Last night, after the Tampa Bay Lightning eliminated the Canadiens from the playoffs in six games (the last of which highlighted every weakness the Canadiens have had all year), Michel Therrien said the following.
"I felt that physically and mentally we were drained. It's disappointing but I guess those things happen."
(per Dave Stubbs and others on Twitter)
Of course, this being Montreal and the social media era and all, we were all outraged. Therrien seemed to be throwing his team under the bus. It still seems to read that way. Over the next few days that quote and any follow-up quotes are going to be examined under every microscope we can find and it's likely only going to solidify in many fans' (and media members') minds that this coach needs to go, and that we need a new one. Obviously Mike Babcock is the most coveted option.
Mike Babcock is the pipe dream. It is not going to happen. He has too many options to even consider coming to a city where he'll be run through a meat grinder while on duty and chased around like a Hollywood celebrity while off duty. Not to mention, the Habs are currently employing a French-speaking coach that has a deceptively good record. Good luck trying to justify that move to the most vocal elements of the Francophone media and to the masses.
Even if the Habs did decide to let Therrien go and did lure Mike Babcock, say with a record-breaking salary and some Rosetta Stone software, it's not exactly a guarantee that they will win the cup. Even if they solved their forward depth problems in addition to their coaching problem, there is no guarantee that they will win a cup. Luck plays such a huge role in the playoffs. Whoever wins this year did not have to contend with the Los Angeles Kings or a healthy Pittsburgh Penguins team. They did not get slammed around the boards for seven games by the Boston Bruins or Philadelphia Flyers. Next year and beyond, playoff spots might be taken up by actual good teams instead of Winnipeg or Calgary or Ottawa. It takes a lot to win a cup, and often the factors outside of your team are just as important as those within it. Changing the coach will not guarantee a cup or even a cup final appearance.
Still, if you're Marc Bergevin this summer, wouldn't you be asking yourself some questions?
Questions such as why a team with mobile defensemen such as P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov, Tom Gilbert, occasionally Nathan Beaulieu and later Jeff Petry on their blue line could not ever break out of their own zone. Or why a team with Subban, Markov, Beaulieu, Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk, P.A. Parenteau, Tomas Plekanec, Brendan Gallagher, and (sigh, yes) David Desharnais could not score goals or even generate shots on the power play. Or why every power play featured immediate short-handed chances for the opponent and more dump-ins than zero every time. Or why this was the case for two years straight.
Or why a team with an objectively superior roster to Toronto's had similar possession numbers with the difference being best-in-the-world goaltending. Or why Lars Eller, a phenomenal possession player, spends his time babysitting the least talented players on the team. Or why one year Bergevin added some "grit" guys to the roster and that did not work, and why another year he added players analytics nerds would approve more of to the roster and that didn't work either. Or why a team with the likely Vezina and Hart trophy winner and a possible two-time Norris trophy winner (I say ‘possible' but not ‘likely' because I do not trust most of the hockey media to have voted correctly) in their primes is still considered "transitioning." Or why when he gets rid of players the coach cannot use and adds the kinds of players the coach thinks he can use, the team does not improve.
Why this team, with this roster, sucks in front of Carey Price.
The problem is not what Michel Therrien said last night. The problem is that he does not have the answer to any of the above questions. Which, if I am not mistaken, is the coach's job.