A report by Fred Poulin of TheHockeyWriters.com has the Canadiens finally ready to name their new coach. If the report is accurate, the name will be a familiar one to NHL fans, with former Colorado and Atlanta coach Bob Hartley taking the reins behind the Habs bench.
Hartley has long been rumored as one of the leading candidates for the Montreal post. He has enjoyed success at a variety of levels, leading Laval of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League to the Memorial Cup in 1993, taking Hershey to the Calder Cup in the American Hockey League in 1997 and most recently winning the Swiss title with ZSC Lions this past season.
But it's Hartley's NHL resume that is most important. He coached Colorado from 1998-2002, winning a Stanley Cup with Ray Bourque and Co. in 2001. He was in Atlanta from 2003-07, guiding the Thrashers to their only playoff appearance after winning the Southeast Division in 2006-07. Atlanta was swept in four games in the opening round by the Rangers, and Hartley was fired after an 0-6 start to open the 2007-08 season.
Despite being an Ontario native, Hartley also possesses another important qualification for the Montreal job. He is bilingual, with French his first language. The Canadiens came under fire from fans and media in Montreal when they named Randy Cunneyworth, who speaks only English, as interim coach after firing Jacques Martin in December.
New general manager Marc Bergevin removed Cunneyworth from the head coaching position earlier this spring upon taking over the club, returning him to his assistant's spot pending the hiring of a new head coach. The Canadiens finished dead last in the East this season at 31-35-16, missing the playoffs for the first time in five years. The Habs have not won a Cup since 1993.
Hartley signed a two-year deal with ZCS Lions but reportedly has an out clause to return to the NHL. He served as a special advisor to Shawinigan at this past week's Memorial Cup, where he was reportedly seen speaking with members of the Montreal front office throughout the tournament. Shawinigan won the tournament on Sunday with a 2-1 overtime victory over London.
According to Poulin's report, Shawinigan coach Eric Veilleux could be accompanying Hartley to Montreal as an assistant.
Adding potential support to the report was Monday's announcement that Scott Mellanby had been named Montreal's new director of player personnel. Mellanby has strong ties to Hartley, having served as Atlanta's captain during Hartley's tenure with the Thrashers.
Bergevin has been busy of late as he continues to fill out his revamped staff, having also named Rick Dudley his assistant GM on Friday.
Photo via Facebook/Bob Hartley