Washington Capitals and defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins, both in seven games.

Last season Montreal exited in the first round, losing a game seven to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins.

Replacing him behind the bench for the remainder of this season will be the 50-year-old Cunneyworth. A former player in the NHL for nearly two decades, Cunneyworth was hired as the coach of Montreal's AHL team, the Hamilton Bulldogs, prior to the 2010-11 season.

This is already the sixth coaching change to take place since the start of the regular season, as Martin joins Davis Payne (St. Louis), Bruce Boudreau (Washington), Paul Maurice (Carolina), Randy Carlyle (Anaheim) and Terry Murray (Los Angeles) as coaches to take the fall for their teams early season struggles.

More on the NHL's coaching carousel here

Photo: Getty Images

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Posted on: December 13, 2011 3:09 pm
Edited on: December 13, 2011 3:18 pm
 

Kings closing on replacing Murray with D. Sutter

By Brian Stubits

Kings coach Terry Murray became the fifth head coach to be fired this season on Monday. Los Angeles was the first team, however, not to name a permanent successor upon the firing, instead naming John Stevens as the interim bench boss.

It looks like it could be a very short stint as the head man for Stevens.

Rich Hammond, who writes for team-affiliated blog L.A. Kings Insider, reported early on Tuesday that the Kings had reached out to the Flames asking for permission to speak to Darryl Sutter.

Sutter, formerly the GM of the Flames who is without a position right now, is still under contract in Calgary. Thus, the Kings had to ask for permission first.

The story then mushroomed into reports that the Kings will hire Sutter and he'll be on the bench of Thursday's game in Columbus.

The only thing giving me pause is another blog from Hammond saying it might not happen quite that fast.

If the sides work out an agreement — Sutter would also have to reach a financial agreement with the Calgary Flames, in terms of the rest of his contract — Sutter could be announced as the Kings’ coach this week, although it’s unlikely that he would be behind the bench Thursday in Columbus.

Whether it happens in time for Thursday's road game or not, this much seems pretty evident. There is so much smoke the fire must be burning and Sutter will become the next Kings coach at some point in the very near future.

It certainly wouldn't surprise his brother Brent.

“There’s a history with him and Dean [Lombardi, the Kings GM], going back to San Jose,” Brent Sutter told the Calgary Sun. “It’s not a shock to me if it does materialize.

“To me, that’s where Darryl’s niche is.”

And I don't think that's going to win over all the fans in Los Angeles. Despite the fact that Sutter has a trip to the Stanley Cup Final on his resume as Flames coach and all in all is not a bad coach, Sutter's rep was soured by his GM duties in Calgary. Plus, his teams will play in the pretty much same defensive fashion the Kings had under Murray, just with a lot more edge.

It would come down to a matter of getting a new voice to try and get to the players. That's been the theme in all the firings this season, the coaches were being tuned out by the players, so new voices were needed (another cliché I'm growing tired of). Couldn't they just all go falsetto?

It's clear that by going from Murray to Sutter, GM Dean Lombardi really wants his team to play a defensive style. He had a coach he liked in Murray and, according to Darren Dreger, Lombardi let the team know they better get their butts in gear, because he didn't want to fire Murray, a coach he originally hired.

Lombardi expressed some of the frustration publicly too, courtesy of Frozen Royalty.

“It’s simple,” said Lombardi. “It sounds cliche, but it’s true. Ultimately, the message is that they’re accountable. Unfortunately, the coach has to pay the price. But make no mistake. They’re the ones who are accountable for this.”

Lombardi also stressed that it is not just a matter of young players like Drew Doughty or Jack Johnson not raising their level of play to expected levels. Rather, the veterans get at least as much of the blame, if not more.

“In the end, it still comes down to the player getting his focus, and being the best he can be,” Lombardi explained. “With young players today, it’s a challenge. But I don’t think it’s just the young players. I think it’s been right across the board, so I’m not just pinning [this on the younger players].”

So what's your take, Kings fans and none; you like Sutter to L.A. or no?

Photo: Getty Images

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Posted on: December 12, 2011 6:00 pm
Edited on: December 12, 2011 8:52 pm
 

Terry Murray replaced by John Stevens

Murray1

By: Adam Gretz

Just hours after reports initially surfaced that the Los Angeles Kings could be the next team to make a coaching change, the front office did just that on Monday evening by announcing that head coach Terry Murray has been relieved of his duties. He will be replaced on an interim basis by assistant coach John Stevens.

Murray was in his fourth year as the team's head coach and had compiled a 139-106-19 regular season record, while qualifying for the playoffs in each of the past two seasons, exiting in the first round each time.

