Monday, 1 June 2015

Are the Canadiens hamstrung by the need to hire a French-speaking head coach?

Due to a bit of sourness, because the Canadiens were bounced out of the playoffs, Anglophone Habs fans are resuscitating the great “having to hire a French-speaking coach is a handicap for the Canadiens” debate.

I remember the summer of 2012, so many on HockeyInsideOut moaned about this set of handcuffs on the franchise, yet no one could come up with an objectively better candidate for the GM position or the coach position who was actually available.

There were reports that the Canadiens sniffed around Jim Nill, but he was not willing to leave Detroit at the time.

Same with the Babcock rumours, he was under contract with Detroit at the time, was as unavailable as Evgeni Malkin and Ryan Getzlaf are.

For fun, here’s a list of coaches who have been hired in the rough timeframe that the Canadiens were in the market for a Head Coach:

Mike Yeo
Kirk Muller
Paul McLean
Dale Hunter
Glen Gulutzan
Kevin Dineen
Randy Cunneyworth
Ron Rolston
Adam Oates
Ralph Krueger
Jon Cooper

I don’t see a Scotty Bowman in this group. No Knute Rockne.

Yet somehow, the Canadiens were running a race they couldn’t win, because they couldn’t avail themselves of this great group of coaching talent.

Also, Bob Hartley was reportedly in the running for a job, but signed with Calgary because the Canadiens' search was taking too long.  And he's done a bangup job in the three seasons he's been there, had his contract extended by the brass this season for a job well done.

And HIO was pretty much dead-set against hiring him also. According to most, he was a goon coach who’d lose his marbles, dishonor the franchise and take the team down to the bottom of the standings.

I often read that we should "hire the best-qualified person regardless of language".

Yet Dan Bylsma just got hired by the Sabres, and had been out of hockey for a year, got passed over for at least a couple jobs.

Willie Desjardins got hired by the Canucks last summer after a lengthy coaching career in which he never had a shot as a head coach in the NHL.

The Flyers ignored a lot of the coaches that we’d think were the best-qualified in favour of Dave Hakstol, a relative unknown, at least in NHL hockey fan circles.

So I have to ask, what does it mean to be the “best qualified”? What are the objective criteria?

Is it not possible that the criteria differ from Montréal to Tampa to Vancouver to Toronto? That they’re not so objective?

Practically, someone would be hard-pressed to argue that the extra hurdle a potential head coach has to clear to get the job in Montréal.  Here's a list of head coaches hired by the Canadiens, and then the coaches employed by other teams in the same period of time, teams who didn't have this limit to their coaching search.
Montréal: Pat Burns, Michel Therrien, Alain Vigneault, Claude Julien, Guy Carbonneau, Bob Gainey, Jacques Martin.
Toronto: Pat Burn, Nick Beverley, Mike Murphy, Pat Quinn, Paul Maurice, Ron Wilson, Randy Carlyle, Peter Horachek, Mike Babcock.
Calgary: Pierre Pagé, Brian Sutter, Don Hay, Greg Gilbert, Al MacNeil, Darryl Sutter, Jim Playfair, Mike Keenan, Brent Sutter, Bob Hartley.
Ottawa: Jacques Martin, Roger Neilson, Jacques Martin, Bryan Murray, John Paddock, Bryan Murray, Craig Hartsburg, Cory Clouston, Paul MacLean, Dave Cameron.
So it's not as if the other teams just hit bullseye after bullseye, and we missed the fairway every time.  It's arguable that the Canadiens have had the best list of coaches in this group.  Despite the language requirement.

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