Some Post-Firing Analysis from Michael Farber, March 26, 2009, exerpted


Three weeks ago, Guy Carbonneau was an NHL coach who apparently had trouble communicating with his players. He had "lost" the dressing room and tinkered with his lines indiscriminately. Now, with chants of "Carb-o, Carb-o" resonating at the Bell Centre in Montreal on many nights, he has apparently metamorphosed into a cross between Toe Blake and Scotty Bowman.

Like Elvis Presley's untimely death, a firing turned out to be a decent career move.

The Canadiens have languished since general manager Bob Gainey sacked Carbonneau on March 9 and returned behind the bench on an interim basis. Prior to a 6-3 home win on Tuesday over the feckless Atlanta Thrashers, Montreal had not won a game in regulation under Gainey.

Carbonneau, a finalist for the Jack Adams Award last year, might become a first-rate NHL head coach, but as happens too often, it will be done somewhere other than in the city where he got his first such job. In the eternal search for the Next Great Coach, the Canadiens have discarded Alain Vigneault, Michel Therrien and Claude Julien in the past decade. Vigneault went on to win a coach-of-the-year award for Vancouver, Therrien took Pittsburgh to the Stanley Cup Final in 2008. and Julien has done a superb job this season extracting latent talent from conference-leading Boston.

Like the Montreal Expos did, the Canadiens have stumbled into the business of grooming talent for other organizations. The moral of the story: maybe the Next Great Coach is the coach you already have.

The long view, even in the go-go NHL, can often be the best one.