Saturday, 1 July 2017

In an upset, Sylvain Lefebvre returns as coach of the Canadiens' AHL team.

I have a hard time thinking that Sylvain Lefebvre deserves to return to his job, since eventually a coach’s results, his W-L record, should mean something. It has to enter the equation.

Four years of missing the playoffs, every season we’d see a new fresh crop of rookies, some AHL vets joining as well, and we’d think “This is the year they turn it around.” We weren’t expecting a Calder Cup, but a team taking a healthy step forward, certainly relative to weak, underfunded organizations like the Carolinas and the Phoenixes, but no, it was no playoffs for us every year. Last year we squeaked in, only to be bounced in the first round of the playoffs.

Every season, we could make excuses for Sly’s poor results, injuries, vets who didn’t fulfill their mandate, callups at exactly the wrong time, but aren’t all these bedeviling every other AHL coach? Isn’t it a truism that a AHL coach wants his players to play well, but not too well, since if they’re lights out fantastic they lose them to a callup? Mark Barberio was an AHL All-Star first pairing veteran defenceman for the IceCaps, but not for long, lost twice to callups and eventually to the Avalanche. Daniel Carr scoring goals and generating offence for you Monsieur Lefebvre? Well no longer, now let’s see if he can do the same for the Canadiens.

There are other red flags, like Louis Leblanc’s difficult relationship with Sylvain. One observer saw the Bulldogs play live in Abbottsford against the Heat, and reported the passionless performance of the coach, his poor body language behind the bench.

And, very importantly in my mind, Sylvain is kind of blocking the road for a young eager LHJMQ head coach, who could be getting groomed for the future, for eventually coaching the Canadiens. The AHL coach should be our farm team for not just players, but for our coaching succession too. Instead of a sinecure for Larry Carrière’s son.

So okay, Sly gets another kick at the can. He won’t be in such difficult situations anymore, in the Fort Apache the Bronx hell that Hamilton was, according to Magnus Nygren, or marooned on The Rock, with a grueling schedule and a comparatively more difficult circumstance to hold practices. He’ll be in a brand new facility, with close support from the organization. He’s now an experienced coach in the AHL, with a good grasp of who the players are, who’s coming in next season.

I’ll therefore be expecting results. I want a winning team, fans in the stands, kids gushing at how much they learn and like their Laval coach, a long foray in the playoffs, I want the works. And if I don’t get that, next season, or the next at the outside, we should go to the bullpen and call in a relief pitcher. Let’s see if someone else has his stuff.

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