Sunday Conversation: Montreal Fans Relieved Of Their Coach


It was bound to happen.  The only question was when.  The announcement came Saturday morning that former Florida Panther Coach and General Manager Jacques Martin would be relieved of his duties as coach of the Montreal Canadians.  I could here a collective sigh of relief coming from Twitter.  Or was it more of an expression of pure giddyness as one of my on line friends described to me?  Either way, jubilation was the word for the morning if you were a Habs supporter.  Randy Cunneyworth a former player was named as the interim coach for the remainder of the season, which is surprising that a more qualified candidate could be found to help salvage the season.

This shouldn’t be news to Panther fans as they are full aware that Martin’s tenure here was tumultuous and his systems wore out their welcome after a short time.  You recall that Martin was brought in as coach for the 2005-2006 season, but under one condition….that his good friend Mike Keenan be made general manager.  An odd request, but one that was allowed.  However it was Keenan who left was  fired after the start of the 2006 season, and in my mind the wrong man stayed on board.  I’ll defend this forever, but the difference between Keenan and Martin is that Keenan wanted to win, Martin wanted not to lose.  That was evident by his defensive style and his cautionary actions behind the bench and from his general manager’s desk. 

The moves or non moves that Martin made set this franchise back for years, and the cleanup is virtually complete, as well as the culture completely changed.  Martin bailed out on his newly hired coach Peter DeBoer in 2008 to take the glorious job as head coach of the Canadians.  I had predicted that it would last about 18 months , and while I’m a little off, I’m not surprised.  While the Habs were 96-75-25 under Martin, they seemed to underachieve.  Their playoff run in 2009 was a glorious time for Habs fans, but they basically rode the hot hand of goaltender Jaroslav Halak and the hot stick of Michael Cammelleri.  Halak has moved on to St. Louis and Cammalleri has struggled.

That’s the thing with JM.  Initially what he does seems to work, but then players/teams seem to get tired of it and the togetherness seems to wear off.  It gets boring playing defensive hockey all the time.  It gets frustrating when the philosophy to a game is to essentially play as though your killing a penalty for the entire third period.  All of Martins teams with the Panthers and Canadians have struggled to hold on to leads in the final frame.  Evidence of his “safe style”.

Whether it was about change or execution of plays, something in Montreal needed to happen.  Montreal had been making sloppy mistakes, had a poor record at home, and was suffering from injuries as well.  Some feel that Habs general manager Pierre Gauthier also should be removed, and this could very well happen by season’s end, but this is a situation where the GM is trying to save his job as well.  Gautheir defends his move, and feels that despite Cunneyworth not being fluent in French, is the right candidate for now.  But fingers will point to the GM as well for his lack of building a supporting cast around his skilled players.  It says something when Peter Budaj is your backup goaltender.

Whether relieving or “sacking” Martin of his duties is the ultimate correct choice remains to be seen.  The bottom line is this is a talented team, that is fast, skilled and has a quality goaltender in Carey Price.  But much like his Florida and Ottawa teams in the past, Martin’s emphasis on defence ultimately causes a breakdown.  His reliance on veterans whether they perform or not, and his lack of faith in younger and potentially more talented players hasn’t changed since he first came into the league.  The marriage of Martin and exuberant defenceman P.K. Subban and his insistence that Scott Gomez be given top minutes despite lack of production are perfect examples of his charade.

Does Martin get hired again?  Was all this really his fault?  Did the players tune him out?

Curious to your thoughts.

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