Coach Carbonneau a bit 'scared'
Taking over as Montreal's head bench honcho presents challenges

By Red Fisher, The Montreal Gazette , 5/10/06

MONTREAL -- The years, almost two decades of playing the National Hockey League game he knows better than most -- and, by his own admission, all he knows -- have left their marks on Guy Carbonneau.

The thin, white lines from long-ago high sticks have faded.

The ugly bruises he suffered throwing his body in front of shots by the opposition have disappeared.

A criss-cross of little valleys from the corners of his 46-year-old eyes are there, but that was then and this is now, and there is nobody more important to the welfare of the Montreal Canadiens organization than Carbonneau, who replaces Bob Gainey as the head coach in the 2006-07 season.

Carbonneau joined the Canadiens in midseason as interim head coach Bob Gainey's principal aide behind the bench.

He was largely the silent partner alongside a stoic Gainey -- who'll now focus on his duties as general manager -- because it's what the latter always has been during his Hall-of-Fame career.

But now that Carbonneau has taken over, it's likely you ain't seen nothing yet!

"I was really emotional as a player," Carbonneau said. "I think that ... you know ... behind the bench, there's certain times when you need to be emotional. What I have to do is learn when and how to do it. Try to pace myself. As a player, you do it more often. Hockey is a game of emotion. I don't want to hide that. When it's a big game, I want the players to know it's a big game.

"As a coach, there are so many more things which go through your mind."

What is going through Carbonneau's mind now is what lies ahead.

What kind of roster will Gainey provide him with when training camp opens in September?

The new players won't start falling in line until the NHL playoffs are over, and right now he has no real way of knowing who they'll be, even though you can be sure between now and then Carbonneau will tell Gainey what he needs.

"I think the fact that Bob has been behind the bench since January kinda makes that call a lot easier," Carbonneau said. "I mean ... he knows what he has, knows the players who make sacrifices, knows those who are ready and those who aren't ready, knows where strengths are and where our weaknesses are.

"Obviously, there's some work to do with free agents. What I want and what he's gonna be able to get ... well, he knows!" Carbonneau said with a tight, little smile.

"I think it's unfair for our players and for the other teams to hear names ... those which I'd like to have ... playerswho are still in the playoffs."

Needless to say, Carbonneau also knows better than most people the pressure he faces behind the Canadiens bench.

It's all about winning and being squeaky clean off the ice.

Those among you with fairly long memories will remember the Journal de Montreal photo of Carbonneau walking off the golf course, middle finger upraised, only days after the Canadiens fell to the Boston Bruins in the first round of the 1994 playoffs.

Carbonneau's gesture was perceived to be an insulting reference to Canadiens fans, whereupon he was shipped to St. Louis.

Carbo still remembers it.

"I regret doing the gesture because I think it wasn't appropriate." he said. "But I've never had any remorse because I knew why I did it. It wasn't because of the people. It wasn't because we lost. It wasn't because I was upset at the world. We were on a private golf course. Three times the TV station was trying to do an interview about nothing,"he explained.

"Is there pressure to win? Sure, there is," he said. "When I got to Dallas, there was no pressure to win because we never won. After we won in '99, there was as much pressure to win there as there is here. Especially when your payroll is $71 million," he said with a laugh.

"Am I scared?" he asked. "Yes, a little bit. The way I see it, it's up to me to stay focused on what we decide as an organization and as a coaching staff, and keep doing doing what we think is right. I'll manage."