- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

MONTREAL (AP) - Joking that it was a clever way to get people to show up for his party, Guy Carbonneau waited until his 49th birthday to comment on his recent firing as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens.

Carbonneau acknowledged being surprised and disappointed at being relieved of his duties nine days earlier by Montreal general manager Bob Gainey, who took over behind the bench.

The team’s captain when the Canadiens won their last Stanley Cup in 1993, Carbonneau said he was stunned when Gainey called him at home on March 9, within an hour of the team’s return from a three-game road trip.

“We had daily conversations, like any coach and general manager,” Carbonneau said at a Bell Centre press conference. “As you’d expect, it was a lot easier after a win and the talk was more serious after a loss, but I can’t say that there were any signs about what was going to happen.”

Carbonneau was fired after a 3-1 win in Dallas, the team’s fifth win in seven games. That run followed a skid that began just prior to the All-Star game and saw the Canadiens lose 12 of 15.

“I wasn’t expecting this decision,” said Carbonneau, who hopes to coach again in the NHL. “I thought we were going in the right direction, despite the fact that we had been struggling for a while. But Bob made the decision and now it’s time to move on.”

Montreal has gone 1-1-2 under Gainey and has dropped to seventh place in a tight race for the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

Hired by his former linemate as an associate coach when Gainey moved behind the bench after he fired Claude Julien midway through the 2005-06 season, Carbonneau was groomed to take over as head coach at the end of the season.

The Canadiens narrowly missed the playoffs the following year in his debut, and Carbonneau was a finalist for the Jack Adams Award as the league’s top coach last season when Montreal finished first in the East.

“I think the fact that we had a great season last year, the expectation was higher this summer,” Carbonneau said. “With the 100th anniversary it even put a little bit more emphasis on winning, and winning quickly, but as an athlete, as a coach, as an organization, that’s the kind of pressure that you want to have.”

Carbonneau answered questions for nearly an hour, saying he wasn’t tired after spending some downtime at the Mont Tremblant ski resort north of the city.

He wished the Canadiens well for the rest of the season and believes they should be good enough to make the playoffs.

Carbonneau, who signed a three-year contract extension last summer and hopes to coach again, added that he will not make any more public comments until the season is over.

“It’s the first time I get fired so it’s new to me but everybody that knows me, I’m a pretty positive person,” Carbonneau said. “I was like that when I played, and I’m like that when I coach, and I’m like that as a human being, the sun always comes up.”

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