Sportsnet is reporting that the Montreal Canadiens are days away from naming a new head coach, possibility as early as Thursday.
The front-runner appears to be Bob Hartley, with former Canadiens coach Michel Therrien also in the mix.
The bilingual Hartley would be a good choice for the Montreal job. He has NHL experience, including a Stanley Cup win with the Colorado Avalanche. As as a commentator for RDS — a French television station — he also has the experience of dealing with the demanding Montreal media.
However, TVA Sports is reporting that the Canadiens will meet with Hartley this Wednesday to resolve a contractual issue.
The issue has to do with Hartley being under contract with the Zurich Lions of Switzerland’s League A until the end of next season. However, Hartley has apparently told the Swiss team he may not return to coach them.
When told about the potential of his coach taking over as the Canadiens’ bench boss, Lions general manager Peter Zahner told TVA Sports that that may not happen.
If the Montreal Canadiens [name] their head coach, it will not be Bob Hartley. [He] is still under contract with us.
Zahner explained to TVA Sports’ L.A. Lariviere a little further more why Hartley may not end up in Montreal.
Zahner also told me Hartley’s no-opt out clause prevents him from joining an NHL team or any team. Has 1 season left. #Habs
— L.A. Lariviere (@L_A_theRiver) May 28, 2012
According to Sportsnet’s Roger Millions, the club is “furious” NHL clubs are trying to steal their coach.
— Roger Millions (@RogMillions) May 25, 2012
Should Hartley get hired, Pat Hickey of The Montreal Gazette reports that Shawinigan Cataractes head coach Eric Vellieux will join him as an assistant coach.
Vellieux recruited Hartley as a volunteer adviser for the QMJHL team, where Hartley met and got to chit chat with Canadiens general manger Marc Bergevin and other members of the front office who were in town to get updates on the team’s prospects.
But if Hartley can’t get out of his contract with the Lions, the Canadiens have a number of candidates to choose from.
Aside from Hartley, ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported on May 25 that both Therrien and Marc Crawford also interviewed for the vacant position.
Former Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau and former Canadiens star goaltender Patrick Roy are two more names that have met with Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin recently, but LeBrun doesn’t see them as serious contenders.
The Montreal Gazette’s Red Fisher reported on the same day that two interviews were held in Florida and speculated that Tampa Bay Lightning assistants Daniel Lacroix and Martin Raymond were the targets.
Earlier in the month, Don Cape, the agent for New Jersey Devils assistant coach Larry Robinson made it known (http://www.thestar.com/sports/hockey/nhl/article/1176198–larry-robinson-open-to-returning-to-montreal-canadiens-as-a-coach) that his client would be interested in returning to Montreal as their head coach.
If there’s interest on the part of the Canadiens, we will certainly listen. We’ve offered our services to the Canadiens in the past and they said no each time. I think that Larry would be very interested.
Robinson is under contract with the Devils until July.