Therrien says Habs must be willing to adjust on the fly

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Recently extended Montreal Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien’s name conjures a lot of thoughts, yet “eager to change” doesn’t really make the top of the list.

That’s what he’s asking of his players after receiving a four-year extension, however: be willing to roll with the punches.

The best stuff revolves around a spaghetti sauce analogy, though.

“You always have to want to improve. Hockey is a game that changes quickly. We’re always working on a plan of action we want to instill in our team. You can’t be afraid to make changes during the year. The players are used to it by now,” Therrien said. “The coaching staff gets together a lot during the summer to scout player tendencies and stay as current as possible. You want to be up-to-date on systems and new technology. You don’t want to have the same spaghetti sauce again and again. You’re always looking to improve it.”

Naturally, such a comment begs the counter: will Therrien embrace the same open-mindedness he’s demanding of his players?

During the 2014 postseason, he certainly was OK with making bold moves. When Carey Price was injured, the safe choice would have been to go with Peter Budaj. Instead, Therrien opted for unconventional goalie Dustin Tokarski, whose aggressive play helped the Canadiens push the New York Rangers harder in an Eastern Conference final series that many thought would be a cakewalk following Price’s injury.

Even so, with talk of dissent with P.K. Subban and a general feeling that he’s the rigid, defensive-minded type, the question’s still there.

Canadiens blog Habs Eyes on the Prize took an in-depth look at Therrien’s strengths and weaknesses, with quite a bit of attention paid to his ability to adapt. It seems like the ultimate observation was that he’s been a mixed bag lately:

The Canadiens started the next season the same way, blitzing teams early, only to stray from the method that was working for them just a month in, changing to a much more rigid structure based on safe plays. Chipping and chasing became much more common, and exits out of their own zone would be up the boards, or not happen at all. This led to one of the NHL’s premier possession teams in 2012-13 becoming one of the worst in 2013-14. In fact, it was the biggest year over year drop in possession that’s ever been recorded.

Yet spectacular play from Carey Price and the team’s other superstars kept them in games all through the year, ending up in a 100-point season. Then in the playoffs, Therrien switched right back to the system of the previous year, leading to the Canadiens absolutely demolishing the Tampa Bay Lightning in four games, and defeating the powerhouse Bruins in seven.

So for fans, media, and analysts, this is kind of confusing. Who is the real Therrien?

Maybe that definition will change multiple times (and on the fly) going forward …