The Montreal Canadiens fired head coach Guy Carbonneau on Monday and replaced him behind the bench with general manager Bob Gainey. Carbonneau, a finalist for the Jack Adams Award last year, was let go after nearly three seasons as Montreal's head coach.
Gainey first appearance behind the bench will be on Tuesday night when the Canadiens host the Edmonton Oilers.
"Not long ago, I responded to a question: What was the best decision I made as (Canadiens) GM? And hiring Guy was my best decision," Gainey said Monday at a news conference. "Today this decision might seem contradictory, but in the last eight weeks our performance has been below average, and I believe that a change of the direction at ice level was necessary. With 16 games left in the season, I believe that the change was necessary to maximize our chances of being one of the teams to participate in the playoffs this spring."
"There were certain games when I had a real confusion about the overall ... it showed up as effort, but I felt like it was emotional engagement to a game," Gainey said. "Our team (did) not seem to be emotionally engaged."
After finishing first in the Eastern Conference last year, the Canadiens' 100th anniversary season in 2008-09 has been anything but smooth. Controversy has followed the team throughout the year and they have dealt with several on and off-ice issues.
"I find ourselves in a position that requires my intervention, and the response is my decision today," Gainey said. "I feel like its necessary to make a change, but the real answer will be the results 35 days from now."
The team got off to a very strong start, but lately have had their struggles. The team was comfortably in playoff position until the All-Star game in Montreal on Jan. 25, after which they won just three of 15 games to fall back into a group of six teams that are fighting for four playoff spots. Montreal is currently fifth in the Eastern Conference standings, just one point ahead of Florida, the Rangers, and Pittsburgh.
"(Carbonneau) took a very difficult job (as coach) and tried his best to advance the team," said Gainey. "It's never an easy message to deliver to anyone, but it was at a point where I felt it was needed."
"I'm not going to make black-and-white changes, but we need to move toward being a better, stronger, more consistent team defensively and an offensive team that takes advantage of our opportunities," added Gainey.
Associate coach Doug Jarvis, along with assistant coaches Kirk Muller and Roland Melanson will all be staying with the club. In addition, the Canadiens have added Hamilton Bulldogs head coach Don Lever to their staff. Hamilton assistant coach Ron Wilson will take over as bench boss of the AHL club.
This will be Gainey's second stint as head coach of the Canadiens. He previously took over following the dismissal of Claude Julien during the 2005-06 season. He guided the club to a 23-15-3-0 record after the team went 19-16-6-0 under Julien. The Canadiens lost in the first round of the playoffs that season.
Carbonneau originally replaced Gainey as head coach of the Canadiens on May 5, 2006. He had spent part of the season prior to that as an associate coach with the Habs, and was hired to Gainey's staff with the intention that he would become head coach in time for the 2006-07 season.
Carbonneau's coaching record with Montreal was a combined 124-83-23. Montreal missed the playoffs in his first season, and last year were eliminated in five games by the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round. He becomes the seventh NHL head coach to be fired this season.