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Montreal Canadiens Fire GM Pierre Gauthier: Better Late Than Never

MONTREAL, CANADA - OCTOBER 26:  Montreal Canadiens General Manager Pierre Gauthier addresses the media on the firing of Asstistant Coach Perry Pearn prior to the NHL game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Philadelphia Flyers at the Bell Centre on October 26, 2011 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images
Scott WeldonCorrespondent IMarch 29, 2012

After an epically bad season in Montreal, general manager Pierre Gauthier finally has been fired.

The troubled team was beset by a series of incomprehensible managerial moves throughout the year. It would have been better had it been done quicker.

The Canadiens would be in a better spot now if Gauthier had been removed before he fired language-compliant coach Jacques Martin or traded the still-valuable Mike Cammalleri for the disinterested Rene Bourque.

Montreal Canadiens president and CEO Geoff Molson formally announced the firing at a news conference today. Apparently, ownership felt the team should have been better than it was this year.

Molson blamed a lot of the performance problems on injuries. That has to leave one wondering: If this is what he believes, why in the world would he fire his GM?

Bob Gainey also was let go as an advisor to the team.

Molson outlined the team's priorities. He made a case for organizational stability. That always rings false when it comes from a man in the process of firing his entire executive management team.

Molson is also the guy who threw new coach Randy Cunneyworth under the bus the moment he was hired. This kind of chaos will have to stop. Gauthier got things started in the right direction, but ownership didn't help.

The real first priority has to be to get a new GM in place in time for the amateur draft.   

Former GM and Canadien star Serge Savard is being retained to advise ownership in their search for a new general manager.      

 

Gauthier was brought in to be the GM in February 2010. His increasingly bizarre moves this season, culminating in pulling Mike Cammalleri out of a game with division rival Boston between the second and third periods so he could be traded, had to be part of the reason he was finally let go.

Hopefully, whomever becomes the new GM will be less reactionary and a little less eager to trade players in the middle of games.   

However, in the end, the fact that the Canadiens sit last in the Eastern Conference second-to-last in the entire NHL, despite their $60 million payroll, is the ultimate reason that Gauthier was let go.

The Canadiens will need to take advantage of their draft position this year to restock a depleted system. Molson also suggested the Canadiens would be active in free agency this offseason, though some decisions will have to be made about current contracts if the Canadiens plan to free up enough room to pursue free agents and re-sign crucial restricted free agents like Carey Price and P.K. Subban.

On Feb. 5, I outlined seven easy steps to get the Canadiens back on track for next season. Montreal ownership has finally taken the crucial first step by firing Gauthier. 

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