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51 potential candidates to take over as Head Coach of the Montreal Canadiens

Marc Bergevin planted the kiss of death when he declared his trust in his coach. How long can Michel Therrien stay around after such a public display of support if the Habs can't find a way to win?

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

With another sequence of wins, the questions about the head coaching position in Montreal would quiet down, but wouldn't disappear. Haters and lovers of Michel Therrien and his style would remain the same. But all fans have this in common: they want the Stanley Cup.

If Michel Therrien is not the man to carry them to that ultimate goal, who is? For this exercise I went as broad as possible, because Marc Bergevin has surprised us on more than one occasion.

In the NHL's history, 11 rookie coaches have won the Cup. Dan Bylsma is the last to accomplish such a feat (coincidentally, after replacing Therrien). However, he hasn't been able to replicate the feat since.

Coach Year Team
Dave Gill 1927 Ottawa Senators
Cy Denneny 1929 Boston Bruins
Bill Stewart 1938 Chicago Blackhawks
Frank Boucher 1940 New York Rangers
Joe Primeau 1951 Toronto Maple Leafs
Jimmy Skinner 1955 Detroit Red Wings
Toe Blake 1956 Montreal Canadiens
Claude Ruel 1969 Montreal Canadiens
Al MacNeil 1971 Montreal Canadiens
Jean Perron 1986 Montreal Canadiens
Dan Bylsma 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins

The window of Stanley Cup contention is short, so Marc Bergevin electing to bring in a green option and let him develop is very unlikely. Past experience is one of the reasons why Michel Therrien was hired in the first place. The next head coach would have to possess certain qualities to be a viable candidate.

The Requirements

Let's review some of the attributes that might be part of the checklist for serious consideration. A prospective coach wouldn't have to meet all of the following, but the more, the better.

  1. Experience in the league
  2. Excellent communicator with the media
  3. Winning track record
  4. Won a Cup already
  5. Speaks French
  6. Possession oriented
  7. Good motivator
  8. Have an eye for talent

Marc Bergevin knows all too well that time is short. A head coach who speaks French might not be as much a necessity as people may think if that coach had a good track record. The other option would be to have a French-speaking head coach with a penchant for dealing with the media (a Jon Cooper type) and an English-speaking assistant coach who controls the systems and special teams assignments.

A fluency in French from a prospective coach is like flavour in food: it doesn't make it any better for your overall health but it gives it uniqueness. I gave the number of wins in games and not the points because the system changed with the introduction of the shootout, instead of undecided games resulting in ties. Overtime and shootout wins were counted in the career records.

What the Habs have

Let's start with the current coach's credentials that will be used as the standard for comparison. (I included the number of wins rather than points because the system changed with the introduction of the shootout instead of draw. Overtime and shootout wins are included in win totals.)

Michel Therrien

He won the Memorial Cup with Francis Bouillon and the Granby Prédateurs. He coached the Habs for a stint several years ago before being relieved and taking on the head coach role of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He went to the Stanley Cup Final once before getting fired from his second NHL post.

Hired again by the Habs ot start the 2012-13 season, he entered the current one with a record of 337 wins in 674 NHL games (a 50% win percentage). This year he has 23 wins in 46 games (50%).

The candidates

Non-French-speaking options

Let's go through the list of coaches available that (as far I know) don't speak French.

Bruce Boudreau

I realize he has not been fired yet, but with the Anaheim Ducks currently outside of the playoffs, he could become available. He played in Slapshot. He was formerly the head coach of the Washington Capitals before moving to Anaheim. He has missed the playoffs only once and has won the division title every other season. The players that he's coached usually have excellent point production under his watch. He has a reputation of a regular season coach that can't get the job done in the playoff. He has a Jack Adams Trophy to his name, and a win percentage of 60%, with 382 wins in 642 games in the NHL games.

