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Therrien doesn't regret famous tirade

Canadian Press

9/21/2006 5:32:52 PM

MONCTON, N.B. (CP) - Michel Therrien's tirade following a loss to Edmonton last January has become one of the most famous rants by an NHL head coach in recent memory. And he doesn't regret it one bit.

''It had to be done,'' the Pittsburgh Penguins head coach said in an interview this week.

To recap, following a 3-1 loss at home to the Oilers, Pittsburgh's eighth loss in the 11 games since Therrien had taken over from the fired Ed Olczyk, the former Montreal Canadiens coach exploded in his post-game interview.

The highlights:

''It's a pathetic performance. Half of the team doesn't care. That defensive squad - I am really starting to believe their goal is to be the worst defensive squad in the league. They are doing such a great job to be the worst defensive squad in the league. They turn the puck over. They have no vision. They are soft. I have never seen a bunch of defencemen as soft as this.''

He later added: ''We should take 50 per cent of their salaries because they play only 50 per cent of the time.''

Therrien received some harsh criticism for the way he publicly chastised his players. Asked whether he wished he could take anything he said back, he didn't blink.

''We had to change the culture,'' the 42-year-old said during an interview conducted in French. ''There was a coaching change, it lasted about 10 days before the old habits kicked back in. We were really unsatisfied with the players' attitude and their work ethic, and their commitment. We knew if we kept going in that direction we wouldn't amount to much. Yes, we came down hard, but by the end of the season it was proven that it was something we had to do.

''Was it fun? No. But it's something that had to be done. Listen, it wasn't personal, it was a group decision to go in that direction in order to properly rebuild this team.''

Therrien begins his first full season behind the Pittsburgh bench, and interestingly enough isn't the only fired Montreal coach to have resurfaced. Both the man he replaced behind the Montreal bench, Alain Vigneault, and the man that replaced Therrien, Claude Julien, have also rebounded - Vigneault in Vancouver and Julien in New Jersey.

''For sure, life goes on after the Montreal Canadiens,'' said Therrien. ''But we all acquired a huge experience being able to coach that team, whether it's on the ice, in practice, dealing with the media, a number of elements there that made us better for it. All three of us were in our 30s when we were there. Like it or not, you gain some kind of experience from that.''

Vigneault agrees.

''If you can coach in a place like Montreal, where there is a lot of attention to the team, then you can probably coach on a lot of teams in this league,'' Vigneault said Thursday in Vancouver. ''I think for me, those guys are guys I know. Any time people you know personally have an opportunity to have one of those 30 jobs, because it's not easy, you have to think your really fortunate.''

Vigneault said he wasn't surprised all three have found jobs again as head coaches in the NHL.

''I worked with Michel before. I know Michel is a good coach,'' said Vigneault. ''In Claude's case, I have played with him before but I don't know him at all as a coach. He has a lot of experience in the minor leagues and played for a long time. If people hired all three of us it's because we are good coaches.''

Therrien, meanwhile, will no doubt serve up a doozy again sometime this season, especially since his young team isn't deemed quite ready to make the playoffs. No one should have been surprised at his tirade last season. Just a year earlier while coaching the AHL's Penguins in Wilkes-Barre he also lost his cool.

''This team plays with no emotion,'' he said on Jan. 27, 2005. ''They don't care about winning. The only thing they care about is, `I want to get treated pretty well. We want optional practices.' Win or lose, you think they care? The only thing they care is the way they get treated. They go to the Arena Bar & Grill, order a couple of beers, try to have fun, play some poker until 4, 5 o'clock in the morning, show up tired to practice. You have some guys in here, it's a shame, a shame, the way they are performing. It's unprofessional.''

The fiery Therrien is an emotional man who doesn't hold back. Sometimes it works. He won a Memorial Cup championship in 1996 with Granby, recorded a .720 winning percentage as coach in the QMJHL and a led the underdog Canadiens to a first-round upset over Boston in 2002. But it's also backfired, like when a profanity-laced tirade at the refs in Game 4 of the 2002 second-round series with Carolina landed him bench minor, gave the Hurricanes a two-man advantage and eventually the victory.

Winning or losing, Therrien never looks happy. His face always seems to portray anger or disgust. But he insists he's enjoying what he's doing.

''I have lots of fun coaching,'' he said. ''I had fun coaching the Montreal Canadiens, I'm having fun coaching the Pittsburgh Penguins. I had fun coaching Wilkes-Barre in the AHL. I love what I'm doing. It's not a burden on me. I don't mind getting up at 6 a.m. every day to come to the rink. I love it.''

With files from Jim Morris in Vancouver