Montreal, Qc.- In a move that was long over due, the Montreal Canadiens announced today that they have fired general manager Pierre Gauthier. CEO and team president, Geoff Molson made the announcement today. Molson did not hire a successor, instead deciding to bring in former GM Serge Savard to help him search for a new GM. The move is the first time Molson has fired a general manager since he took over two years ago.
In addition to Gauthier’s departure, Molson announced that Bob Gainey will no longer be serving as an advisor to the club. Molson said the decision was mutual.
Gauthier had held his current position since Feb. 8, 2010, when he replaced Gainey. The Canadiens finished eighth in the Eastern Conference that season, but upset the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals and defending Stanley Cup-champion Pittsburgh Penguins to advance to the conference finals, where they lost in five games to the Philadelphia Flyers. Last season, the Canadiens finished sixth in the East with 96 points, and after taking a 2-0 series lead against the Boston Bruins in the first round, they fell in seven games to the eventual Stanley Cup champions.
The process of finding a new GM will start immediately, however Molson would not answer question about whether the next GM will speak French or not. Molson avoided all language questions and said that the emphasis is on winning.
Serge Savard on the other hand addressed the issue of language by saying “Let’s be clear on one thing — he’ll speak French,” Savard told French-language all-sports station TV network RDS. “I think it is absolutely essential in a market that is 80-percent Francophone that the next GM not necessarily be Francophone — because we can’t place that limitation on it — but that he at least be able to speak an acceptable level of French.”
Thursday’s announcement is another in a tumultuous season in Montreal where an assistant coach, Perry Pearn and a head coach Jacques Martin were fired and where a new head coach Randy Cunneyworth was hired and then criticised because he couldn’t speak any french. The controversy was further blown up when Molson announced that Cunneyworth was just an interim coach, a tag not put on the coach when he was hired.
Gauthier has made his share of blunders over the last couple of years. Gauthier gave defenseman Andrei Markov a three-year $17.25 million contract, despite the defenseman having health concerns. Markov had his knee reconstructed and didn’t play his first game until March 10th. He then fired assistant coach Perry Pearn after a 1-5-2 start against the wishes of coach Jacques Martin and then subsequently fired Martin on December 17th when the Canadiens were 13-12-7. At that point, Cunneyworth was hired making him the first unilingual coach of the Canadiens in decades.
His final faux pas, was trading star forward Mike Cammalleri after two periods of a game in Boston on January 12th with the Canadiens trailing the Bruins 2-1. Cammalleri was traded to the Calgary Flames for forward Rene Bourque which turned into a steal for the Calgary Flames. With the price for trades at the deadline being high, Gauthier could’ve gotten more if he had held off until the trade deadline. The trade was in effect a knee jerk reaction by the GM.
Whomever, the new GM is, he will be saddled with some expensive, long-term contracts for Scott Gomez, Tomas Kaberle and Rene Bourque. However, Gauthier did leave his successor seven picks in the first two round of the 2012 and 2013 NHL drafts.