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The Seventh Floor: Where It All Went Wrong for the Montreal Canadiens

LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 06:   New Liverpool owner George Gillett laughs prior to the start of the UEFA Champions League round of sixteen, second leg match between Liverpool and Barcelona at Anfield on March 6, 2007 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Shaun McMahonContributor IMarch 24, 2009

Montreal Canadiens owner George Gillett may be laughing all the way to the bank if he manages to offload the NHL's most-storied franchise for the right price.

The fans, meanwhile, will be left wondering exactly where things went wrong during this highly-anticipated and largely-disappointing centennial season.

If only to be a fly on the wall of the seventh floor at the Bell Centre.

MONEY MAKER

According to a Forbes report last October, the Canadiens are worth $411 million (CDN), placing them behind only the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers.

Quite the turnaround for Gillett, who became the majority owner with 80.1 per cent of the club and the Bell Centre in January 2001, for an estimated $275 million (CDN).

Now that the Gillett family has asked BMO Capital Markets to "assess various strategic alternatives to optimize the value of its corporate assets," according to team president Pierre Boivin, Canadiens fans are scratching their heads and holding their collective breath.

Considering the volatility plaguing the global economy, it must be tough for a billionaire to successfully balance the Canadiens and 50 per cent of English Premier League juggernaut Liverpool, not to mention his interests in the Richard Petty Motorsports NASCAR team, Gillett Entertainment Group, ski resorts, car dealerships and agricultural companies.

Even the best jugglers drop the ball sooner or later.

NOW WHAT?

There's news out today from the Liverpool Echo that suggests there is no FOR SALE sign on the front lawn at Anfield. “We may do some recapitalisation, but any links between what we are doing and the situation at Liverpool is incorrect. We have made no decision to sell,” said Gillett.

So if Liverpool stays in Uncle George's back pocket, the situation looks even worse for the Montreal Canadiens.

To be fair, the Colorado tycoon swooped into Montreal with deep pockets nearly a decade ago when the team was in a veritable tailspin and not a single local enterprise or businessperson would step up to the plate.

None of that matters now.

Bob Gainey was brought in to rectify years of incompetent player management, Guy Carbonneau was groomed as the next great bench boss, and the proposed "five-year plan" was supposed to crescendo with a downtown parade along Ste. Catherine Street in celebration of Montreal's 100th season.

Instead, the Canadiens find themselves struggling on and off the ice and the mood around the team can be constituted as no less than a widespread panic, despite what glib press releases and post-game press conferences may suggest.

Some Montreal players have been linked with known criminals, the team is teetering on the brink of an early golf season, the coach has been fired, and now, the team may be up for sale.

With so many pending unrestricted free agents and an obvious failure on the administrative, coaching, and player levels, it's time to clean house and bring in the right individuals to return this franchise back to the level of respectability it once knew.

Maybe the 101st season will be the one to remember.

 

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