“I don’t think words can ever describe how hard something like this is," said Kings general manager Dean Lombardi during a conference call. "You’re talking about, first off, a really good man. As far as a coach, if you look at what he’s done for us, he really stabilized this franchise, pointed it in the right direction. He taught these players a lot. When they look back, they’re going to realize they learned a lot from him. The team got younger and got better under him. He did a lot for this franchise.’’

After a blockbuster trade over the summer that saw the team acquire top-line center Mike Richards in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers, the Kings were expected to be -- and probably still should be -- one of the top contenders in the Western Conference as he joined a team that already had young Stars Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty. So far, things have not worked as planned as they have stumbled out of the starting gate with a 13-12-4 record that currently has them in fourth place in the Pacific Dividion, ahead of only the struggling Anaheim Ducks.

Making the slow start even more frustrating is the fact the Kings have received excellent goaltending from Jonathan Quick since the season started. The problem, however, has been that the offense, once you get past Kopitar and Richards, has been pretty much invisible in all situations (even strength, power play).

Replacing him on an interim basis is the 45-year-old Stevens who joined the Kings organization last season as an assistant.

He'll be taking over a team that has plenty of talent, and what should be high expectations given the talent at his disposal. Will this be the kick in the rear the Kings need to get things going back in the right direction? And, perhaps more importantly, is Stevens the right person to do that?

He does have previous head coaching experience in the NHL, running things behind the bench in Philadelphia between the 2006-07 season and 2009-10. He replaced Ken Hitchcock early in the '06-07 season and remained on the job until early in the 2009 season when he was replaced by Peter Laviolette. The Flyers then went on to win the Eastern Conference and lose in the Stanley Cup Final to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games. During his stint with the Flyers the team had a record 120-109-34 under his watch.

But while he's currently behind the bench, he may not be there for long. Speculation has already started that his tenure is going to be a temporary one, and one name that's been mentioned is Darryl Sutter. Lombardi was asked specifically about Sutter and how he's spoke highly of him in the past.

“Like I said, there’s no timeline and we’re looking at all our options. Right now, I think that’s as far as I can comment.’’

This is already the fifth coaching change of the NHL season. Previously, the St. Louis Blues replaced Davis Payne with Hitchcock, while the Capitals, Hurricanes and Ducks all made changes over the past month.

More on the NHL's Coaching Carousel here

Photo: Getty Images

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Posted on: December 12, 2011 10:17 am
Edited on: December 12, 2011 11:02 am
 

Report: Kings prepping to fire coach Terry Murray

By Brian Stubits

There have already been four coaches fired this season in the NHL. According to the L.A. Times a fifth could be coming this week.

The report in the Times says the Kings are preparing to fire coach Terry Murray. There is no replacement lined up, so the job would likely go to assistant John Stevens on an interim basis.

At no point were the Kings expected to be fourth in their own division -- which has been subpar as a whole -- and 12th in the Western Conference. Moreover, even with the defensive style that Murray runs, the Kings really have no business being the worst team in the league at scoring. Their 2.24 goals per game is the lowest in the NHL, even below Anaheim.

An offensive cast of Mike Richards, Anze Kopitar, Simon Gagne, Dustin Brown, Justin Williams, Jarret Stoll and Dustin Penner supported by Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson should be scoring more. Jonathan Quick can only stop so many shots.

Here is what Brown told the Times over the weekend about the way the team has been playing of late.

"We have to be more desperate right now. We have to be more desperate the rest of the year," Brown said Saturday. "We aren't playing with enough intensity or enough desperation. We are a good team and now we are not playing like one."

That never is a ringing endorsement for a coach. Fair or not, players not playing up to their potential will always fall on the bench boss' shoulders. We've seen it a few times already this season. When a team isn't living up to its potential -- or at least the potential that everybody thinks they have -- it's going to be time for the coach to go.

Fair or not, that's the way it works in sports. It's funny to me that in most professions, if the employees aren't getting the job done, it's them who will be fired. Obviously the world of contracts and high-priced ones at that alter the dynamics, so the manager takes the fall.

Adding to the confounding nature of L.A.'s start, so far they have only played 11 road games compared to 18 at home. You wouldn't figure that bodes too well for a team that would like to catch up in the standings.

But the good news for any new coach that takes over in the case Murray is fired? Despite being 12th place in the Western Conference, the Kings are only three points behind the Dallas Stars and Phoenix Coyotes for the Pacific Division lead. That doesn't fit anybody's definition of insurmountable.

