Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Why Carbonneau Was Fired

An Evolving Opinion

In an effort to get something out yesterday, I spoke quickly and from instinct. Upon listening to everything that has been said and re-said, my opinion on matters is beginning to evolve.

Basically, what it is coming down to is that Carbonneau was deficient in many many areas for this job. He was a pro with the media, yes. Good for him. But when it came to judgment and even just being a leader, he was drawing many blanks.

My first question for Carbonneau would be: "Do you know what coaching in the NHL is meant to involve?"; "Do you know what you are being paid way over the odds to do?"


Communication

We all spoke about communication, but yesterday was a revelation to me. Dandenault complained about communication. Begin complained. Carbonneau never spoke to Tanguay? The gist of what the reporters were saying was that almost to a man, every Canadien was dissatisfied with how their coach treated them.

An interesting tidbit that came out in one interview with a talking tete. Apparently some players (or someone) went to Carbonneau very recently and explained that the players felt he needed to relate his decisions to them more personally and more efficiently. His response was something to the order of:
"J'ai 23 joueurs, j'ai pas le temps de m'occuper de ca."

Pardon? No time to do you job? Must be all the time spent on tactics...


Tactics

After the Atlanta game, I was thoroughly upset. I thought the players worked well. I thought they were playing a system dictated to them. But for one reason or another, they were being stifled by a defence that was planned just for them. It was a chance to adapt on the fly. Instead, the coaches held firm and lost.

It's heady days when Bob Gainey agrees with you; apparently, he felt some of the same feelings watching from above. One of the most poignant criticisms form the press conference for me was Gainey's assertion that he had some tactics that he would immediately like to implement.

This is crazy, isn't it? New tactics. I didn't think I'd see the day this season.


Work ethic

Back in November, I was appalled by some of his responses in an interview he gave to Dave Stubbs of The Gazette. I don't think Dave meant that interview to be used as source material today, but he graciously reposted it on Habs Inside/Out last night to make my research a heck of a lot more straightforward.

For me there are two key instances form the very frank and revealing interview that foretold Carbonneau's doom. The first comes first in the interview, somewhere near the beginning. Dave Stubbs pulled this out of Guy, and what an indictment:
"I don't want to look too far ahead... I don't work, you know, in March, we're going to do this kind of practice. And I know some coaches that are like that. Some coaches, at the start of the season, they have all their practices laid out. I'm not like that, I come to the rink every morning and sit down with the coaches. OK, what do we do today... That's how I was as a player, I concentrated on the game that we had; and, after that, talk about it for a while. Forget about it the next day."

He elaborates on his seat-of-the-pants, minimal approach to preparation later in the interview too, in what I would call classic reporting if Dave was trying to get this stuff out of Guy:
Dave: "When you were playing, was hockey a 13 month a year exercise?"
Guy: "No. It's never been for me. I mean for me it's always been it's game day, it's practice day for a couple of hours that was it."
Dave: "So you can leave it behind? When you finish the office after a practice day, you can leave that?"
Guy: "Yeah. I have no problem."
...
Guy goes on: "I always lived 40 minutes away from the rink... so, for me, that time in the car was really (he explains it's his prep time)"

So, no work on days without practices (don't get me started on how any coach could fathom so many days without practices in the first place). And on days where there is a game, his generosity of spirit makes it possible for him to have a short discussion upon arriving. Oh, and then there's the 1:20 minutes that he thinks about his job on his own time...

From what you've read of Scotty Bowman, do you think this jives? Heck, from what I read of Mike Babcock in a McGill newsletter, this doesn't add up. Other coaches plan a whole year of practices while Guy works out what he'll do in ten minutes time. Are we still wondering how Boston figured out how to defend Kovalev as he was being deployed? How to exploit our pinching left D teamed with a goalie who can't move his arm properly? No solutions were forthcoming from Guy, thanks to his remarkable capacity to go home and enjoy his life. I thought there might be enough time for that during his 4 month summer vacation, obviously, I was wrong.

It must be said that this interview shows how, as late as November, Guy was slacking intensely at his job – and getting away with it quite nicely. It seems that when the going got tough, he might have needed to adjust. But adjusting is not his thing, is it?


Management

Yesterday, I said it smelled of management. I'm not so sure now. I'm sure management support the decision. And, I'm still certain Gillett's allegiance is to his investment and not his fans' hearts. However, Gainey must have also seen lots of this himself.

Frankly, if Bob Gainey needed a tap on the shoulder to fire this coach, I think we should have some serious questions about our new coach/GM. Sure they were friends, but after multiple players complaining about the same thing, a coach questioning injuries, hampering the development of youngsters and missing opportunities to get the most of his team, Gainey might have clued in himself to a problem. When casual fans like myself and commentators on this and other blogs can see tactical deficiencies being exploited by other teams, the time to get a professional with experience and imagination has come, I'd say.

To me this morning, the move smells less of management, and more of a GM who might finally be getting his own act together...


In any case, Guy is gone. Our new coach will be better or, at worst, equal. There is no guarantee of playoffs, of course, since the teams we play from here (with the exception of the Tavares Maple Leafs) also want to win. We'll probably never know the reason for his departure. RDS will fabricate something that they will claim to be fact (as they do with Julien), but even they won't be privilged to Bob Gainey's thoughts. So, unless the story evolves even more, case closed...

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