Being completely honest with you, there’s no way I do an interview months after getting fired. What’s the point? Usually the point to doing something is there is a gain to be had, but I sure wouldn’t be able to find it speaking up about controversial issues over the years. Tony Marinaro of TSN 690 is an excellent interviewer. He asks tough questions and has an ability to back a subject into a corner to answer in a way that they would prefer not to — it was how Marc Bergevin got put in a foxhole unequivocally to not fire Michel Therrien for that rest of the season.
If you’ve actually been in a foxhole and you missed it, Bergevin did, in fact, fire Therrien.
Today, the former head coach of the Montreal Canadiens spoke candidly about his second tenure. Five years is a long time for a lot to be believed that is not actually true, but narratives are a powerful thing in the world of social media. Fiction becomes fact and fact becomes fiction.
Therrien had some problems through his tenure. It’s normal. You’re trying to manage a lot of players and those players have talent and a right to achieve their goals, which may run contrary to the goals of the head coach. The players make a ton of money and that money means they have a sense of entitlement. Naturally there will be friction, but one of the aspects of the business that disappoints me to no end is the false rumour that comes out of a locker room.
Andrew Shaw was widely speculated to have been given an embarrassing dressing down by Therrien that led to the head coach supposedly losing the room. Shaw took a stupid penalty, and the rumour was that Carey Price had to step in because it appeared that it could get physical – that Therrien could even hit Shaw. So how are we going to know this? Only one way… one of the 20 players in the room sings. There may be the odd time in sports that a canary sings, but for the thousands of times that I have heard so and so said this in the room when only the players and the head coaches were in the room, I would say less than one percent of those times are actually true.
We finally got the response to that ugly rumour: “I’m not the guy who’s going to come in and humiliate a guy in front of his peers. It’s not true.” Therrien said that if he has a problem with a player he will take him to his office for a one on one. What a novelty! Instead of spreading the ugly rumour without actually asking the participants involved, do the classy thing — Ask if it is truth! Wild how that works.
The curious case of PK Subban was another chapter in the coaching life of Michel Therrien. This was the hardest player for Therrien to manage over the years. This isn’t my opinion. This is simply the truth looking at the many times we all listened to news conferences and the praise never flowed from Therrien even if PK was the first star of the game. Here’s my take: Therrien was managing his player like he is paid to do and he never wanted to make Subban feel over-confident because Subban would then take more risks, which would hurt his performance. I don’t know if he’s right on that point, but I do know that this is how the organization felt. On this one, I have a canary who sang.
I don’t think Therrien managed Subban well though. When asked about singling him out in Colorado for losing the puck at the blue line when the play continued 140 feet up the ice leading to a 3 on 3 with everyone else completely messing up even worse to cost the Habs, Therrien said “I hate to lose”. Nope. Sorry. This doesn’t fly. Pacioretty lost his man five feet from the goal on this play. Two other players also lost their man close to the Habs goal. “I hate losing” didn’t lead to a transfer of anger on to the other players involved. I’m calling ‘found an easy scapegoat’ on that one.
This is why I said at the outset that there is nothing to be gained speaking to the media later, because you’re never going to answer it all so well that the rose blooms more beautifully. Therrien also said it was a comment that he shouldn’t have made about Subban so full marks there. It’s hard to admit errors. You’re not going to find many who are any good at it if you pay close attention to the world.
Another nugget from the excellent Marinaro interview was Therrien’s handling of Alex Galchenyuk which has been a real frustrating eye of the storm for Habs fans. Therrien finally said what had been discovered in a one on one interview years ago done by Marc Antoine Godin of La Presse. For some bizarre reason that scoop from Godin where Galchenyuk actually says “why would I ask to switch back to the wing?” never got any traction but the confusion that came out of his stock answer – that he will play where he is told – was always quoted as ‘the truth’. Therrien revealing Galchenyuk’s preference for the middle now becomes an interesting angle moving into the season… will Galchenyuk get his wish to play centre? Therrien says he always moved Galchenyuk back and forth because they needed to manage his confidence. This confidence was lost because of defensive issues. If you’re a student of the game in any way shape or form, you know that this is clearly the case. However, if you’re counting your Corsis, you probably missed this obvious fact to managers, coaches and scouts: Galchenyuk still needs to learn the defensive side of the ice.
Other nuggets included this on Pacioretty: “I got tons of respect for that guy. He cares about his team, teammates, and he raises money for the city.”
Also on the night that Al Montoya was left in for 10 goals in Columbus that was needed because the Habs played the next night needing a win over the Flyers with a rested Carey Price, Therrien said: “That was the toughest night of my coaching career.”
On Jonathan Drouin coming to Montreal for Mikhail Sergachev: “Drouin’s a superstar.”
It was a hell of a coaching career. He came close to winning the Stanley Cup and his winning percentage is extremely good. He said he will scout for the Habs this year – a good decision to stay in the game until the next opportunity comes along. And he should get one. There are certainly worse at it and there are certainly better at it like the new Habs head coach Claude Julien.
Until the day he’s hired as a head coach again this was, as Therrien said, the last time he will speak to the media. Not sure this time was in his best interests, but it sure was riveting to listen to all in all.
“So Alex about this preference to be a centre….”