Photo: Getty Images

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Posted on: December 1, 2011 11:24 am
Edited on: December 2, 2011 12:24 am
 

Lessons in Ducks' Carlyle-Boudreau exchange

By Brian Stubits

The Anaheim Ducks couldn't buy a win. They had lost seven straight games and had only two wins in 18 games going into Wednesday.

So for finally getting a win by beating the Montreal Canadiens 4-1, head coach Randy Carlyle was fired. Literally, within an hour of winning the game. At the time of the firing, the Ducks announced the hiring of Bruce Boudreau, the former Capitals coach fired just 65 hours earlier, with a two-year contract.

"I was shocked," Teemu Selanne said. "I didn't see this coming. But obviously with the situation, we were expecting something was gonna happen."

The Elias Sports Bureau points out that is the quickest turnaround for a coach in NHL history.

Carlyle was the third coach canned this week. That means in the span of three days a former Stanley Cup-winning coach (Carlyle), Stanley Cup-finalist coach (Paul Maurice in Carolina) and former Jack Adams Award-winning coach (Boudreau) were all terminated. If anything shows how much of a win-now business the NHL (and all professional sports for that matter) is, this is exhibit A, B and C.

So there are a few of lesson in there. OK, there are a lot of lessons in there, but we're going to talk about two.

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The first lesson is the easy one: Don't let your team suck. It's obvious to say, but that was the primary reason Carlyle was fired on Wednesday, the team was playing awful hockey for the last month and a half. None of the tumult in Anaheim would have been spinning like the tea-cups at Disneyland if they could win a game or two.

To illustrate the Ducks sucktitude, the Battle of California blog dug up this little nugget: In the first eight minutes of periods this season -- any period -- the Ducks are a minus-24 in goal differential. In the other 12 minutes, they are even. That doesn't bode well for a coach.

"They didn't seem to believe in themselves anymore, and I hadn't seen that in six years here," Ducks general manager Bob Murray said.

The second lesson is one for general managers. Don't wait to make a move you think needs to be made. The Ducks had hit a point where a shakeup was necessary. That's why they have been talking about trading star young winger Bobby Ryan.

Then Boudreau became available. The move was announced on Wednesday night, but don't be fooled into thinking that wasn't a decision already made. It's not often a coach is fired right after a game, a win no less.

Murray admitted on Thursday that he called Capitals general manager George McPhee very soon after Boudreau was fired. Considering Murray was already looking for "a new voice," as he put it, Boudreau sort of fell into his lap.

On Wednesday Boudreau was doing an interview with 106.7 The Fan in Washington D.C. about his firing. During the call he was walking in the airport and he told the hosts he was headed to Toronto to see his mother. That might have been a white lie it turns out. Instead he was getting ready to see his new employer in Anaheim.

Good coaches don't last long when they are on the market. And make no mistake, Boudreau is a good coach. You don't go 201-88-40 by being a poor coach. It wasn't until he came aboard that the Capitals took off and became a regular-season stalwart. This situation can be similar.

"It's great to be here," Boudreau said. "I don't think opportunities like this come around every day, with the talent we have here. I jumped at it."

We saw it earlier this season with the St. Louis Blues, too. They obviously wanted Ken Hitchcock to be their coach. There was a lot of talk that the Columbus Blue Jackets were going to fire Scott Arniel and name Hitchcock his replacement. So what did the Blues do? Fire Davis Payne somewhat unexpectedly then announce Hitchcock as his replacement.

Speaking of Hitchcock, he comes off looking like a prophet. It was just on Tuesday he predicted that within 72 hours Boudreau would be back in rinks. Nailed it.

So when you see somebody you want, don't hesitate. Get while the gettin's good. Or should I say get while the gettin's still there to get. There are still a handful of teams who could potentially make a coaching change. The Montreal Canadiens don't have the most secure coach. Same goes for the Blue Jackets, Colorado Avalanche, Calgary Flames, New York Islanders and even Los Angeles Kings. That would have been a lot of teams interested in Boudreau's services. So instead of taking a chance, Bob Murray decided to cut the line now and be the first to reel in the fish he wanted.

The third lesson? Star players will always win out in power struggles. Or at least, coaches will never win them.

Was there a battle between Carlyle and Ryan in Anaheim that led to so many trade rumors regarding the 24-year-old? Hard to tell for sure, but as of yesterday it seemed pretty clear that not all was right near the Magical Kingdom.

The Ducks were shopping a player that every other team in the NHL would love to have. That right there is probably a sign you have somebody worth keeping.

Then there was the incredibly ... odd quote from Carlyle to Ryan. When Ryan got around to talking to Carlyle about the rumors that had Ryan admitting he wouldn't be surprised if he were traded, this was the response from his head coach. "[He] has to find that inner peace in himself to deal with it."

