WINNIPEG - If it’s eating him up, Montreal Canadiens’ interim head coach Randy Cunneyworth is hiding it well.
But the dark cloud hovering over Cunneyworth and the Canadiens certainly accompanied the team north to Winnipeg from Chicago, following Montreal’s 5-1 loss to the Blackhawks Wednesday night.
That’s four consecutive losses for the fabled franchise and the third under Cunneyworth, who replaced Jacques Martin on the weekend and is at the centre of a maelstrom in Quebec as an Anglophone head coach unable to communicate with much of the media covering the team and the populace who religiously follow it.
"I’m not even concerned with that," said Cunneyworth Thursday at MTS Centre. "Those are stories I haven’t even read or looked at or thought about. I have enough on my plate with the group we have. We’re just trying to win some hockey games."
Asked if the negative publicity undermined his authority with the team, Cunneyworth added:
"I’m not reading those articles or listening to that kind of media. It may be going on, but I only know of it because I get the odd positive comment from a stranger or somebody who is close to me. But I’m not reading those articles, I’m not thinking about those things at this time. I’m really focused on the group we have."
The Canadiens are reeling of late, having been outscored 17-9 in the losing streak and, at 13-15-7, 12th in the Eastern Conference are two points behind the Winnipeg Jets, Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres.
Told the people with the Jets that know him, namely head coach Claude Noel and former Canadien Ron Hainsey, feel for his situation and the tough spot he is in, Cunneyworth shrugged his shoulders.
"Yeah well, hey, it’s a tough league," he said. "We’ve got a lot of good teams in this league and we’re one of them. Right now we’re not playing our best, so if we start playing our best we’ll be right there.
"Winnipeg is going well right now. We’re on a different beat right now and we want to get our game going in a more positive way. It’s hard work starting from the beginning. Baby steps… we have to take that first one where we’re more direct to the net and willing to pay prices here. For the most part, we have had much of our group playing that game. It’s the few that are unwilling to play the right way. We have to have everybody on board tonight against a good Winnipeg team.
"I think we’re close. It comes down to the little things. We have a good group. We have a committed group and we’ve shown it from time to time. It has to be more consistent."