Verdict: Maybe, still employed as an NHL head coach

Dave Lewis

He was the assistant coach to Scotty Bowman with the Detroit Red Wings, winning Cups in 1999-97, 1997-98 and 2001-02. When Scotty Bowman retired he became the head coach and won the President Trophy twice in a row with the Wings. He became the assistant coach of Kirk Muller with the Carolina Hurricanes, and was fired along with him at the end of the 2013-14 season. He is now the head coach of the Belarusian national team. 131 wins in 246 games. (53%)

Verdict: Maybe, he went to the right school, but has no ties with the organization.

Mike Johnston

He is the former head coach of the Penguins. He had previously served as an assistant coach for the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings. 58 wins in 110 games (53%)

Verdict: Nope. Not only did he fail to turn the Penguins around, he has been sanctioned in the past for offering benefits to players while attempting to recruit them.

Brent Sutter

He is currently the GM and coach of the Red Deer Rebels. He won two consecutive gold medals with Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship in 2005 and 2006.  He had 215 wins in 410 games (52%) behind the bench for the New Jersey Devils and Calgary Flames from 2007-08 to 2011-12.

Verdict: Maybe

Randy Carlyle

He was assistant coach to the original Winnipeg Jets and the Washington Capitals. He won the Cup on his second year as head coach of the Ducks before moving on to coach the Toronto Maple Leafs.  364 wins in 702 games (52%),

Verdict: Nope, remember when he was with the Maple Leafs?

Dale Hunter

One of the most hated players during the big Canadiens-Nordiques rivalry, he has been the head coach for the London Knights for more than a decade, and once coached the Washington Capitals on an interim basis. Had 30 wins in 60 games in the NHL (50%). Has links to Habs prospect Michael McCarron.

Verdict: Maybe

Todd Richards

Second-round draft by the Habs in 1985, he never played a game for them. He was an assistant coach in San Jose and head coach for the Minnesota Wild before working his way from assistant to head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets. 204 wins in 417 games in the NHL (49%)

Verdict: Nope. He made the playoffs once in almost six seasons, though his team's always competed hard every year.

Mike Keenan

Former coach for the Flyers, Blackhawks, Rangers, Blues, Canucks, Bruins, Panthers and Flames. He won the cup with the New York Rangers, and has international experience coaching in the KHL where he won the Gagarin Cup, the only person to ever coach a team to both an NHL and KHL championship. Known to show little patience with his goaltenders. 707 wins in 1440 games (49%)

Verdict: Next

Paul MacLean

Once dubbed a "bugged-eyed fat walrus" by Brandon Prust, he was Mike Babcock's assistant coach in Detroit. Most recently the bench boss of the Ottawa Senators, he was fired after a rumoured rift with a star player. 114 wins in 239 games in the NHL (48%)

Verdict: Nope. I can't forget the fact that he blamed Raphael Diaz for the pass that led to the gruesome Eller injury during the 2013 playoffs, and the crazy MOARBIG attitude that came over the Canadiens brass, ultimately leading to the acquisitions of George Parros and Douglas Murray.

Ron Wilson

Well known for introducing technology into his coaching plan, though I don't know his beliefs regarding advanced stats. He was the head coach of the Ducks, Capitals, Sharks and Leafs. 648 wins in 1401 games (46%)

Verdict: See Randy Carlyle above

John Stevens

Currently serving as assistant coach to the LA Kings, he is a former head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers. 122 wins in 267 games in the NHL (46%)

Verdict: Nope. No winning records in the NHL and no tie with the team.

Craig MacTavish

The last player to play without a helmet, he is the President of Hockey Operations for the Edmonton Oilers and formerly coached the team to three playoff berths in eight seasons behind the bench, once going all the way to Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Final. 301 wins in 656 games (46%)

Verdict: Nope. If he couldn't acknowledge Petry's talent, he doesn't possess the talent evaluation the Canadiens desperately need from the person doling out the ice time.

