In defence of Michel Therrien

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

A lot of us love to hate him. Here's why I don't.

I have never been a "Fire Therrien"er. I wasn’t even one of the ones who moaned when he was named coach again for the Canadiens. You know why?

Marc Bergevin. I just trust him.

We know Bergevin’s pedigree and the utmost respect, down to a man, that he has around the league. I would never think he made the coaching selection lightly, and while it’s true that the dangerously prohibitive, outrageous and short-sighted requirement designed to appease the francophone media in Montreal that the coach should be able to address them in French, exists… He had to have made the most carefully considered decision when naming the head coach to the most storied franchise in sport. And let’s not forget that despite the Chicago BlackhawksStanley Cup ring he has, and the aforementioned unanimous esteem he has among his peers, somewhere between his dumping of one Scott Gomez and his acquisition of Thomas Vanek, he’d lost legions of fans and the hope all around Habs nation. He’s number one again now, by the way. (You always were with me, Marc, just FYI.)

Michel Therrien, since his hire, took a bottom-dwelling team and made it number one. Then he, with his coaching staff, kept his team to a high standard, and despite dealing with numerous injuries, most recently that of our MVP goalie, that team is sitting at third place in the east. And a lot of people still want him fired.

Why?

I don’t claim for a second to be a statistician, analyst or an expert on the game in any way, shape or form. I write some articles here, but they are just light-hearted and peppered with personal preference and opinion. They’re written on my (nearly non-existent) free time and on a volunteer basis. Because I love my team. And during hockey season, it’s my favourite thing to do. I leave the hard analysis and breakdown to the many gifted writers here.

So now we know that, if we didn’t already. I’m just a fan.

To answer the question, "Why fire Therrien," one need only look at the thousand-odd Habs fans I follow on Twitter. The reigning consensus seems to be… I can’t even keep up.

He doesn’t play the kids enough.

What the hell is he doing with his lines.

Why in the HELL is Francis Bouillon getting so much ice time.

Why in the BLOODY HELL is Douglas Murray... Anything.

Why isn’t P.K. Subban getting more ice time?

What the name of sweet jesus has Michel Therrien done to Lars Eller?

Here’s the thing: we’re not coaches. We’re not general managers. Maybe one out of the thousand may be one day, but, you know ... probably not. Until that day, we’re relegated to observing, studying, and taking to the internet to unleash our frustrations and second-guess every move that the organization/coach is making, in much the same way salaried observers such as television analysts and radio broadcasters do, to stimulate conversation, perhaps influence opinion, and certainly boost ratings.

What we collectively witnessed on Saturday, a team that was down 4-1 with 3:22 left in the third period that went on, inexplicably, to win the game, was the sort of excitement a fan lives for, literally. Indeed, that feat had not been accomplished ever before in NHL history. Granted it was against an emotionally fragile, hair-trigger tempered team, but they were also a team that absolutely had to win to keep their playoff hopes alive.

How? I ask you? Despite the coach? Honestly?

I’ve seldom hated/loved a Montreal coach. I was deeply in love with Guy Carbonneau, and want to shrink him down and carry him around in my pocket. That is a disorder best discussed in another post. I did, however, really really vehemently dislike Jacques Martin. This only because I couldn’t find anything to like about him personally, when he spoke, I didn’t like him. I couldn’t find any personal redeeming qualities in the man at all. Same goes for Pierre Gauthier, whom I disliked only because he was completely devoid of any human personality, which, in a city with citizens as passionate and colourful as Montreal, was simply unconscionable to me.

Therrien is different. I think he’s smart. When I watch him in his pressers and on 24CH, I totally think I’d gladly have a beer with him, and I don’t even drink beer. Earlier this season when he spoke to Quebec’s peewee coaches and he spoke of precocious young players’ sensibilities and development, I really, really liked him, and believed him. The man has to know a thing or two, and there’s a reason he has the job of head coach in the National Hockey League.

How has firing Montreal’s head coach every two years worked out for us since, oh, 1993? Not well, you’d have to admit. Why is there such a passion not to let Michel Therrien continue to do the job he was hired to do, by a man most teams across the league would give their eyeteeth to have as their GM?

What if maybe, just maybe, Michel Therrien actually knows what he's doing?

What if:

  • He's giving his less-talented players more ice time because he wants to give them more time to get better, and we'll still maintain our standing? Which we have?
  • He fully realizes the astronomical talent he has in P.K. Subban and is up to the task of making the hard decisions necessary to complete his development, and once he lets that horse out of the stable and tells him to go, he electrifies us and surpasses our expectations?
  • He's deliberately resting our obvious, painstakingly obviously most talented players because, when it comes time for the playoffs, these guys may absolutely not be out of gas?
  • He relies more on our veterans right now than our kids, because said kids can watch and learn a few things? It's not out of the question.

How come we can't understand curious lineups in the regular season but are fully in agreement that it's okay to play anyone in place of Carey Price until the playoffs when he's going to be called upon 100% of the time?

Bottom line is: barring a collapse, which I don't believe will happen, and we miss the playoffs, we're firmly in a playoff position, and that's not going away, despite being down our star goalie. That was always the *only* goal of previous establishment. Marc Bergevin, particularly with his latest acquisition, is not making it a secret that our Eyes are on the Prize this year. There is absolutely no way that is not crystal clear to this coach. And there is no doubt in my mind that, with the kind of leader Marc Bergevin is, he and his coach are of one mind and have clear communication.

I'm going to continue to happily trust Therrien. Until he provides me a legitimate reason not to. And I am cripplingly superstitious, but ... I have a feeling. I'm not saying Cup, but, I have a feeling. Last playoffs will not repeat themselves. I have a feeling that since Game Five of Round One last year, Messrs. Therrien and Bergevin have been preparing for April 2014. The road to success often takes curious turns. Everyone, including me, always says that the playoffs are a completely different animal; the regular season counts for nothing as long as you just make the playoffs. Hello, 2012 Los Angeles Kings.

I cannot wait to see what the Canadiens are truly made of. But I have a feeling.

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