SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers surprised to see Habs coach gone

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:50 AM ET

MONTREAL -- It's not often you see a fifth place team that's won five of its last seven games rub out a coach, so the Edmonton Oilers were as surprised as anyone to see Guy Carbonneau erased from behind the Canadiens bench.

With just 16 games left in the season, and after a hard-fought 3-1 win in Dallas, Guy Carbonneau is out and general manager Bob Gainey is in, which had players all around the NHL doing double-takes.

Oilers defenceman Steve Staios says you never know what goes on behind closed doors, but it must have been something that didn't sit right with players and management.

"I'm not inside that locker-room, so I don't know if it's that much of a shock (to them)," he said. "But it's interesting that they make a change like that at this point in the season. I don't know what's going on internally so it's hard to speculate."

A lot of the criticisms Gainey had of the Habs -like "not being emotionally engaged" in crucial games -applies to a lot of teams, and most certainly applies to the Oilers, who've been flat in several key spots down the stretch.

If Carbonneau's fate - he is the seventh coach this season to lose his job - has the Oilers thinking about their own coach's mortality, they're keeping it to themselves.

"That's outside of the way that I think," said Staios. "It's something you don't spend any time thinking about. The only thing in your control is how you prepare for the game, bringing a lot of energy, intensity and pride."

MacTavish, like all coaches, doesn't like to dissect other teams because he doesn't know enough about their internal workings.

"It's tough to comment other than he's been a pretty successful coach over the last couple of years," he said. "Notwithstanding that, these things happen and we're all subjected to it."

Watching seven other coaches go this season (Peter Laviolette in Carolina, Craig Hartsburg in Ottawa, Tom Renney in New York, Barry Melrose in Tampa, Denis Savard in Chicago, Michel Therrien in Pittsburgh and now Carbonneau in Montreal) shows just how tenuous the job can be.

"It's a volatile position, especially in today's NHL, maybe more than it's ever been," said MacTavish. "The races are tight, the teams are close, parity is struck and there's a lot of pressure to get in the playoffs.

"There are higher expectations in a lot more cities than there has been in the past. Emotions run high, it's part of the territory."

Sometimes coaching changes work, and sometimes it's a temporary fix that winds up being the start of a revolving door to which the players hold the key. Cory Clouston is the fourth Ottawa coach since the spring of 2007.

"Having gone through a few myself as a player, it can be a bit of a mixed bag," said MacTavish. "Normally the guys who don't have a great relationship with the coach who's going through the out door are going to be highly motivated to make sure that doesn't happen with the new coach. There will be a lot of guys who feel like it's a fresh start and a new opportunity and it generally brings some intensity."


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