Pretty rough. Never seen a coach give a response like that before. Some might say tough love. Others might say tough times for their relationship.

Obviously this shares a similarity to Boudreau in Washington. The two sides will continue to deny it, but it won't stop the speculating that not all was great between Boudreau and Alex Ovechkin. There are some who will believe for the rest of their time that Ovechkin pushed Boudreau out.

In the end, it seems as though Murray came to his senses and got rid of Carlyle. There is certainly no guarantee this brings an end to the Ryan speculation, but it should. The Ducks got their shakeup with this moves and don't need to trade away Ryan. He's still young and talented, it would be a trade they would likely rue forever in Anaheim.

"I'm hoping everything settles down right now," Murray said, "and I think it will."

That came right after Nick Kypreos, the one who first reported Boudreau was on his way out in Washington and reported the trade rumblings on Ryan, tweeted that Ryan is off the market.

Now, under Boudreau, Ryan will be an asset. It's a situation somewhat similar to what he walked into four years ago in Washington. There are some very talented skill players up front. It will be interesting to see if he does what he did in Washington and just let them go crazy. Open up the ice and let them loose. Ryan would fit into that scheme very nice.

I love the turn of events for the Ducks. Much the same as Boudreau in Washington, Carlyle's time in Anaheim had clearly just come to an end. It was a great run that included a Stanley Cup.

"I want to think Randy for six-plus years of outstanding work," Murray said. "He’s a terrific coach and will be a terrific coach again."

But obviously what Carlyle was doing was no longer working. There is no reason the Ducks should be so low in the standings when they have last year's Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry on the roster along with one of the best skill players of all time in Selanne, who is still playing at a high level.

They might have just bought themselves a lot more wins in future seasons.

More Coaching Carousel News Here

Photo: Getty Images/Ducks Twitter feed

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Posted on: November 30, 2011 11:52 am
 

Boudreau on Caps: I tried an awful lot of things

By Brian Stubits

Bruce Boudreau waited a day to do his farewell media tour to the people in Washington. He didn't want to overshadow the debut of Dale Hunter as his replacement and the team. So when did start talking about his time with the Capitals on Tuesday, he was typical of the guy nicknamed Gabby for his propensity to talk.

In a radio interview on D.C.'s 106.7 The Fan, Boudreau ran the gamut what he learned and went through as a coach with the Capitals, a job he describes as a dream job.

"I'm sure there more options, but I tried an awful lot of things," Boudreau said when referring to pushing so many buttons. "I'm sure I would have thought of few more things."

But the elephant in the room was his relationship with star forward and team captain, Alex Ovechkin. There has been a lot of speculating that the two had, for lack of a better term, grown apart.

So, was there a rift between the two of them?

"Quite frankly maybe I'm naive, I have no idea," Boudreau said. "We both grew a little bit. When I first got here he was 21. I think everything else has been blown out of proportion."

When the two finally did talk on Tuesday (understandably, Boudreau wasn't interested in talking to anybody really on Monday) what did he have to say?

"I told him he was very fair to me and he made it easy for me to coach," Boudreau said.

It's interesting that Boudreau left the door open for speculation with some of his answers. On a couple of occasions he cited his own naiveté before denying any rifts or other such issues such as him "losing the team." We can't really say if there was a problem in their relationship or not, but from the press box, it didn't seem all peachy keen.

Is he just trying to say all the right things now or is he being completely honest? Knowing Boudreau, he's probably telling the truth, he's never been one to really hold back on saying what he thinks.

What about the other Russian winger he seemed to be butting heads with, Alexander Semin. Was he difficult to coach?

"Sometimes just because the language barrier and sometimes just because the penalties," Boudreau said. "Sometimes he was a pleasure to watch, sometimes it was frustrating. Like a lot of geniuses when they are flowing they are tremendous, but when they are struggling it's tough."

Boudreau could see the writing on the wall and while it was tough, he said he understands why he lost his job. It's almost like a coach at the college level who is asked to walk away from a job at his/her alma mater. It's home for them and they don't want to see it hurt. Better yet, it's the way some people view breakups -- if you truly care for the person, you hope they'll be happy.

Boudreau comes off that way, like he's leaving an ex-girlfriend behind in D.C.

"I was more concerned with the state of hockey here in D.C.," he said. "We've built something good here and I didn't want that to deteriorate."

As I wrote Tuesday night, St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock isn't worried about life after the Capitals for Boudreau. He expects him back and around hockey very soon. Boudreau feels pretty much the same. He better.

"Hockey is in my blood. My wife would kick me out of the house anyway if I stay around too long so I better do something."

Photo: Getty Images

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