Michel Therrien returns as Canadiens head coach

The Montreal Canadiens reached into the recent past to replace Randy Cunneyworth, hiring Michel Therrien for a second stint as head coach on Tuesday.
Michel Therrien talks to reporters at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard, Que., on Tuesday. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

What was old is new again in Montreal.

Michel Therrien has returned for a second stint as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens, the team he coached from 2000 to 2003.

"There are new owners, new management," he told reporters during an introductory media conference held at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard, Que.

"There is only one player from when I was there and that is [Andrei] Markov. I know the expectations from the fans and the media."

Newly installed rookie general manager Marc Bergevin confirmed Therrien's appointment in a statement released Tuesday morning.

"I found a guy who learns, who adapts well and who understands that things change," Bergevin said. "His work ethic is second to none and that is important to me.

"I made the decision and I'm really comfortable with it."

Coaching Record

Laval, QMJHL


Granby, QMJHL


Fredericton, AHL


Quebec, AHL


Montreal, NHL

77-77-14 (22 ties)

WB-Scranton, AHL

94-56-23 (12 ties)

Pittsburgh, NHL

135-105-24 (8 ties)

Therrien, a 48-year-old Montreal native, reportedly won out over coach-turned-broadcaster Marc Crawford.

Former Canadiens goaltender Patrick Roy, now heavily involved with the Quebec Remparts, was rumoured to be a fan favourite for the job, while Bob Hartley was considered a candidate until accepting the identical post with the Calgary Flames last Friday.

"My intention is to bring back intensity, pride and discipline," Therrien said. "To the fans, when they come back to the Bell Centre, they are going to cheer for a team that works really hard."

Therrien takes the reins from interim head coach Randy Cunneyworth, whose failure to speak fluent French became the focus of such intense public protest that team owner and president Geoff Molson pledged to hire a bilingual head coach.

It will be left to Therrien to decide whether Cunneyworth is retained as an assistant coach.

Therrien spent seven seasons in his first stint with the organization, initially as head coach of its AHL affiliates in Fredericton and Quebec City and later as head coach in Montreal, replacing the fired Alain Vigneault as the 25th head coach of the Canadiens on Nov. 20, 2000.

Therrien posted a record of 77-77-36 in 190 NHL games with Montreal before being fired in favour of Claude Julien on Jan. 17, 2003.

Montreal had a 18-19-5-4 mark at the time, but had lost 10 of 12 games and fallen out of playoff contention.

"To take a step back is never a bad thing," Therrien said. "You analyze yourself, what went well and what went wrong and you try to be a better coach.

"I'm certainly a better coach now than I was 10 or 15 years ago. I learned a lot about myself, I learned a lot about the game, too." 

'A great challenge'

Therrien resurfaced as head coach of Pittsburgh's affiliate team in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton from 2003 to 2005 before returning to the NHL level and leading the Penguins to consecutive 100-plus point seasons and a Stanley Cup final berth in 2007-08 — their first appearance in the championship round since 1991-92.

He had a 135-105-32 record with Pittsburgh.

"I got a chance to work with some great, young kids over there [in Wilkes-Barre] and we reached the Calder Cup final and, when I moved back to the NHL, I was confident," Therrien said. "I got a great challenge in Pittsburgh and got the chance to work with some great young players and the confidence in all those things helped me a lot."

Prior to joining Montreal, Therrien impressed as head coach with Laval and Granby of the QMJHL, posting a .712 winning percentage and hoisting the Memorial Cup with the Predateurs in 1996.

He is the sixth man given a second shot as Canadiens head coach, joining Newsy Lalonde, Leo Danderand, Cecil Hart, Claude Ruel and, to a lesser extent, Bob

Gainey, who, as GM, held the fort after firing Julien in 2004-05 and Guy Carbonneau in 2008-09.

With files from The Canadian Press