Tom Renney

He is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Hockey Canada. He had some success in the World Championship, winning gold three times in 10 appointments. He was assistant coach under Babcock for the Red Wings. He had served as head coach for the Canucks, Rangers and Oilers. 260 wins in 579 games in the NHL (45%)

Verdict: Nope. There's a good reason why he was always available to coach Team Canada while the NHL playoffs were taking place.

Andy Murray

Currently the head coach of the Western Michigan Broncos, Murray has 20 years of experience as an assistant or head coach in the NHL. He formerly coached of the Blues and Kings, he was an assistant to Mark Crawford at the 1998 Nagano Olympic Games. 333 wins in 740 NHL games (45%).

Verdict: Maybe

Kirk Muller

Former captain of the Montreal Canadiens, he was a successful assistant with the Habs, and is a current assistant coach in the Blues organization. He was less successful as a head coach and was rumoured to have been at odds with several Hurricanes players. Muller knows the organizations, and how to fix one of the Habs' main problems: the power play. Other than the ending "Merci" in RDS interviews during his time in Montreal, he is not a fluent French speaker. 80 wins in 187 games in the NHL (43%)

Verdict: Maybe, he is part of the Habs family.

Rick Dudley

Currently assistant GM for the Montreal Canadiens. He has served as head coach of the Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers. 98 wins in 228 games (43%)

Verdict: Nope, I believe that he enjoys being part of the executive group and far from the stress of the day-to-day

Ted Nolan

He is the former coach of the Islanders and the last year's NHL farm team known as the Buffalo Sabres. His performance with the Latvian hockey team at the Olympic Games was an eye opener for many. He won the Jack Adams. Has no connection with Marc Bergevin or the Habs. 188 wins in 472 games (40%)

Verdict: Nope

Kevin Dineen

Current assistant coach to the Blackhawks, he was the former head coach of the Florida Panthers, He won the gold medal as head coach of the women's team at the 2014 Winter Olympics in a dramatic final with Marie-Philip Poulin's magic goals. 56 wins in 146 games in the NHL (38%)

Verdict: Nope, no connection with the team, not enough experience

Scott Arniel

He played for the Berlin Polar Bears — nothing to do with coaching, but it's cool to say. He left the Vancouver organization as head coach of the farm team to serve as current assistant coach with Alain Vigneault for the New York Rangers. He was a former head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets. 45 wins in 123 games (37%)

Verdict: Nope, I don't think he has enough experience and no tie with the organization

Dallas Eakins

He was once the new sensation of the hockey world. He was promoted in bad conditions and maybe should have served as an assistant coach in the NHL before being thrust into a head-coaching role. 36 wins over 113 games (32%)

Verdict: Nope, he tried to cut ties with the Oilers past by removing the memorabilia from the glory days that was on display in the locker room. With a team as filled with tradition as the Habs, it's a no fit.

Adam Oates

Former NHL player who had a brief NHL experience, no winning record and no tie with the team

Verdict: Nope

Joe Sacco

Assistant coach of the Bruins, no experience as head coach in the NHL

Verdict: Nope

Other names: Rick Bowness, Kevin Constantine, John Hynes

French-speaking candidates

Guy Carbonneau

Former head coach of the Habs, he was first an assistant with the Dallas Stars. Carbonneau is an analyst at RDS.  The Habs tried the second-chance option with Therrien, and I don't think it will be used in this case, except maybe for Alain Vigneault and Claude Julien. Carbonneau's record is not that bad for the short period that he was here and the power play worked well. 124 wins of 230 games (54%)

Verdict: Nope

Guy Boucher

Currently unemployed, he almost won the coaching role of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was the head coach of the Habs farm team and had great success. He coached P.K. Subban, Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais while behind the Hamilton Bulldogs' bench. He won in regular season everywhere he went, though never won a Memorial Cup in junior or a  Calder Cup in the AHL.

Coached Canada to the 2015 Spengler Cup victory and has three gold medals for U-18 Team Canada as an assistant coach.

