It’s been three years since Michel Therrien last coached in the NHL — nine since he was the bench boss in Montreal.
So what can the Habs expect this time around?
For starters, a more experienced, prepared bench boss — this coming from the coach himself.
“When I got here, I was 38 years old, I came through junior and the American Hockey League and then, from one day to the next, I found myself behind the bench of the Montreal Canadiens. It seemed to go too quickly,” Therrien told the Montreal Gazette upon being hired for the second time.
“I had never played in the NHL so I didn’t know what it felt like to go to Boston, to go to Buffalo, to experience those rivalries. I was trying to coach the team based on the experience I had at the time. But I obviously feel far better prepared today than I did when I was 38.”
Therrien, now 48, had all but five years of junior and four of AHL experience before taking the Habs gig in 2000.
On occasion, that lack of experience showed.
In the 2002 Stanley Cup playoffs, Montreal led its series against Carolina 2-1 and had a 3-0 lead in Game 4 when Therrien blew up at referee Kerry Fraser while disputing a penalty, earning an extra two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct.
That gave the ‘Canes a 5-on-3 advantage and turned the series on its head — Carolina went on to win 4-3 in overtime and outscored Montreal 13-3 over the final two games.
Montreal can also expect a less, ahem, outspoken Therrien this time around.
One of his biggest claims to fame was this presser as the head coach in Pittsburgh, following a 3-1 loss to the Oilers in 2006:
After being fired from Pittsburgh, Therrien spent a year doing analysis for RDS and said the experience taught him to better understand how the media works.
“I know what it’s like on the other side now,” he said. “You can’t ignore the fact that in Montreal, the coach of the Canadiens has a responsibility to communicate with the fans. It’s going to be very important for me.”
Interestingly, several of Therrien’s ex-players have remained fiercely loyal. Francis Bouillon, who played for Therrien in Montreal (and will do so again this year), speaks about his ex-coach glowingly.
“He’s probably the guy who helped me the most in my career,” Bouillon told the Gazette. “I think he really deserves this. Every league he’s coached in he’s done well with his team. He’s a great coach.”
Colby Armstrong, who played for Therrien in Pittsburgh, signed with Montreal as a free agent on July 1 largely because of his relationship with the coach.
“It’s another reason why this is a good fit for me,” Armstong told CJAD Radio. “I know he’s demanding and I know what to expect from him — I think he knows what to expect from me, and how to push me also.”