Monday, 5 March 2012

Game Sixty-Seven: Habs v Flames


Happy Monday! Are we all still feeling bummed out over losing to the Leafs? Are we feeling manic that Toronto finally seems to have a knowledgeable, competent guy behind the bench ... while we have ... I don't know - what exactly do we have behind our bench?

Out of curiosity, I checked out the backgrounds of The Two Randys (insert silly BBC allusion here), they being of course, Carlyle and Cunneyworth. I found, much to my surprise, that both have lived almost the same lives and have traveled the same paths. Interesting!!

Both were born and raised in southern Ontario. Both played roughly 16 years in the NHL, both played roughly the same number of games (Carlyle 1,055, Cunneyworth 866), Cunneyworth scored more goals (189), but Carlyle, who was always more of a playmaker, had more points (647).

Coaching-wise, both took the prototypical process required to reach the NHL. Cunneyworth cut his coaching teeth mainly with Rochester as coach/assistant in the AHL for 8 years, while Carlyle spent 7 years as coach/assistant with the Manitoba Moose of the IHL/AHL. Carlyle got into coaching four years before Cunneyworth, which is logical given that Carlyle is four years older.

Carlyle's minor-league record as a head coach was 222-159 (.583 winning percentage) for the Moose, while Cunneyworth went 350-271-48 (.564%) for Rochester/Hamilton. Neither won a championship in the minors, or for that matter, had stellar playoff records. Of the 15 combined years coaching in the minors, Carlyle only saw the third round once in 2005 (and was soon offered the head coaching job with Anaheim), while Cunneyworth, similarly, only saw the third round once for Rochester in 2004.

So what does this tell us? It tells us that the two Randys are pretty similar guys, similar backgrounds, similar playing careers, similar coaching careers. Their paths of their lives have been extraordinary the same.

There was one big event where the lives of these two men took a sudden diversion. That was, of course, the Stanley Cup that Carlyle behind the bench with Anaheim. Today, he finds himself in the centre of the hockey universe with a tidy little contract that will take him through 2016. Cunneyworth, meanwhile ... finds his coaching career more or less in limbo, his future in doubt, playing out the string with a (very) losing record in a lost season, with no assurance of any employment beyond the spring.

I suppose the lesson here is even if the lives of two men are incredibly similar over the same period of time, the paths can suddenly and irreconcilably diverge in an instant. After coaching the Moose to a 44-26 season, Carlyle got his break with Anaheim just as that organization was peaking. 

Cunneyworth, who paid his coaching dues just as much as Carlyle, got his "break" by taking a promotion to the top job in Montreal squat in the middle of a lost season in a city more obsessed with the language, rather than the actual qualifications of who's standing behind the bench.

For that, Cunneyworth's story has become a bit of a career tragedy. He was brought into a chaotic situation to manage a deflated and dysfunctional roster, his team has looked terrible, and because of this, his reputation as an able guy has been greatly harmed - perhaps irreparably so.

It's likely that Cunneyworth won't retain his current position beyond this season. Perhaps he'll be able to find an opportunity with another NHL club. Perhaps he'll return to the minors. Maybe he'll just get out of coaching altogether - I hope he won't.

Ultimately, I hope that one day Cunneyworth is given a chance with a stable team to prove his coaching mettle. Carlyle has been given another chance in Toronto, I think Cunneyworth certainly deserves the same.

ANDREI MARKOV IS CLOSE UPDATE: Contact practice this morning! I'm thinking Edmonton on Thursday???! We'll see!!

PLAYERS COMING BACK TO HAUNT US UPDATE: Well at least we know it won't be Cammalleri. John Lu reports he's out for tomorrow night's game with an upper body injury.

Also ... Cunneyworth said this afternoon that Markov will be traveling with the team and will be participating in team practices with contact, but no return date is yet set. He indicated that the team intends on Andrei playing before the season's end. So perhaps my prediction (hope) for a return against Edmonton was a bit premature.

