THE CASE FOR/AGAINST COACH MARC CRAWFORD

Jun 4th, 2012 | By | Category: Canadiens, Latest News

I, like almost everyone can’t wait to get it over with.  No matter how long Marc Bergevin puts off naming his new head coach the selection is not going to improve.  Conventional wisdom has been telling us we’re down to three candidates.  Michel Therrien seems to be everyone’s favourite and Patrick Roy is third on the list.

In the middle on the list of favourites is Marc Crawford.

Crawford has the most glittering credentials of the three but even his record is a mixed bag.

With the Nordiques in 1995 he won the NHL Coach of the Year award.  The next season after the team moved to Denver,  with the help of the Canadiens gift of Patrick Roy, he coached the Stanley Cup champions.  Since then – nothing.

More often than not, coaches are scapegoats for the failure of the front office to give them the tools with which to win.  For instance Crawford was fired by a near bankrupt Dallas franchise despite guiding a team with a 45 million dollar salary budget to the most  points (95) of any team in NHL history that didn’t make the playoffs.  In Los Angeles he was handed a very young team that only now, two coaches later, is getting it together.  And in four of his six years his Canucks teams won the Northwest division title.

I don’t know whether this is a good or bad thing but Crawford likes a high tempo offensive style of hockey.  That would be comparative eye candy after a couple of years of Jacques Martin but the way the game is played today, I’m not so sure that’s winning hockey.

Crawford and Bergevin have a personal connection.  In 2004 Bergevin was traded to the Canucks by Pittsburgh for a seventh round draft pick at the trade deadline.  He played nine games for Crawford and then retired after a twenty year career.

Now,  the down side.  Crawford’s teams have made it past the first round of the playoffs only once in the last eleven seasons and in the last five years he’s missed the playoffs entirely.  As a result he was fired in Vancouver, Los Angeles and Dallas.

Crawford’s reputation is that of a “screamer” and raising the volume level may get the attention of the players on the short term but in the end they simply turn a deaf ear.  He is also known for over using his veterans to the detriment of the young players.

Although Crawford will tell you he believes in a collegial coaching policy, in reality his reputation is one of marginalizing his assistant coaches and that is not a good thing in this age of specialization.

Crawford speaks some French.   How deep that knowledge goes is an open question.  When he was in Quebec City he learned some pretty basic stuff but the moment  subject matter got complicated or technical he was forced to switch to English for the sake of clarity.  Not much chance his French has improved during his stays in Colorado, Vancouver, Los Angeles and Dallas.

And most importantly, and maybe the dealbreaker, Crawford is a co-defendant in the 40-million dollar Steve Moore/Todd Bertuzzi lawsuit which finally is going to hit the courtrooms in September.

Crawford told the Vancouver Province in this Sunday’s edition that he’s learned a few things in the last decade.

“I look back at how I was as a young coach and I know that I’m vastly different now.  What changes you are the experiences and it can be humbling at times and forces you to re-examine yourself — especially if you lose a job. I know I’ve got a lot of good qualities and the attributes that are necessary to be successful in a tough profession.”

Over 15 seasons as a head coach, he is 549-421-103 with 78 overtime losses.  Crawford won 246 career games with Vancouver.   It was most in club history until Alain Vigneault finally passed it last season.

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