When Michel Therrien took a cab from his hotel to CONSOL Energy Center this morning, he past the vacant land that once shouldered Mellon Arena.
“I was asking the taxi driver what they’re going to do that space,” said Therrien, the Montreal Canadiens head coach.
For parts of five seasons, Therrien made daily trips to the Penguins former arena. He was the club’s head coach from 2006-09, leading them to two playoff berths and a Stanley Cup Final appearance in ’08.
|Michel Therrien (Getty Images) |
“I have some great memories in my time in Pittsburgh,” he said. “I learned a lot. It’s a great sports city, great fans. I enjoyed myself and my family enjoyed it here, too.”
When he was brought to Pittsburgh, Therrien took over a Penguins team that lacked discipline and commitment with the hangover of four consecutive seasons at the bottom of the league’s standings. It was a tall task, but he quickly turned them from bottom dweller to contender.
“My first time in Pittsburgh I had to change the culture a lot because that team was in last place for four years,” he said. “There was a reason why. I wanted to make sure when I got here we had the right attitude to be winners. The young guys bought into it.”
Therrien is working that same magic in Montreal. He’s taken over a team that finished last in the Eastern Conference and has them currently in second place. His Habs will place the East’s No. 1 team in Pittsburgh this evening. It will be rematch of their March 2 contest in Montreal – a 7-6 overtime win for the Penguins that began their current 12-game winning streak.
“I’m sure he’s excited to play this game,” said Therrien’s former captain Sidney Crosby. “We already played that first game. It was weird seeing him with another team. He’s doing a great job over there, and they’re playing well. Both teams want this one. It should be an exciting, fast-paced game.”
While it might be strange for Therrien to be in Pittsburgh on the opposite bench, he’s looking forward to the challenge of facing his former team.
“When I went to the building this morning I was excited. It’s fun to be back,” Therrien said. “It should be a good game, too. These are two teams that play really well. It’s a huge challenge for us to play the Penguins, the hottest team in the NHL right now. We have to come in with the right attitude, play a hard game. It should be a lot of fun.”