From CBC Sports
Guy Carbonneau said on Wednesday he was still at a loss over what went wrong with the Montreal Canadiens this season.
Speaking publicly for the first time since being let go on March 9 as the team’s head coach, Carbonneau said he is still surprised he was fired.
“I didn’t really see the decision coming, since I thought we were heading in the right direction,” he said in a statement before taking questions. “But Bob Gainey thought otherwise, and I must accept his decision.”
Carbonneau thanked Gainey, among many others, for their support during his nearly three-year tenure as Montreal head coach.
Montreal has tailed off following a strong start to its centennial season. The Canadiens have struggled with injuries, a sophomore slump by starting goaltender Carey Price, a forced absence of star forward Alexei Kovalev, and reports that some players were partying too much, sometimes with unsavoury characters.
Carbonneau was let go following a 3-1 win in Dallas, but the Canadiens had begun the road trip with bad losses in Buffalo and Atlanta.
Asked if he felt he had “lost the room” in sports parlance, Carbonneau responded that he didn’t think his popularity with players was a factor in the decision.
“I think I learned a long time in sports there’s a third of people that don’t like you, a third that love you and the rest that you have to kind of swing to one side or the other.”
The former coach has taken flak in the media for his sometimes brusque manner, but said he felt he had made strides in improving his communication skills. He also added that assistant Kirk Muller would often help smooth things over.
Won’t dwell on past decisions
Carbonneau said that while that there were a number of in-game decisions that didn’t work out, he is not going to dwell over them.
“When you make a decision, you make it for the team,” he said. “You think that you’re right. When it’s over, it’s over.
“One time its great, it’s special, [and] you don’t make an error, other times not. You have to live with that.”
Carbonneau compiled a 124-84-23 record with Montreal since taking over prior to the 2006-07 season.
Carbonneau, who turned 49 on Wednesday, was a finalist last season for the Jack Adams Trophy as coach of the year, surprising many hockey observers by leading the Canadiens to first place in the Eastern Conference.
He said he was extremely proud of the team’s accomplishments last season and that the heightened expectations that resulted were not a burden.
There has been little improvement for the club since general manager Gainey took over behind the bench. The Canadiens are 1-2-1 since the change, and with the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers picking up their games, Montreal has slipped to seventh in the Eastern Conference.
Carbonneau hinted that the struggles that began midway through this season may help the club finish strongly and surprise teams come playoff time.
Prior to coaching, Carbonneau won the Selke Trophy for top defensive forward three times in a career that lasted nearly two decades. He was a member of two Stanley Cup championship teams with Montreal, and one with the Dallas Stars.
Hopes to return to coaching
He had signed a reported three-year contract extension in October and is looking forward to a vacation now, but hopes one day to coach again.
“I would like to return to the NHL as a coach but I will have to see if the situation is good for me.”
Don Lever, who is unilingual, has been brought up from the American Hockey League to assist with the club. Carbonneau stopped short of saying that being bilingual was a necessity for the next head coach.
“The list is going to grow every week, every month. I think they just have to pick the best one they have there … whoever takes this job and doesn’t speak French is going to have a lot of work to do.