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Players, coaches insist change behind Canadiens’ bench will have no impact on IceCaps


Published on February 15, 2017

St. John’s IceCaps leading scorer Chris Terry says the Montreal Canadiens’ firing of coach Michel Therrien won’t be a distraction to the AHL team.

©Jeff Parsons/St. John's IceCaps

The shockwaves from the bomb that was the firing of Montreal Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien and his replacement of Claude Julien didn’t take long to reach St. John’s, but members of the American Hockey League’s IceCaps say the team wasn’t — and shouldn’t be — rattled by the change.

The news of the coaching switch came less than a couple of hours before what turned out to be a 3-2 overtime loss to the Binghamton Senators Tuesday night at Mile One Centre. A contributor to the result was an extremely sluggish first period by the IceCaps, but Chris Terry — the team’s leading scorer — wouldn’t put that down to any distraction over the Therrien switch.

“We found out after the pre-game meetings, and by that time, I think we were pretty focused on the game,” said Terry. “There’s chatter and I’m sure there will be more chatter as we go along. After all, it’s a new coach, a new perspective, but other than that, it’s the same management.

“It shouldn’t be an issue, and I don’t think it was here.”

Traditionally, St. John’s AHL teams have had difficulties in the first games after road trip, and Terry figures that’s what happened in the opening 20 minutes Tuesday. That’s especially so given the winter weather affecting the eastern United States and Canada this week, which meant it took nearly 24 hours for the team to return to St. John’s from Pennsylvania.

“Probably the sole reason why (the IceCaps started poorly),” he said. “You don’t want to make an excuse, but you had a lot of guys who had arrived here on a 6 a.m. flight the day before the game and that’s never going to help.”

St. John’s coach Sylvain Lefebvre said given the history, the short turnaround and the travel issues (the Senators were actually in St. John’s before the IceCaps), he had been “kind of dreading” what would happen Tuesday and was actually pleased his team’s inertia only lasted one period.

After being outshot 11-3 in the opening period, St. John’s racked up 44 shots to nine for Binghamton the rest of way.

Lefebvre also discounted any possible affect of the happenings in Montreal, offering a firm “No” to a question about Therrien’s firing even before the query was finished.

"We only focused on what we have to do,” he said. “Yes, it’s been the subject of conversation for a while. After all, it’s something that’s happened in our organization.

“But for us right now, it doesn’t matter (when it comes to) what we are trying to do, what we are trying to accomplish.”

Lefebvre said he didn’t bring up the Montreal coaching change to the players before Tuesday’s game and doesn’t see ever having to make an issue of it.

“Maybe we’ll talk about it, but address it? I don’t think that should be necessary.”

The players seem to agree.

“No matter whatever is happening outside this rink, we have to be ready to play inside this rink. It’s on us,” said winger Daniel Carr, who played 56 games under Therrien in Montreal — more than anyone else on these IceCaps.

It remains to be seen whether Julien’s hiring will lead to a change in the way the Canadiens play, and if it does, whether that might trickle down to the IceCaps, since farm team’s often mirror the parent club’s style.

Lefebvre’s eyes rolled a little when asked whether he was anticipating that sort of adjustment.

“It (Julien’s hiring) just happened. When I know, I might have an answer, but it’s too soon.”

In fact, the change that might most rapidly affect the IceCaps could come via moves in advance of the NHL trade deadline.

Terry, for one, knows that an embargo can’t be placed on speculation, even in a dressing room. However, he said if players are wondering whether they could be in line for an NHL opportunity in Montreal or elsewhere, they have to know that doing is more important than thinking about it.

“If there is one thing I’ve learned in this game is that you might not think anyone is paying attention to you, but there is always someone watching,” he said. “So just play and play to your strengths.”

 

bmcc@thetelegram.com