Rumours are once again surfacing that Patrick Roy will be the new head coach of the Montreal Canadiens.I touched upon this before, but it bears repeating: Montreal needs an experienced head coach, not a rookie.
I like Patrick as much as the next guy. Maybe more. He was my favourite player of all time. I ranked him second of the top 100 Habs of all time, ahead of Jean Beliveau, Guy Lafleur, Doug Harvey, Howie Morenz and everyone else not named Maurice Richard.
But the Habs don’t have a lot of great experience with rookie head coaches. Many of them became great coaches, just not with the Habs. They learned on the job, and when they were able to use the experience from Montreal to be successful elsewhere.
Here are the last eight head coaches of the Habs, and how they did, based on their regular season winning percentage, playoff winning percentage and what the furthest the team went in the playoffs:
- Randy Cunneyworth: Winning percentage of .439, No playoff record
- Jacques Martin: Winning percentage of .554, playoff winning percentage of .462, final four in playoffs
- Guy Carbonneau: Winning percentage of .589, playoff winning percentage of .417, second round in playoffs
- Claude Julien: Winning percentage of .531, playoff winning percentage of .364, second round in playoffs
- Michel Therrien: Winning percentage of .500, playoff winning percentage of .500, second round in playoffs
- Alain Vigneault: Winning percentage of .483, playoff winning percentage of .400, second round in playoffs
- Mario Tremblay: Winning percentage of .525, playoff winning percentage of .273, first round of playoffs
- Jacques Demers: Winning percentage of .548, playoff winning percentage of .704, one Stanley Cup
What does the records show? Out of the eight coaches, only two had previous head coaching experience. Those two coaches made it the furthest in the playoffs. Those two coaches finished in the top three of regular season and playoff winning percentage.
Simply put, NHL coaching experience counts. Do we really want to bring in another inexperienced head coach that will struggle come playoff time? Do we really need another hothead like Mario Tremblay was?
Coaching in the NHL is tougher than coaching junior, or the AHL. Look at the coaches who replaced fired coaches this year. Guys like Dale Hunter, Randy Cunneyworth and Kirk Muller are struggling. Guys like Ken Hitchcock are thriving. Experience counts.
The difference between coaching junior and the NHL is huge. In juniors, you can yell at kids, bench them, berate them or whatever, and it’s going to work. They want to make it to the NHL. Plus, they’re kids. They’re apt to feel more disappointed when they let down a coach.
In the NHL, guys are making millions of dollars. Yelling at them won’t necessarily get the same reaction. And it’s hard to bench guys making $5 million a year. The same tricks won’t necessarily work.
And it would be especially hard on a rookie coach in the pressure cooker of Montreal.
I understand the legacy aspect. I get how people want a link to the past. But Tremblay proved that doesn’t always work.
The Habs best chance to be successful is through a coach who has been there before, not through a rookie coach.