Habs should have brought in Carbonneau earlier

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:16 AM ET

It is typical of Bob Gainey that he has put his own head on the block.

Guy Carbonneau is going to be the head coach of the Montreal Canadiens next year, and after firing Claude Julien yesterday, Gainey easily could have moved Carbonneau into position right away.

It would have been politically expedient to do so. But since Carbonneau is coming in from another organization, it would not have been the best move for the team.

So, like Lou Lamoriello in New Jersey, Gainey has gone behind the bench himself to get a better idea of the problems facing his team.

Carbonneau will be an associate coach and, like Gainey, will use the rest of the season to develop a better understanding of his players.

Carbonneau is a good choice, one the Canadiens should have made long ago. He had the respect of the players when he was a Canadiens captain, and he had it during his stint as an assistant coach.

Still, he'll have a tough job in Montreal, partly because of problems that Gainey has created.

Radek Bonk has been injured and unproductive, but even if his contract ($2.394 million US this season and next) is taken out of the equation, the deal that brought him to Montreal was not a good one.

He cost them goaltender Mathieu Garon and a third-round pick. Even though Cristobal Huet came back, the Los Angeles Kings got the better of the deal.

Gainey also should have unloaded Mike Ribeiro after his embarrassing charade in the 2004 playoffs when he first faked an injury, then, knowing no one could respond, beckoned the Boston Bruins off the bench.

It was not a performance that was well-received by his teammates and it has not been forgotten.

But still, as is usually the case, the Canadiens' problems would pale had they been receiving outstanding goaltending. Such has not been the case.

Because of the convoluted restrictions of the new collective bargaining agreement, the Canadiens have had to keep Huet in Montreal and send down Yann Danis, who arguably is the best goaltender in the organization at the moment.

Jose Theodore has been average at best, going down on his knees at the first hint of a shot, and with only ordinary goaltending, the Canadiens have been slipping steadily in the standings.

By his own admission, Gainey is not a particularly good coach, having fired himself to make way for Ken Hitchcock when he was in Dallas.

But unlike some of his counterparts in the general manager ranks, he's not afraid to accept responsibility.

GOOD START

NBC kicked off its NHL broadcasts yesterday with a typically slick production -- three games, all from major American markets.

The anchor desk, with Bill Clement and Ray Ferraro, was a marked improvement over the Fox telecasts, which always seemed to be more concerned with bombast than solid content.

Clement and Ferraro, who were on skates in Rockefeller Plaza yesterday, know the game and know their job. They don't talk down to the viewers. They even know the proper pronunciations, which was not always the case with Fox.

Overall, the NBC product was good, but the broadcasting team that covered the game between the New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings was far superior to the other two.

Mike Emrick was the play-by-play man, supported by John Davidson. But ice-level contributions were made by Pierre McGuire.

Both Davidson and McGuire have strong analytical skills and it might have made more sense to move McGuire to another game -- the one involving the Boston Bruins and Dallas Stars, for instance.

As an aside, it was a bit of a stretch for Clement to refer to the coaching change in Montreal and say that it was reported "by our Pierre McGuire."

McGuire did indeed report it. That's what happens when a team issues a press release. Reporters report it.

But Clement was insinuating that McGuire had broken the news and as near as can be ascertained, the first announcement of the firing was disseminated by Toronto's Fan 590 radio when Darren Dreger of Rogers Sportsnet beat the Canadiens' press release by approximately 10 minutes.

In the telecasts of the other games, there were a few minor errors.

When Philadelphia Flyers goalie Antero Niittymaki lost his stick, for instance, Brian Hayward said, "had the Flyers been able to get something going on the attack it would have been difficult for Niittymaki." It was their opponent, the Colorado Avalanche, which needed to get something going.

And the guy who plays for the Flyers is Turner Stevenson, not Jeremy Stevenson.

Also, it doesn't make much sense to put an NBC blot in the lower right of the picture. Most of the time, that blot covers the ice surface. Put it in an upper corner where it obliterates only a few spectators.

Better still is to use a strip across the top of the screen which, for most of the time, is exactly what NBC did.

But these are minor flaws and for the most part, the NBC telecasts were good. The concept of displaying the shift times of key players gives the puckheads something to consider.

And the other graphics -- such as "Colorado Avalanche 0 shots last 9:00" -- were informative. To their credit, the analysts didn't feel the need to repeat the information.

The rinkside interviews at the end of the period added more insight -- in the cases where the questions were meaningful.

All in all, it was an auspicious debut.

STOCKING UP

Now that the Flyers are starting to get get some of their injured players back, there may be some shuffles coming.

Defenceman Eric Desjardins is not due back until March 2, but when Joni Pitkanen returns, probably next week, the Flyers may waive Chris Therien to free some cap room.

It also is possible that they will place Keith Primeau on injury reserve for the rest of the season, a move that would not preclude an appearance by Primeau in the playoffs.

And there is speculation that the Flyers could use any cap room they might be able to create to pay Pittsburgh Penguins forward Mark Recchi, whom they covet.


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