At this point, you are probably aware that Montreal was in an uproar when the Canadiens transitioned to Randy Cunneyworth, who cannot speak French. (Their GM Pierre Gauthier even apologized about it.)
It’s been one of the more cringe-worthy stories of the season, but Cunneyworth isn’t turning a blind eye to the issue. The embattled coach told The Canadian Press that he’ll do his best to learn the language by the time Gauthier is preparing to make a coaching decision for next season.
”Hopefully that will be the case by the time some of the decisions are made,” Cunneyworth said. “A lot will depend on how successful this team is and that’s really my priority right now. The language is secondary, but very important as well for me because I think it’s an important marketplace where I’d love to be able to address everybody in both languages and talk to everybody concerning hockey.”
That’s the dark comedy of this situation; amid all the hand-wringing regarding language, the Habs have circled the drain. They’re an ugly 1-6-0 during Randy Cunneyworth’s time as interim head coach, so learning to win should absolutely be Priority No. 1 instead of learning French.
How do you say “horrific train wreck” in French?
OK, that might be a bit excessive, but things are starting to get ugly for the Montreal Canadiens. The Winnipeg Jets muted them 4-0 tonight to push Randy Cunneyworth’s record to an unsettling 0-4-0.
Sure, the Jets have been red-hot at home; they’re now 7-1-1 in their last nine games. That probably won’t sweeten the bitter taste for Habs fans, though.
The feeling is that a combination of linguistics and losses will inevitably do Cunneyworth in, but the focus is starting to shift to GM Pierre Gauthier. Honestly, it probably should have been there from the beginning. General managers tend to have the ears of owners more often than coaches, so there should be no surprise that franchises fire the cook instead of the grocery shopper in most situations – even if GMs are equally (if not more) to blame.
Either way, it’s a depressing situation, unless you’re Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec. His play has been picking up lately, but he’s fallen short of a few extra wins because Winnipeg occasionally struggles to score. He spoke up a couple times on that issue and the team scored four goals for him tonight.
Considering better play from Calgary, the Jets’ status as the second-ranked team in the Southeast and the youth movement in Edmonton, it’s quite possible that the Habs are currently the NHL’s most rudderless Canadian team.
We’ve reached critical mass in Montreal when it comes to the French-English debate.
Randy Cunneyworth’s troubles aren’t just limited to what’s going on with the Canadiens on the ice, some of the people of Quebec are going to protest about him coaching the team while speaking only English.
No, seriously they are.
Mario Beaulieu, president of The French Quebec Movement, and Denis Trudel of French Movement Montreal will be holding a rally outside of Bell Centre on January 7 (link in French, naturally) to protest what they call “the Anglicization of the Montreal hockey club.” Beaulieu says that not having a coach that speaks French is the last straw for a team that calls Quebec home, a home where French is the primary language.
Making matters worse, in their opinion, is that there are just two or three players capable of speaking French on the team as well. For a franchise that grew up having all of the best players and coaches from Quebec at their beck and call, the NHL becoming a global game has been difficult for many Habs fans to swallow.
For now, they might not have to worry long about Cunneyworth if he can’t get the team to win games. Then those fans railing about language can push the Habs to hire Bob Hartley or Michel Therrien or Claude Jodoin or Denis Savard to their hearts’ content and leave the rest of the league knowing why most coaches won’t even bother considering Montreal when looking for a job.