Whitby - Sep. 20, 2011 - I will be the first to admit, I am not a fan of Jacques Martin’s coaching style. Never have, never will be. Martin, the former school teacher, used to drive me bonkers when he coached the Cornwall Aces back in the 90s.
His methodical game plan of defence-first has worked consistently well throughout his coaching career and during each of the past two NHL regular seasons as head coach of our Canadiens, however, we have not had great success to date in the post season.
As the 29th head coach of this storied franchise, Martin, the 1998-99 Jack Adams trophy winner for NHL coach of the year, has always been successful with whichever team he coaches (STL, OTT, FLA) but has never realized the elation of winning the Stanley Cup. Winning the Stanley Cup is specifically how I measure a coach’s success. The average tenure of a NHL coach in 2011 was 2.86 years in length. By this measure, Martin needs to be on a very short leash this season as he enters his third season behind the Habs’ bench.
Martin boasts a modest .450 winning percentage in the post season; he is the ‘San Jose Sharks’ for coaching in the playoffs - the man just can’t get the job done for the bleu-blanc-rouge.
I present to you here (photos courtesy of nhl.com, sportsnet.ca, cdn.bleacherreport.net, respectively), three proven and successful coaches with roots to our hometown of S, D and G that would make a world of difference to the post-season success for the Montreal Canadiens.
Born in Hawkesbury, newly appointed ZSC (Zurich) Lions Head Coach Bob Hartley has earned a .583 winning percentage in the playoffs in nine seasons with Colorado and Atlanta and lead the Avalanche to a Stanley Cup victory in 2000-01. Ironically enough, it was Hartley who was hired as an assistant coach under Jacques Martin in Cornwall in the 90s. When Martin was appointed to assistant coach of the parent Quebec Nordiques, Hartley was promoted to head coach of the Cornwall Aces and it was then I became an instant fan of Hartley’s no nonsense, take-no-prisoners attitude to coaching.
Hartley never let an opposing team come into town to walk over any of his teams. It was always a tooth-for-a-tooth mentality and it seemed to work. His winning coaching percentage is proof in the pudding. Now I am not promoting goon-type hockey, but I do go crazy when I see our Habs get pushed around by bigger and more intimidating teams like Boston and Philadelphia. Hartley would never let happen what Martin seems to disregard.
If Hartley is not one to wet your appetite, consider Vancouver Canucks Assistant Coach Newell Brown for a moment. Born in Cornwall, Brown comes from good bloodlines. Brown is an uncle to Colorado Avalanche center, Matt Duchene. Brown is also a former player (with the Cornwall Royals from 1978-80) and has over 19 years of coaching experience in the NCAA, AHL and NHL. Brown realized his dream of winning Lord Stanley in 2007 with the Anaheim Ducks.
In Anaheim, Brown was able to develop the NHL’s third best power play in the last 20 years. While I don’t know him personally, he seems to be a genuinely good guy, knows the game and how it should be played to be successful (in winning the Stanley Cup) and he has a true passion for the game. Montreal should do the right thing and seriously consider Brown a candidate once Martin begins to falter later this season.
Not convinced that Jacques Martin should be replaced by a more successful coach?
My odds-on-favourite is Belleville’s own, newly crowned TSN analyst, Marc Crawford. The former Cornwall Royal player and NHL head coach for more than 15 seasons, Crawford raised the Stanley Cup in 1995-96 with the Colorado Avalanche. Crawford possesses a .518 winning percentage in the playoffs and was a Jack Adams Award winner in 1994-95. He also coached the Canadian men’s hockey team in the 1998 Nagano Olympic Winter Games and is a previous two-time Memorial Cup winner (1980 and 1981) with the Cornwall Royals.
Hockey pedigree aside, Crawford is a former coach, most recently with the Dallas Stars, where ownership has always respected him, players like him and he has always been a good leader wherever he goes. I have always loved his animated coaching antics and the passion he has exhibited game-in-game-out from year-to-year.
I pray that I am wrong about the Habs’ post-season frustrations going forward. I, like you, am envisioning 16 consecutive victories in the 2011-12 playoff season with bench boss Jacques Martin leading our boys to taste the splendors of victory, however, I am a realist and honestly believe it is time for Martin to move onto other challenges, to clear the way for any one of Bob Hartley, Newell Brown or Marc Crawford to lead the bleu-blanc-rouge to Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Until next time, play every game as if it is your last one…