Countdown to Carbo era begins
Guy Carbonneau will likely have more to share with Steve Begin over the course of the season.
MONTREAL - When Guy Carbonneau makes his head coaching debut in Buffalo on Oct. 6, he will officially begin his tenure as the 28th coach in Canadiens history. Now that the former Habs captain has been handed the coaching reins from Bob Gainey, Carbonneau will be looking to make his mark behind one of the NHL's most celebrated benches.
Once the 2006-07 season is underway, Carbonneau would like nothing more than to eclipse a benchmark belonging to former teammate Mario Tremblay, who saw his Canadiens respond to his hiring on Oct. 21, 1995 with an unprecedented winning streak. Tremblay's troops rattled off six straight wins for their new coach to set a league record for the best start by any new coach in club history, a mark which still stands today.
Should Carbonneau emerge victorious in his coaching debut, it would certainly bode well for the remainder of his rookie season behind the bench. Of the five coaches to have guided the Canadiens all the way to the Stanley Cup in their first year at the helm (Toe, Blake, Claude Ruel, Al MacNeil, Jean Perron and Jacques Demers), only Ruel had to settle for a tie, while the other four each won in their debut. Then again, even Scotty Bowman had to content himself with a tie in his first NHL game and he, of course, went on to win a league-record nine Stanley Cups over the course of his illustrious coaching career.
Carbonneau, who wore the "C" for six of his 13 seasons in Montreal, also becomes the 10th former Hab to make the transition behind the bench. The 46-year-old will now look to follow in the footsteps of Al MacNeil and the legendary Toe Blake, who remain the only two former Canadiens players-turned-coaches to have ever delivered a Stanley Cup to Montreal. Carbo will have his work cut out for him if he hopes to match Blake's incredible run that saw the Habs win eight Cups over Blake's 13-year stint as head coach, including a league-record five straight from 1956 through 1960.
The experience gathered by Carbonneau over the course of his 19-year NHL career includes working under the tutelage of some of the most decorated coaches in league history. With the likes of Demers, Burns, and Lemaire each having groomed Carbonneau while he was in Montreal, their combined eight Jack Adams Trophies as coach of the year tell all you need to know about where Carbo drew his inspiration from to trade in his equipment bag for a clipboard and a whistle.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com