HEFTER: I was wrong
When, on June 12, 2012, General Manager Marc Bergevin announced that Michel Therrien was coming back for a second tour of duty as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens, I thought to myself:
Michel Therrien?!?! Really?!?!
The one word I used to describe the move to bring Therrien back was: uninspired. Michel Therrien was an uninspired choice as head coach on the part of Marc Bergevin.
I was wrong.
Some nine months later, Michel Therrien has the Montreal Canadiens in first place in the Eastern Conference of the NHL, playing inspired hockey. And for that, he deserves all the credit that’s coming to him.
Therrien has rarely stumbled with the moves he’s made behind the bench. Sending Lars Eller to the press box for a spell early in the season was a move that was greeted by much gnashing of teeth on the part of many, if not most, Habs fans. The result: Lars Eller has played his way back into the lineup and is playing inspired hockey.
Eller’s performance the other night against the Sens was simply spectacu-Eller. True, Eller only has four goals so far this season. But he’s not playing like a guy who only has four goals this season. He’s playing like a game-changer. He’s making things happen. He has taken matters into his own hands. And it started with Michel Therrien’s decision to send him to the press box.
Then there’s the curious case of PK Subban. Again, there was much gnashing of teeth when Marc Bergevin failed to sign Subban to a new deal for the start of the lockout-shortened season, but a deal did get done. That was followed by a little sit-down session with Subban to let him know what was expected of the young defenceman. Shortly thereafter, on Feb. 1, Therrien announced that there would be no more “triple low five” celebrations between Subban and Price.
Cue the teeth-gnashers.
The result? PK Subban is playing inspired hockey. He is having himself a Norris-Trophy-type season, and it essentially all started with Therrien’s decision to ban the triple-low-five out of "respect to the game." Don’t count me among those who were aghast when Therrien rained on the triple-low-five parade. It was at that point, when I said to myself, and anyone else who would listen:
“I’m liking Michel Therrien more and more each day."
Halfway through this lockout-shortened season, the Montreal Canadiens have made a statement. They are for real. Therrien wanted his team to be difficult to play against. They are difficult to play against. Yes, there is still plenty of race track left between now and (dare I say it) the start of the playoffs. There will be plenty of challenges between now and that final regular-season game, April 27 in Toronto, against the Leafs. But if Montreal’s 18-5-4 record is any indication (and I believe that it is) Therrien will continue to push the right buttons, make the right moves, and keep this team on an even and winning keel.