Canadiens general manager Pierre "The Ghost" Gauthier proved his desperation when he fired respected assistant coach Perry Pearn. That sent a message to head coach Jacques Martin that he would be next.
Montreal kept lumbering along at a .500 pace, so Gauthier fired Martin, too. He installed English-speaking Randy Cunneyworth as the next coach -- put him in an almost impossible situation.
The Canadiens just aren't good enough. They lack the size and talent needed to skate with the NHL's better teams.
The loss of top defenseman Andrei Markov to further knee problems was a killer, but that's not the only issue. The addition of defenseman Tomas Kaberle could help some, if he is interested in the gig, but he came at an extreme contract cost.
The Habs played a boring style under Martin, but that defensive-minded approach helped goaltender Carey Price get his game back on track. That approach kept the Canadiens viable, at least until they drifted away from the playoff race this season.
Montreal Gazette scribe Dave Stubbs notes that the new coach has a big job on his hands:
Now it is Cunneyworth, by necessity a Martin disciple while his assistant, who must take this often disorganized crew on the road for six holiday-season games and try to make its sum greater than its parts. That challenge begins Monday night in Boston against the quite excellent Bruins.
The new coach arrives cursed, in the view of some, by his unilingualism, and with the buy-no-green-bananas label of “interim” in his title.