Guy Carbonneau

Getty Images

Wickenheiser tops 2019 Hockey Hall of Fame class

23 Comments

The 2019 Hockey Hall of Fame inductees were named on Tuesday. The class includes four players, in alphabetical order: Guy Carbonneau, Vaclav Nedomansky, Hayley Wickenheiser, and Sergei Zubov. Two builders were also inducted: Jim Rutherford and Jerry York. The induction ceremony will take place on November 18 in Toronto.

Let’s take a look at each member of this year’s class, starting with Wickenheiser.

Players

Wickenheiser: Sean Leahy pointed to Wickenheiser as the “lock” to make this HHOF class on Monday, and with good reason.

Wickenheiser becomes the seventh woman named to the Hockey Hall of Fame after winning four Olympic gold medals representing Canada, not to mention seven gold medals at the IIHF world championship. Wickenheiser was a two-time Olympic tournament MVP, and is Canada’s women’s leader in goals (168), assists (211) and points (379) after playing 276 games internationally.

Wickenheiser is currently in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, another testament to the immense respect she earned as a legend of the sport.

Zubov: The Russian defenseman won one Stanley Cup with the New York Rangers, and one with the Dallas Stars (where Carbonneau was one of Zubov’s teammates).

People, particularly Stars fans, have been debating Zubov’s HHOF merits for some time. As one example, Defending Big D pondered the argument as far back as 2013, with Erin Boylen comparing Zubov to the likes of Scott Niedermayer, Brian Leetch, Rob Blake, and other top contemporaries:

Over their respective careers, Zubov had better offensive numbers than Niedermayer and Blake, though not as good as Leetch. Both Zubov and Niedermayer, though not Blake, could have legitimately put up many more points if they didn’t play in defensively-focused systems for long stretches of their careers. He has essentially equal plus-minus statistics to Niedermayer, much better than Blake and Leetch. He was used in all situations and throughout his career was used as a top-pairing, shut-down defenseman.

The debates have been rampant enough among Stars fans that the Zubov HHOF debate has become a regular joke on the podcast “Puck Soup.” After all, for every Zubov proponent, there will be someone else who points out that he never won a Norris Trophy.

Maybe that debate will continue, but there’s some closure, as Zubov gets the nod.

Zubov finished his NHL career with 771 points in 1,068 regular season contests, spending 12 seasons with the Stars, three with the Rangers, and one with the Penguins. Zubov also appeared in 164 playoff games, and Hockey Reference lists some beefy ice time numbers during his Stars days, as he apparently logged 28:58 TOI per game over 114 playoff games with the Stars specifically.

Speaking of players who ended their Hall of Fame careers with the Stars …

Carbonneau: It’s difficult to shake the parallels between Carbonneau and Bob Gainey, but the good news is that such a comparison is a huge compliment to any two-way player.

Much like Gainey, Carbonneau was a tremendous defensive forward, winning three Selke Trophies during his career. Also like Gainey, Carbonneau made a huge impact on the Montreal Canadiens (where he won two Stanley Cups, and all three Selkes) before also making a considerable impression on the Dallas Stars (where Carbonneau won his third and final Stanley Cup as a player).

Carbonneau played 13 seasons with the Canadiens, five with the Stars, and one with the St. Louis Blues. Overall, he generated 663 points and 820 penalty minutes in 1,318 career regular-season games over 19 seasons. Carbonneau was captain of the Canadiens from 1989-90 through 1993-94, and also served as head coach for three seasons.

Nedomansky: As Shen Peng documented for The Hockey News, Nedomansky deserves a mention alongside Alex Mogilny and the Stastny brothers as one of the players who bravely defected to North America to play hockey at the highest levels.

Nedomansky’s path was especially circuitous, as he began his North American playing days in the WHA in 1974-75. “Big Ned” started his NHL career with the Detroit Red Wings in 1977-78, when he was already well into his thirties. He put up some nice numbers in both leagues, and you have to wonder if he’d be a more well-known player if he came overseas during the highest peaks of his prime, in much the same way one might wonder about Igor Larionov and other top Russian players who entered the NHL during the twilight of their careers.