He served as head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he adopted a 1-3-1 system due to his weak roster, that at one time led to a minute-long standoff versus the Flyers. He was fired when his goalie put up a less than average performance. 97 wins in 195 games in the NHL (50%)

Verdict: Probably the leading candidate.

Jacques Lemaire

A living legend from the Habs dynasty of the 70s, he won the Cup with the Devils as a defence-first coach, 617 wins in 1262 games (49%)

Verdict: Nope. He retired as coach, didn't like the media too much, and is now hired as special counselor for the Leafs.

Marc Crawford

He coached the Colorado Avalanche to their first Cup in 1995-96, and is the youngest coach ever to win the Jack Adams Trophy. An offence-oriented coach, though he used Ray Bourque instead of Wayne Gretzky in the shootout at the 1998 Nagano Olympic Games.

He coached the ZSC Lions of the Swiss National League from 2012, where he won the NLA championship in 2013-14. 549 wins in 1151 games in the NHL (48%)

Verdict: Nope, the Todd Bertuzzi incident is too much a distraction for the Montreal market.

Jacques Martin

Martin is an acting assistant to the coach for the Penguins. He served as head coach for the Blues, Senators, Panthers and Habs. He won four division championships, but never a Stanley Cup. The local media hated Martin style, saying that his hockey was boring. 613 wins in 1294 (47%)

Verdict: Nope

Claude Noel

He now serves as a scout for the New Jersey Devils; he was the former coach of the Winnipeg Jets. He speaks French enough to answer the media questions. 90 wins in 201 (45%)

Verdict: Nope

Larry Robinson

He's a living legend, hall of famer from the 70s, and won the Cup as head coach with New Jersey. He was offered the head-coaching job by a few teams anddeclined. Despite his Anglophone name, he learned French back during his playing days with the Canadiens. 209 wins in 501 games (42%)

Verdict: Nope, he's now elsewhere in his life.

Mario Tremblay

Former Habs player who also won the cup in the 70s, he coached the Habs from 1995-1997. It was the beginning of a long drought with the infamous December 2, 1995 events where we gave Patrick Roy and the Cup to the Avalanche for Jocelyn Thibault and a couple throw-ins. He served as assistant coach to Jacques Lemaire. When Lemaire retired he was let go in favour of a different option. He is now a sports analyst commentator. 71 wins in 159 games (45%)

Verdict: Do I really have to answer this one?

Pascal Vincent

Current assistant coach for the Winnipeg Jets, he served as head coach in the QMJHL for 12 years for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles and the Montreal Juniors.

Verdict: Maybe. He's been with the Jets for five years, serving with two different head coaches (Claude Noel and Paul Maurice) and kept his job.

Dan Lacroix

He is currently serving as assistant coach to Michel Therrien. He was the assistant of Guy Boucher in Tampa Bay and Alain Vigneault in New York. He always served as an assistant coach except for half a season with the Moncton Wildcats.

Verdict: Nope. He seems to be born as an assistant for life.

Jean-Jacques Daigneault

Former defenseman and Stanley Cup-winner with the Habs, he is currently serving as assistant coach to Michel Therrien. He was assistant coach for two other organizations in the AHL.

Verdict: Nope. His specialty is being a defenseman coach.

Clement Jodoin

He's already in the organisation. He was an assistant coach in the NHL multiple times.

Verdict: Nope, the guy is too old with no NHL experience as head coach. He could serve as interim coach.

Benoit Groulx

He is currently the head coach and general manager for the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL, he once coached the Rochester Americans in the AHL with varying success. He was assistant coach to Brent Sutter when Canada finished fourth in the WJC. He won the gold medal the year later as head coach.

Verdict: Nope. His short showing in the AHL suggests he doesn't have the chops to coach a professional team. He would need to develop his craft somewhere other than Gatineau of the junior leagues.

