Getting a head coaching job in the NHL should be a dream job for anyone. And then there is Randy Cunneyworth.
The new Montreal Canadiens coach was asked Thursday if the job felt like his job was a dream. Cunneyworth smiled and replied: “It hasn’t felt like it yet. But I think a few wins always feels much better.”
Indeed. The Canadiens arrived in Winnipeg early Thursday after a 5-1 loss in Chicago the night before and amid an ongoing controversy over Cunneyworth’s inability to speak French. Adding to the pressure is the fact Montreal has yet to win under the new coach, who took over on Dec. 17, and has lost four straight.
“Obviously we’re not enjoying ourselves,” Cunneyworth said Thursday morning. “We’re not as confident as we would like to be but I think it’s about getting back on that path of winning and finding our winning ways.”
Cunneyworth, who most recently coached Montreal’s farm team in Hamilton, added that he has tried to shut out the media storm over the language issues and just focus on getting the team to win. “I’m not reading those articles, or listening to that kind of media. I only know of it because I get the odd positive comment from a stranger or somebody who’s close to me...I’m not thinking about those things at this time.
Those things will take care of themselves.”
One player who has deflected some attention is P.K Suban who criticized his own play Wednesday. He continued that Thursday, saying he has let the team down.
“I know what I can do and I know how I can help the team and right now I’m not playing the way that I need to to help our team win,” he said Thursday. “I don’t mind being the guy to step up and be accountable because I haven’t played my best. I know I have more to give so that’s why I’m able to hold myself accountable because I know I can play better.”
Winnipeg coach Claude Noel tackled the language issue somewhat Thursday as well, explaining that while he can speak some French, he is not comfortable in the language.
“It has to do with my comfort level,” said Noel who grew up in Kirkland Lake, Ont., and has handled a few interviews in French while with the Jets.
“I can’t express myself in French like I can in English. So you try to answer questions that you can’t answer. I’ve got a Grade 6 education in French and then I went to English school from Grade 7 and onward. It’s hard to be descriptive.”
He added that he spent much of playing and coaching career in the United States and lost much of his French.
As for hockey and Thursday’s game, Winnipeg has another chance to move into a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Jets are currently sitting in 11th with 35 points, just one point back of Ottawa which is in eighth.
The Jets are coming off a poor performance of their own on Tuesday, when the lost in a shoot out to the New York Islanders. The Jets didn’t play particularly well and were bailed out repeatedly by net minder Ondrej Pavelec, who will start again Thursday.
Montreal is two points behind Winnipeg and the Habs beat the Jets on Oct. 9, 5-1. That was the opening game at the MTS Centre.
“We’ve got to worry a lot more about our game,” said Montreal forward Mike Cammalleri, when asked about that first game more than two months ago.