MONTREAL -- In the end, Bob Gainey chose someone a lot like himself -- demanding, experienced, a good instructor and not too flamboyant -- to take the helm of the Montreal Canadiens. That person was Jacques Martin, who was unveiled as the new Habs head coach yesterday.
Gainey told a press conference that Martin, his first choice, met every criterion he had for the man needed behind the bench at the Bell Centre.
"In our situation, I believed the team needed an experienced coach, a career coach who could guide our young players," he said.
While speculation regarding the job has run wild since the end of the team's chaotic season, Gainey boldly chose to approach Florida's GM after clearing it with the Panthers owner beforehand.
"In his heart, Jacques is really a coach. It's his soul and his profession," Gainey explained.
"I was surprised and flattered when Bob approached me," admitted Martin, who was thrilled to return to his "first love" and get back into the action. He said there wasn't much hesitating on his part before taking the leap to Montreal.
An opportunity to coach the Habs, "one of the most prestigious organizations in the world of sport", is "probably the essential aspect" that tipped the balance, Martin said.
"It's a return to my roots as a French-Canadian," he added while giving assurances that he wasn't worried about the infamous pressure on the team.
On the contrary, Martin said, he is elated to come back to a club with such a passionate fan base, a fact he sees more as a challenge and motivation.
But he also insisted on the important influence that Bob Gainey and his people had on his decision to come to Montreal. Martin worked with Pierre Gauthier and Trevor Timmins, currently assistant general manager and director of player personnel, respectively, during his days with the Sens.
He noted that both men are driven by a philosophy based on player development. "There's a good chemistry," Martin said.
The Habs will not have to pay any compensation to the Panthers.
"The fact that I was a general manager made me understand the importance of that relationship."
As for the team, with the actual lineup kept in limbo due to the number of players without contracts, the Canadiens coach said he believes he can still count on "a very good core of players with which we'll be able to build a winning team."
Martin also touched on Carey Price, an important matter for a man who sorely needed the presence of a solid goalie back in Ottawa.