Joël Bouchard

Acting GM and coach of the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, one of the most successful teams in the QMJHL.

Verdict: Nope, like Benoit Groulx he needs development experience elsewhere.

Sylvain Lefebvre

Head coach of the Canadiens AHL affiliate: the St. John's IceCaps

Verdict: Nope, no winning record at the minor level

Dany Dubé

He lost in the shootout at the Olympic Games on the famous goal by Peter Forsberg, and was never offered another chance after that. He has had a role in the media since then. I like his approach, but that's just an opinion.

Verdict: Nope. You need friends and people that remember you. It's been too long since he has coached a team. Too bad.

Philippe Boucher

Currently the head coach and GM of the Quebec Remparts, he had limited success in the QMJHL for one of the best- established organizations.

Verdict: Nope, not enough experience.

Richard Martel

The guy is the equivalent of John Tortorella and Mike Keenan at their peek, with a vicious twist. He was fired from the Brûleurs de Loups de Grenoble. It was a disgrace to hockey.

Verdict: Nope

Pierre Pousse

The long-serving head coach of the French National Team.

Verdict: Nope

Pioneer candidates

Melody Davidson and Daniele Sauvageau

If you're going to talk about winning record.... These women may be among the most successful coaches in international hockey history. Pioneers in the world in regard to women taking head-coaching roles.

Verdict: Probably not.  It would be nice if the Habs were the pioneer, but that candidate would need to work her way through the ranks, also.

International candidates

Nicklas Lidstrom

A Hall of Fame defenceman, he would be the prodigal son of the Red Wings

Verdict: Nope. He would have to start as an assistant coach, probably with the Wings, and eventually end up head coach.

Vyacheslav Bykov

Multiple times the coach of the Russian National Team, he was once drafted by the Quebec Nordiques. The only coach in history to win the Gargarin Cup with two different teams. He also speaks French.

Verdict: Nope.

Olaf Eller

The father of Lars, he is the current head coach of the Danish junior national team. Hard to find his stats as a coach.

Verdict: Nope.

Other possible names: Arno Del Curto, Uwe Krupp


Even if we go this broad, there are not a lot of great candidates. Either they have a poor record or they already hold a position with another team. Not many of the available options have any ties with Montreal or Marc Bergevin. Guy Carbonneau, Mike Johnston, Brent Sutter, Guy Boucher, Dave Lewis, Dale Hunter and Randy Carlyle have 50% winning percentages or above. Todd Richards and Jacques Lemaire are close by at 49%. Michel Therrien also sits above the 50% line.

Guy Boucher really seems like the best all-around candidate.

Bruce Boudreau is a good coach, and I wonder if the Ducks will release him with a playoff spot now within reach. Would he be a fit with Marc Bergevin if he were to be let go?

Dale Hunter's charisma and ties with the Nordiques could help him overcome the linguistic barrier.

I think Kirk Muller could be a solid option too, despite his track record. The numbers look bad because of his very small sample size as coach of a poor team and a conflict with players. He was able to quickly find another job as an assistant.

For the rookie option, Pascal Vincent might be the closest, and maybe should be appointed as next assistant coach for the Habs.

Other suggestions

As Michel Lacroix used to say : "By you the fan". Here is the names suggested below. Thanks for your comments.

Dominique Ducharme

He is the current head coach of the Halifax Moosehead. He won the Memorial Cup once. He was part of the playoff every year, president cup semi-final twice and lost in 2st round the other time.

Verdict: Maybe. He lack experience in the NHL. He should coach in AHL first or serve as assistant coach in the NHL.

André Tourigny

He is currently assistant for the Ottawa Senators. He was assistant to Patrick Roy with the Colorado Avalanche. He was the head coach of Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the QMJHL for 10 years. He missed the playoff once.

Verdict: Maybe. He could be a candidate for assistant coach or simply head coach of the farm team.

Other names: Rikard Gronborg, Brad Shaw, Pierre McGuire.