By Dan Di Sciullo, NHL Editor - Archive - Email
Gauthier's disastrous reign in Montreal ends
Gauthier's awful tenure featured numerous blunders in the realm of personnel decisions.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - A little over two years after he assumed the high-pressure position of Montreal Canadiens general manager, Pierre Gauthier was relieved of his duties on Thursday.

That's a very short time to hold a GM position in the NHL, but there is no question Gauthier earned his pink slip during a catastrophic reign that succeeded in alienating the native Montrealer from the most passionate hockey fans in the world.

Gauthier's awful tenure featured numerous blunders in the realm of personnel decisions, but Montreal's ex-GM also failed miserably when it came to public relations.

Whether it was hiring Randy Cunneyworth, Montreal's first head coach who couldn't speak French in nearly 30 years, or pulling popular player Mike Cammalleri from the middle of a game earlier this season to trade him to Calgary, Gauthier had a knack for drawing the ire of the Habs' faithful.

Oddly enough, Gauthier's best decision as GM - trading away Jaroslav Halak in favor of keeping Carey Price as the club's franchise goaltender - is the move that first put the GM on rocky footing with the Montreal fans.

Halak was dealt to St. Louis weeks after his legendary performance in the 2010 playoffs led an eighth-seeded Canadiens team to the Eastern Conference finals. Although it was a risky move at the time, Gauthier correctly identified Price, who is still only 24 years old, as the cornerstone of the franchise.

Notable Moves Under Pierre Gauthier
 June 17, 2010: Trades G Jaroslav Halak to the St. Louis for F Lars Eller and F Ian Schultz.
 June 23, 2010: Signs F Tomas Plekanec to a six-year, $30 million deal.
 June 24, 2011: Signs D Andrei Markov to three-year, $17.25 million deal.
 July 1, 2011: Signs F Erik Cole to a four-year, $18 million deal.
 Dec. 9, 2011: Traded D Jaroslav Spacek to Carolina for D Tomas Kaberle.
 Dec. 17, 2011: Fired head coach Jacques Martin, named Randy Cunneyworth interim head coach.
 Jan. 1, 2012: Signs D Josh Gorges to a six-year, $23.4 million deal.
 Jan. 12, 2012: Traded F Michael Cammalleri to Calgary for F Rene Bourque
 Feb. 17, 2012: Traded D Hal Gill to Nashville for F Blake Geoffrion and a second-round pick in 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

Unfortunately, while Gauthier held on to one of the game's best young goaltenders, he let everything else around Price crumble to the ground. What's left is a storied franchise that seemingly has a great deal of work to do in order to get back to the business of contending for a Stanley Cup title.

Just a few months after Gauthier took over for Montreal's previous GM Bob Gainey, expectations were raised by the Habs' surprising run in the 2010 playoffs. By the end of that postseason, which culminated with Montreal losing in five games to Philadelphia in the East finals, the situation obviously seemed to be looking up for the Canadiens, but that was not the case.

Of course, the 2010 postseason would be the highlight of Gauthier's tenure, which wound up being the shortest for a Montreal GM since Jules Dugal held the post from 1939-40. The Habs followed up the magical spring of 2010 with a first-round exit in 2011 and Montreal currently is in danger of finishing last in the Eastern Conference.

Perhaps the costliest mistake made during Gauthier's time in Montreal was his signing of defenseman Andrei Markov to a three-year, $17.5 million extension last summer despite the fact that the talented, but oft-injured Russian blueliner had played in just 52 total games over the previous two seasons. When Markov missed the first five months of this season due to another knee injury, it became even easier to pile on Gauthier.

The Canadiens will retain assistant GM Larry Carriere to handle Gauthier's responsibilities until a permanent replacement is found and Serge Savard will advise owner Geoff Molson in his search for the next Montreal GM. That's a good sign considering Savard held the GM position during the Habs' last two Stanley Cup championship years in 1986 and 1993. Savard knows what qualities it takes to be successful in Montreal

Still, it won't be an easy rebuilding project for whoever takes over and not just because Montreal's current roster lacks skill and depth at both ends of the ice.

Gauthier's tenure highlighted how impatient the Canadiens' fan base is with losing. Although the next GM will almost certainly be given more time at the job than his predecessor was, a long road back to respectability will always be a tough sell in hockey-crazed Montreal.

The Sports Network, a STATS Company. All Rights Reserved.  home | terms of use | privacy policy | comments |