His impact deserves to be documented, so Nedomansky making the Hall of Fame is a great way for more fans to learn about the mark he made on the sport. Peng’s piece is a great place for you to start.

Builders

Rutherford: Jim Rutherford is still a builder as the GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins, yet clearly, he’s already in the HHOF, even if he stopped today.

Rutherford played in 457 games during his lengthy NHL career as a goalie (his hockey db photo is worth the trip to the page alone), yet he’s here because of his front office work, helping both the Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes win Stanley Cups as a GM.

York: Jerry York is a legendary NCAA coach, having won four NCAA titles with Boston College, and one with Bowling Green. In 2016, he became the first NCAA coach to win 1,000 games, which is pretty mind-blowing considering the shorter seasons in college hockey.

Montreal Columnist: Fire Pierre Gauthier

7 Comments

The Montreal Gazette’s plucky columnist, Jack Todd, wrote another doozy today. In an open letter to Canadiens president Geoff Molson, Todd candidly called for the firing of the team’s general manager, Pierre Gauthier.

Todd’s reasoning had little to do with the Habs’ win-loss record; it was chiefly related to Gauthier’s handling of the coaching change that saw unilingual Randy Cunneyworth replace bilingual Jacques Martin on an interim basis.

Let’s get the most obvious part of this out of the way now: the head coach of the Montreal Canadiens has to speak French. There simply is no other way. Imagine the Toronto Maple Leafs with a unilingual francophone behind the bench: it would never happen.

True, the Canadiens had unilingual anglo coaches in the past, but that was the past – before the 24-hour news cycle, before live video streaming of the coach’s press conference, before every word was parsed in the Twitterverse almost before they could be uttered.

Pierre Gauthier should have known this. He’s a francophone and a Montrealer. Understanding this market should be atop his list of job qualifications: That he plainly does not understand this market is one more indication, if any were needed, that he is simply not up to the job.

Todd goes on to suggest the new coach should be former coach Guy Carbonneau, who Todd suggests was “unjustly fired” in 2009 by former general manager Bob Gainey.

Agree or disagree, it’s a strong opinion that’s sure to sway some Habs fans. And he didn’t even have to mention the Tomas Kaberle trade.

Carbonneau: Cunneyworth needs to learn French

9 Comments

The media’s already weighed in on Montreal hiring Randy Cunneyworth as its interim head coach.

Now a franchise icon is taking his turn.

Guy Carbonneau — who won a Stanley Cup playing for the Habs and earned a Jack Adams nomination as their coach — said he understands Cunneyworth’s plight, but knows any Montreal bench boss must be able to speak French.

“He’s living a dream, which is doing what he loves for one of the best franchises in the NHL, and he’s caught in a storm,” Carbonneau told the Associated Press. “It’s premature. You have to give him a chance to show what he can do and if he’s willing to learn.

“But there’s no doubt in my mind that the coach of the Montreal Canadiens has to speak both languages, at least to some extent.”

Carbonneau isn’t the first ex-Hab to speak out about the Cunneyworth hire. Former player and general manager Serge Savard blasted the move, saying the Canadiens “belong to the people.” That’s a sentiment shared by many Quebeckers, though it’s unfair to put Carbonneau’s comments in that category. If anything, his take was more analytical than critical.

“It’s one thing to say he’s willing to learn it and another to actually learn it,” Carbonneau said. “The job he has now is really demanding. You have to prepare the team. You have to eat and sleep. I don’t know where learning French is going to fit in his schedule.”

Cunneyworth — who noted he took French in high school — has said he’s hoping to learn the language.

Yet again: Jacques Lemaire will not be the Devils coach next year

When the season ended, there were plenty of teams who were looking to replace their head coaches. It’s interesting that the Devils are the only team that had their coach retire; and they’re the only team that is still looking for their head man. Even the Winnipeg Jets, who still had a head coach, have since moved, fired Craig Ramsay, and hired Claude Noel. All while the Devils continue to take their time and still don’t have a head coach.