First Period:

- Little late to the action, but Flames go up 2-0 after Weber makes a sloppy pinch at his blue line, giving Iginla room to wheel (and he does) past Plekanec, sweeping around Price, and voila, they're on their way.

- Habs just ... awful. Sloppy, slow, undisciplined. Flames are simply eating them alive on both ends of the ice. Don't know who to praise for the Habs - no one is worthy.

- You know, Weber looked so promising at the start of the year - but his play the past two weeks has just been ... so ... terrible. Have no idea how or why he's tipped into an abyss.

- Habs really one one decent scoring chance, and they actually score on it at the very end of the period on the powerplay with Plekanec slipping in a rebound. Still the game totally lopsided, Flames outshooting the Habs 18-9. Eeek.

Second Period:

- Really, the Flames ought to destroy us tonight, they're still within striking distance of a playoff spot. And this is in a city starved for post-season play.

- Habs actually looking a bit more organized first five minutes of the period. Still unable to work the puck into an open spot for a quality chance, nonetheless there is semblance of coherence that was completely void over the first 20 minutes.

- Mini break here as Flames' Bouwmeester flips the puck over the glass under pressure from Bourque. See? Good things happen when you use the body.

- Pretty uneventful man advantage. Usual assortment of good passes, but no high quality shots.

- Wow. What a weird game this is turning out to be. Pactioretty with a gift goal from a harmless shot near the boards that somehow Kiprusoff muffs up. Game tied.

- How did Bourque manage to miss that totally wide open net? How many times has he done that since joining the Habs? I've lost count.

- Just can't compete. Blown coverage all over the place, defense and forwards, and Giordano blasts one past Price from 35 feet. I'm not sure how you can teach the basics to NHL players such as "cover your man", but that Flames goal, the basics were all but forgotten. 3-2 Calgary.

- Eller takes a bad penalty. Again.

- Oh wow. Did Iginla ever make Gorges look bad. Brilliant goal, but Gorges simply turned inside out. Price failing to cover the post properly didn't help much. Now 4-2.

- This might be Gorges worst game of the year.

- Better period than the first, but still Habs being outclassed. Price struggling, and his teammates, especially the forwards, are having great difficulty with positioning (perhaps indicative of the younger guys getting a chance). Flames are going to win this easily.

Third Period:

- So how come none of our guys ever seem to haunt their old teams? Bourque has had a couple of chances, but he's been mostly invisible. Meh.

- Oh Carey. Oh Carey ...

- The play by Price probably sums up how everybody on the Habs roster feels right now.

- Eller , try try, and try again, you never know what'll happen. Another weak one surrendered by Kiprusoff. Habs on life support, but still a chance. Sutter calls for time.

- Yup. This is a crazy game. Mad scramble in front of Kiprusoff, and the puck deflects off Desharnais' skate (I think?) and in. Reviewing the play now.

- This will count. Puck went in off Kibrusoff's stick. And it's 5-4. Pacrioretty with *another* goal. He's going to break 30 this year easily.

- The Flames will never live this down if they blow this game. A chance to nearly climb back to 8th now being given away. Will they hang on?

- Campoli with a great rush around and behind the Flames net, and a pass back to the line to ... no one.

- Habs have only won one game this year trailing after two periods. I can't fathom them coming back from three down with less than 10 minutes left in the 3rd.

- Is Price hurt? He made a very awkward save and appeared to twist his left leg awkwardly.

- Iginla looking fierce for the hat trick.

- Price really slow to get up after making a save on a 2-on-1 Flames break. Really slow.

- Three minutes left. Habs will need to push the peddle right now.

- Kaberle ... Just. Keep. It. In. The. Zone.

- Don't quite understand putting Campoli out there with Price pulled.

- Tanguay with a mistake icing.

- Wow. Did Cunneyworth actually use a time out? Miracles never cease!

- Nice try, but as usual, not quite enough. Still nice to see some life in the last half of the period. Something to build on for Thursday, perhaps?

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