It turns out you couldn’t keep former Montreal Canadiens coach Randy Cunneyworth away for very long.
The Buffalo Sabres announced they’ve hired Cunneyworth as a pro scout. He was fired as Habs head coach in May of 2012 after relieving Jacques Martin of the job earlier that season.
Cunneyworth’s time in Montreal is most notable thanks to his language issues with some of the French-Canadian media in Montreal since he did not speak French. That on top of the Canadiens’ poor play as well as scratching P.K. Subban helped make his tenure a short one. He coached just the final 50 games of the 2011-12 season before being let go.
Buffalo is a familiar place for the 52-year-old Cunneyworth. He was drafted by the Sabres in 1980 and played his first two seasons with them as well as his final season during their run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1999.
Freshly-minted Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin met with the media today and, in accordance with the organizational mandate of keeping Randy Cunneyworth in limbo, had this to say:
“Randy Cunneyworth will return to the position of assistant coach. The new coach will decide if he will remain there.”
Before writing Cunneyworth’s obituary, we should note there have been instances (rare instances) where a head coach gets knocked down a peg, takes the assistant gig and survives under the new guy.
Back in 2004, the Colorado Avalanche “re-assigned” Tony Granato from head to assistant coach and brought in Joel Quenneville to run the show. Granato didn’t just survive as Quenneville’s assistant — he later re-claimed the head coaching gig when Quenneville left the organization in 2008.
So, Cunneyworth has that going for him.
What he doesn’t have going for him is a vote of confidence from the GM.
You can look at Bergevin’s move in two ways. One, by saying “I’m bringing Randy back as an assistant, but our head coach might go another direction,” he ensures bloodless hands if/when Cunneyworth get axed.
That’s the cynical way of looking at it.
The second (and more optimistic) way of looking at it is Bergevin’s merely giving the future head coach autonomy over his staff. The new coach can either hire his own assistant, or keep the old one.
But however you look at it, one fact remains: Cunneyworth still has no idea if he’ll be behind the Canadiens’ bench next season.
Shortly after the announcement that GM Pierre Gauthier had been relieved of his duties, Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson conducted a press conference to reveal plans for the future.
— Molson was praised for his delivery, poise…and for starting the presser speaking French (gotta love Montreal.) John Bartlett of TSN Radio 990 said Molson “was prepared, confident and looked like someone in full control today,” while Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette said the Canadiens owner “sparkled in this news conference.”
— As the posts title suggests, the general manager search will (at least partially) involve finding a dual-language speaker. Molson did stress, though, that the top criteria is finding the best possible GM.
— On the subject of hiring Patrick Roy, Molson said he hasn’t spoken with Roy since his jersey retirement celebration. Which is weird, because Roy’s jersey was retired in 2008.
— Former Habs GM Serge Savard has been retained as advisor in the search for a new general manager. Also, Larry Carriere returns to his duties as assistant general manager and will take on hockey operations responsibilities until the appointment of a new GM.
— Molson added that special advisor Bob Gainey has left the organization.
— On the subject of interim head coach Randy Cunneyworth, Molson said he would leave it up to the next GM to determine if he’s retained.
Finally, here’s the entire press conference for your viewing pleasure. (Note: his en francais introduction isn’t included but, as many have noted, Molson opened speaking French.)