If there was ever a case study on how a coach can “lose” a team and how a coach can “win” a team it was found in the 3rd period of last nights Ottawa Senators/Montreal Canadiens playoff game.
With the Sens well on their way to a game 3 victory Canadiens Head Coach Michel Therien chose to throw out his tough guys to help send a message to the Senators. In a perfect world, Therien would see his heavyweights beat up on the Senator’s players and in turn send a message heading into game 4.
Unfortunately for Therien, the Senators not only won the game but they also won all the fights! Now, that in and of itself does not necessarily put you on the fast track to losing your team. Throwing the tough guys out there to send a message has been done before and will be done again (perhaps in this series).
What sunk Coach Therien was the response from Sens head coach Paul Maclean. With :17 seconds left on the clock and enjoying a power play Maclean called a time out. Maclean knew it would be akin to throwing gas on Therien’s fire and now the rivalry is personal. The decision won’t change how Maclean coaches but it will certainly affect Therien’s approach. So, the Senators are up 6-1 on the Canadiens and the game is a done deal…but Therien in his lack of infinite wisdom chose to put Brandon Prust on the ice who had spent his last shift taking runs at Sens players. The decision to call a time out not only infuriated Therien and his players but it also sent a message to the Senators players. Coach Maclean will do whatever it takes to protect his team. He could have easily taken the emotionally charged route of sending his guys out there for another brawl but he opted to have his guys sit back away from the play on the face off and simply let the clock wind down. Habs defender Josh Gorges chose to fire a slapshot at Sens F Kyle Turris. Prust chose to race around looking for anyone to get in his way which the Senator players were instructed not to do. Rene Bourque (fresh off concussion issues of his own) threw Gordie How like elbows at Senator medulla oblongatas!
So, you have 2 coaches with 2 completely different approaches. Coach Therien now faces the challenge of convincing his players to play for him when it is clear from the post game comments that there is a disconnect between the coach and his team. Not one Montreal Canadien defended their coach for wanting to turn it into a back alley gang fight which ironically is not what the Canadiens do all that well. Therien has cried that Maclean’s calling a timeout was disrespectful. Maclean made it clear that he couldn’t give bag of pucks that Therrien was offended. Sometimes you shouldn’t poke the bear or in this case the walrus (Brandon Prust’s opinion, not mine!).
Coach Maclean has a room full of players that trust him and would skate through a wall for him and that is all that matters. The same cannot be said for Therien.
I have been a part of professional football teams that believed in their coach and on teams that had little to no faith in their bench boss.
The Ottawa Senators know they can beat the Montreal Canadiens on the ice and in the alley. The Montreal Canadiens also know this to be the case and face an uphill skate against an inspired opponent.
History is repeating itself. Many in the know believe Therien lost his team when he was the head coach in Pittsburgh. As for Maclean (former Red Wings assistant coach) history also repeats itself. It’s no wonder players would play for less in Detroit. They know the coach and his staff won’t get trigger happy when the kitchen heats up!
Leadership 101 = anyone can lead on the easy days! Its how you lead when the crap is hitting the fan that separates great leaders from good ones.