Canadiens and president Geoff Molson couldn’t wait any longer to make a decision on Pierre Gauthier’s future. With just over a week remaining in the season and organizational planning meetings leading up to the draft and free agency scheduled for the next three months, he pulled the plug on Gauthier’s star-crossed tenure Thursday morning.
Under Gauthier the Canadiens were a two year mixture of success, failure and misfortune. The misfortune was the 400-plus man-games in injuries that led to a series of mostly-failed stop gap trades and coach firings.
Three of Gauthier’s main issues were not of his creation. The team he inherited from Bob Gainey was too small and was burdened with the Scott Gomez contract. There were the injuries. And, out of his hands was the revenue producing decision to load up a heavy eight game pre-season schedule with five home exhibition games, including six in seven nights. The signifance of that was the team was forced to keep over forty players almost to the end of training camp, eliminating any form of team-building until four days before the season opener. They lost seven of their first eight regular season games before getting their act together and they never recovered.
Gauthier has been criticized for signing Andrei Markov. The new general manager is probably going to to be happy that his predecessor put him under long term contract. He’s also going to have the benefit of a 2012 lottery draft pick and the likes of defencemen Jerrod Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu, among others, already in the development pipeline.
Also on the positive side of Gauthier’s ledger, there was the Erik Cole contract, arguably the most significant signing from a production and leadership standpoint from last season’s entire free agent crop. He elected to keep Carey Price ahead of Jaroslav Halak and came away with Lars Eller in the deal. Gauthier got Josh Gorges under long term contract and talked Alexei Emelin and Rafael Diaz into coming over from Europe. He was able to come up with James Wisniewski at a critical stage of last season. His first official move as GM was acquiring Dominic Moore, and that turned out to be asignificant part of the Canadiens run to the Eastern Conference final.
I always wished Gauthier had been more pro-active. Most of his moves were reactionary rather than aggressive. His defence was injury riddled and too young so, in December he was forced into a seller’s market to take the rich contract of the only veteran available at the time, Tomas Kaberle. The Michael Cammalleri deal has turned out to be an apple for an apple. Neither player has contributed much to his new team although the Canadiens did create 2.7 million in cap space in the deal and they might have a pretty good prospect in junior hockey’s Patrick Holland thrown into the transaction.
But, when all is said and done, there’ll be a one-word epitaph on Pierre Gauthier’s Canadiens tombstone – “INJURIES”. Not even Sam Pollock, operating in today’s salary cap conditions could have survived having an average of five regulars out with injuries per game for the entire season.
And so we embark on another one of those five year rebuilding plans with a sixth general manager in the last seventeen years. I don’t know whether assigning Serge Savard the task of headhunting a replacement is a great idea. Serge has been away from the game for more than fifteen years. But, on second thought, who better? He’s the last successful Canadiens GM with three Stanley Cup finals and two championships to his credit over 12 years at the job. He had the ability to balance both the business and on-ice sides of the job, something none of his successors has done adequately. His job will be to find an experienced french speaking candidate as good as he was. Key words – “french speaking” and “experienced”. My guess is, he can’t. So, then what? Serge wouldn’t think of……..? No. Probably not.
More on that later.
The Official Announcement from Canadiens Communications
MONTRÉAL (March 29, 2012) – Montreal Canadiens Owner, President and CEO, Geoff Molson, announced Thursday that Pierre Gauthier has been relieved of his duties as Executive Vice-President and General Manager.
Geoff Molson also announced that Serge Savard has been retained as advisor in the search for a new general manager. Also, Larry Carrière returns to his duties as assistant general manager and will take on hockey operations responsibilities until the appointment of a new General Manager.
Pierre Gauthier was named General Manager and Executive Vice President of the Montreal Canadiens on February 8, 2010, taking over from Bob Gainey. He joined the organization as Director of Professional Scouting on July 21, 2003. On July 24, 2006, he was named Assistant General Manager.
Serge Savard was the Canadiens General Manager for 12 seasons from 1983 to 1995. He was the acting general manager when the team won its last two Stanley Cups in 1986 and in 1993. As a player, Savard spent 15 seasons with the Canadiens (917 regular season games and 123 playoff games), and was a member of eight Stanley Cup championships.
Larry Carrière joined the Canadiens organization on July 16, 2010 as Assistant General Manager. He served as assistant coach from December 17, 2011 to March 27, 2012.