The Blue Jays can only hope John Gibbons will fare as well in his second kick at the can as Michel Therrien has thus far. And it’s not a bad comparison, is it? Gibbons had only 50 major league at-bats; Therrien never got to play an NHL game. Both were canned from their dream jobs in Toronto and Montreal amid suggestions their dismissals were unfair or premature. Both haven’t been afraid to challenge their players in controversial ways. Both were surprising choices to again take charge of the team that had once fired them. Or, perhaps more accurately, to put themselves squarely in the line of fire again. While Gibbons waits to get started, Therrien has so far this season guided the Montreal Canadiens to the heights of the Eastern Conference. Few anticipated this could even be a playoff team, and that perspective was hardly altered on the grand occasion of their home opener last month when they hosted the Maple Leafs and delivered a dreary, uninspired performance in a 2-1 defeat. In the ensuing 18 matches, however, Montreal has lost only three in regulation. Of their four regulation setbacks, two have been to the Leafs, and the last by an embarrassing six-goal margin in a match filled with scraps and alleged chomps. Which sets the stage rather nicely for Wednesday night, particularly with the Habs having swung a trade late Tuesday to bring winger Michael Ryder back, another intriguing maneuver by intriguing rookie GM Marc Bergevin. Bergevin got the job last May, and immediately demonstrated he had a handle on the Montreal hockey environment, moving head coach Randy Cunneyworth — a unilingual Anglo — from his head coaching position to an assistant slot. We can argue all day whether an English-only speaker should be able to coach the Canadiens etc., etc. But Bergevin didn’t hem and haw over the decision; he made it quickly and decisively. He lured Rick Dudley away from the Leaf front office and brought in Scott Mellanby as the new director of player personnel. But almost as if to show that moving Cunneyworth was not an indication he would simply look to make popular choices, he hired Therrien, an appointment that was greeted with skepticism and speculation Bob Hartley had really been his first choice but had taken the Calgary job instead.
Montreal Canadiens’ new GM/coach braintrust has team firing on all cylinders
Toronto Star | Feb 27