As time goes on, there have been some questions whether Jacques Lemaire may consider a return to New Jersey for yet another go-around.  After all, the Devils looked like a completely different team when Lemaire took over for the fired John MacLean in December last season.  Tom Gulitti spoke to Lemaire about the Devils head coaching position on NorthJersey.com—and it certainly doesn’t sound like he’ll be coming back anytime soon.

““I’m waiting for Lou to make his decision,” Lemaire told me via phone this afternoon. “I’m excited like the fans, I guess, to find out who it’s going to be.”

Lemaire said he has no idea who it will be, but knows for certain who it won’t be.

“It’s not going to be me,” he said.”

That is the 900th denial from Lemaire for those keeping track at home. Unfortunately, until Lou Lamoriello and the Devils find a man to replace him behind the bench, he’ll have to keep enduring the same speculation. Since he denied there was any chance of returning, the attention turned to former head coach Larry Robinson for a day. Robinson has been in town running the prospects camp this week for the Devils, but as Lamoriello said that he’s not a candidate at this time. Going further, he said that he’s not “going to get into who is or who isn’t a candidate.” For fans who want to speculate, he’s not really giving them much to work with.

Over the summer, a few names have been rumored for the Devils coaching vacancy. Guy Carbonneau’s name came up when he resigned from his positions with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens. Michel Therrien was the reported front-runner a week ago and Ken Hitchcock has been linked to the position since the day it became available. But as Lamoriello has said, he won’t comment on an potential candidates for the head coaching position.

One the one hand, it doesn’t seem like there’s any rush to name a coach anytime soon. The prospect camp is the only big event between the draft and training camp—and Robinson has already taken the lead. The draft was run by Lamoriello in June and the summer is just a time for preparation. From an organizational standpoint, the only real deadline they’re facing is training camp in September. But from an pragmatic perspective, this isn’t something any team would want to drag on for the entire offseason. The new coach will want to have his say for any potential assistant coaches as well as some time to get acclimated to his new lineup. There’s no rush—but sooner they decide on coach, the better.

All we know for sure is that Jacques Lemaire won’t be that man.

Guy Carbonneau: Your latest rumored Devils head coaching target

There aren’t a whole lot of NHL head coaching vacancies left right now. Just ask hot coaching prospect turned Milwaukee Admirals head coach Kirk Muller about that.

One potential job is the New Jersey Devils’ head coaching spot, which opened up once again after Jacques Lemaire rode off into the (trap-free?) sunset. There are plenty of would-be worthy candidates, especially guys who lean in the direction of suffocating defense. Ken Hitchcock and Michel Therrien are two examples of former bench bosses whose names have been thrown around, although hiring them would buck the fresh-faced trend of hiring either an assistant coach for a successful NHL team or a head coach of a red-hot minor league squad.

Guy Carbonneau might fit the bill in a couple ways. He was the head coach and co-owner of Chicoutimi Saguenéens of the QMJHL, although he mysteriously stepped down from the coaching post this week. Carbonneau adds check marks in major categories such as “defensive minded” (many wonder if he deserves to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame for the world-class defense he played during his NHL days) and “Montreal Canadiens product.” Devils GM Lou Lamoriello has a clear tendency to poach coaches who have Habs ties; the team hired Pat Burns, Claude Julien, Larry Robinson and Lemaire in Lou’s time as the general manager.

With all that in mind, it makes a lot of sense that people are spreading rumors of Carbonneau becoming the new New Jersey bench boss. While that might eventually be the case, Carbonneau apparently denied that rumor during an interview on the radio show NHL Home Ice.

What does that mean? We will just have to wait and see if Carbonneau ends up being the man in New Jersey. Lamoriello might seem to have a pattern when it comes to hiring Montreal products, but just about all the other decisions he makes about coaches seem to be wildly unpredictable.