BROSSARD, Qc – Even if his future looks bleak, Randy Cunneyworth hopes to stay on as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens.
The fate of the 50-year-old coach looked to be sealed Thursday when the man who hired him, general manager Pierre Gauthier, was fired by the Montreal Canadiens.
Team president Geoff Molson said it would be up to the new GM to name a coach.
When asked if he wanted to keep the job, Cunneyworth said “absolutely. That would be an understatement.”
However, it was Molson who appeared to throw Cunneyworth to the dogs in mid-season, after he was promoted to the head coaching job on an interim basis on Dec. 17 with the firing of Jacques Martin.
An outcry from Quebec nationalists over naming the team’s first non-French-speaking coach in decades prompted Molson to promise that the team’s next would be bilingual. Cunneyworth speaks only English, although he vowed to go on a crash course in French.
Cunneyworth and assistant coach Randy Ladouceur were named assistant coaches in Montreal after leading the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs to a conference final in 2010-11.
The Canadiens were struggling at 13-12-7 when Martin was fired. Under Cunneyworth, the injury-plagued team has gone 16-22-7 and dropped to last place in the NHL Eastern Conference.
“The circumstances between winning and losing are difficult things,” he said. “You look for different heroes on different nights and we haven’t had enough heroes on too many nights.
“The lesson learned is we need more of a complete team to do the job over a season.”
He said the Canadiens should be able to rebound next season, however.
“There have been some bright spots,” he said. “The adversity should make us stronger. A quick turnaround (to being a playoff team) is not out of the question. We’ve seen some teams do it this season.”
For now, he said he would try to get the team to do its best over the remaining five regular season games.