MONTREAL – Michel Therrien returns to Montreal a little older, a decade of experience wiser, and extremely eager to help launch the club into its next era.
While Canadiens fans can expect to see a familiar face overseeing games from behind the team’s bench this season, they can also expect a much different Therrien than the one who parted way with the Montreal organization on January 17, 2003. Taking the stage at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard with general-manager, Marc Bergevin, the Habs’ once and future bench boss didn’t hesitate to compare the 38-year-old version of himself to the one that will take the team’s reigns for the 2012-13 campaign.
“Things went quickly for me when I was 38. I started my career as a young coach, I coached in the juniors, then I coached in the AHL and then all of a sudden I found myself behind the bench in the NHL,” explained Therrien, of his start with the Canadiens and as an NHL coach. “But I did it and I’m proud I did it. I coached with the passion, intensity and knowledge that I had at that time. I now have a lot more experience, I’m much more ready than I was before, and I can’t wait to face this challenge.
“I look at the fact that I coached here before as being a big advantage for me. I know exactly what to expect,” continued Therrien, evidently also well aware of what fans will expect following a disappointing season for the team. “Concerning the team, my intention is to bring back the intensity, the pride and the discipline. Concerning our fans, I want to make sure that every time they come to the Bell Centre, they’ll be able to cheer for a team that’s working their hardest.”
He may only be taking his first steps in his first day on the job, but despite only knowing Andrei Markov from his previous stint coaching the team, it’s clear he’s already done his homework on the rest of the roster.
“I obviously didn’t like the results from last season, but the fact remains that this is a team with a lot of potential,” shared Therrien, agreeing with his GM that a look at both Stanley Cup finalists – the 8th seed Kings and a Devils squad who missed the playoffs last year – is proof that quick turnarounds in the NHL are becoming more commonplace than ever. “We have a great first line that you could compare with any first line in the league, we have a center in Tomas Plekanec who brings a lot of intelligent play to the team. We also have an elite goalie in Carey Price and a healthy Andrei Markov starting the season.
“There’s a lot of good leadership in our room,” he added. “With the right preparation and a good work ethic, I think we’ll be able to surprise a lot of people.”
A large part of the experience Therrien picked up since his departure from Montreal has come in the form of coaching younger players – a skill that could play to his advantage with the youth-heavy Canadiens.
“The job of a coach is always to try and get the most out of your players. You’ve got to adapt, and the most important thing to adapt to as a coach is your players.Two players rarely work the same way. Some need a tap on the back all the time, and some, you give them one little tap on the back once and it affects their game,” explained Therrien, who led the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to the AHL finals, before helping a young Pittsburg Penguins squad reach the Stanley Cup finals. “I want to establish great relationships with all my players because sometimes you realize that you have to be harder on some athletes and hopefully they understand over the years that it was in their best interests.”
Still settling into the reality that he’s back where he started his NHL coaching career a decade ago, Therrien made no attempt to hide his sentiments about returning to the Canadiens, and coming back home to Montreal.
“Over the years you realize that it’s a privilege to coach in the NHL,” he concluded. “But it’s an honor to coach the Montreal Canadiens.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
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