We've heard straight from the horse's mouth a few times now (that's Jacques Demers) that coaches are unfairly judged and that on the whole, as a group, they can do no wrong. According to Jacques, Montreal is a veritable coaching academy, with the best coach in the East, the Northeast and the Northwest all learning their trade in our fair city. It's an interesting take.
I've always thought Vigneault was a good one. But he fell on Houle's sword didn't he. As for Therrien then Julien, I thought they were both pretty amateur when they were here, and I'm not sold on them now because Malkin is scoring 3 points night and Tim Thomas is doing his October-November thing again. Both guys love to look good in good situations, but have yet to show they can adapt to adversity.
I share some of the same feelings for Carbonneau, but with him there's the knowledge that he has it in him somewhere.
Saturday night vs. the Bruins
The raison d'etre for this post, though, is the rivalry between former coach Julien and his successor Carbonneau.
It has come up on this site (Ian Vitro comment):
I didn't think this was a good game and it totally left a sour taste in my mouth. I kept trying to figure out why Laraques was playing with Tanguay and Koivu, or why Kovalev was on with Lapierre and Begin. With the offensive struggles we have, I don't think these lines made any sense. And I'm totally sick of Carbo juggling the lines like this.
and elsewhere (notably the Daily Hab-It):
... shouldn't Guy Carbonneau's focus be elsewhere, other than making sure Georges Laraque is on the ice shadowing and harassing Lucic?
that people did not like Carbonneau's deployment of Georges Laraque over the weekend. I even had an offline argument with one of the faithful readers (and good friend). As usual, I disagree with the opinion being thrown around and (from what I've seen) accepted among groups of fans. I personally liked what Carbonneau did. I'll explain.
1) Carbonneau thought of a tactic
This must be the first time this year that Guy Carbonneau has admitted that something other than line changes or adding a defenceman to the squad could help get a win.
2) Cabonneau forced Julien's hand
Lucic did get a goal. That certainly stands like a glaring beacon against my argument. But generally, I thought the Laraque strategy in the first period was working. Lucic was put off and spent a lot of time trying to avoid Georges, thereby taking the sandpaper away from the otherwise soft and fluffy first line. More importantly Julien was flustered and put up a brick in the first with his comeback strategy. Forcing a game strategy on another coach is always positive.
3) Georges looked OK given a purpose
Turns out all Georges needed was something to do. It makes sense. After all, if he's to make up his own mind, who knows what he would come up with – we've already seen marginal, bit part, invisible and completely and utterly redundant from him.
4) Koivu and Tanguay could focus on being a tandem
This may be a stretch, but I thought Koivu and Tanguay looked better than they had in quite a stretch. They knew whose job it was to retrieve the puck and whose job it was to shoot. There was no spanner (Higgins) thrown into the works.
Tactic ran its course
So, following a first period of targeting Lucic, I was happy. The problem, Carbo, before you get too smug, is that the tactic started to run flat after 20 minutes. Lucic, realising he wasn't going to have to fight if he didn't want to, started to ease into the game. Laraque was neutralised. This is when Carbonneau could and should have had a back-up plan.
I guess that would be expecting a little much on the night of his first tactical revelation this year. Hey, maybe next time.
Julien has a short memory
Julien was the smug post-game jokester as he played to the hometown media:
"I betcha Milan never thought he was that good that he'd have a shadow on him," Julien said, clearly annoyed. "I don't know if it's ever happened in his career but it's pretty simple. We've got a good hockey player, he's 20 years old, a first line player, it's as simple as that. Do you think we're going to send him against probably the toughest guy in the league? I know Georges Laraque was doing that because he was told to. Georges is not that type of guy. He respects the young kids, he knows what it's all about. There was no way it was going to happen. (Shawn) Thornton was there, ready for Georges, that never happened either. My tough guy was ready for their tough guy and it's as simple as that. I told him not to fight so if you guys are wondering, it was me."
He may be the best coach in the East at the moment (Hi John Paddock), but he's also the buffoon who lost to Guy Carbonneau 8 times in 6 months last season, totally bereft of ideas so long as the Canadiens scored a couple of goals.
Should we all be prepared to acknowledge Julien as a genius because he told Lucic not to fight Laraque? Not me.
Both coaches could use a dose of humility. Both could take it. The only concern is that I'm not sure how many more doses of humility for Carbonneau I can take.