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The Habs' firing of Pierre Gauthier has been the popular topic to discuss as the season hits its final week. Was it the right decision; was the timing right? Should anyone have even been remotely surprised that he was let go? Our writers had so many thoughts on this decision that we've had to split the article into two pieces, here is part one.
Matt Dilworth: Pierre Gauthier's end in Montreal was foreseen by all even remotely interested in hockey, and came as abruptly as some of his transactions this season. That all being said, although I agree with the consensus that it was time for Gauthier to leave, I am not as critical of the former GM's moves as some. Taken individually, Gauthier's transactions this season made sense (ridding the team of a supposed "locker room cancer," trying to bolster the powerplay, etc...), but in the larger scale of things, the timing of his moves always left me scratching my head. The mid-game trade of Mike Cammalleri is perhaps the most obvious example, but I feel that the timing of Gauthier's dismissal of Jacques Martin was more detrimental to this season's outcome. Gauthier's abrupt decision left Montreal's new coach without time to implement his own system just prior to a 6-game road trip. With Montreal trending upwards at that point (they had gained points in 6 of their last 7 games), it seems evident that a coaching change could have taken place after the road trip, and thus put Randy Cunneyworth and the team in a position to succeed, rather than fail. As it were, the Canadiens lost 6 of their next 7 games, and the Habs began their swoon to the bottom of the Eastern Conference. That is not to say that the Canadiens wouldn't have inevitably arrived in that position without Gauthier's moves, but that his knee-jerk, reactionary decisions will likely ill-suited for a fragile team in need of stability.
I will always applaud Gauthier for retaining Carey Price, acquiring Lars Eller, and signing Erik Cole, but I am eager to see what Montreal can accomplish in the post-Gauthier era. I wish his predecessor better luck, a healthier environment and a fully-recovered Andrei Markov.
Curt MacLellan: Goodbye “Ghost.” Is anyone in the hockey world surprised by the decision to fire him? No. Was firing him the correct decision by owner Geoff Molson? Yes. Does the timing of the choice to let him go surprise Montreal Canadiens fans? Perhaps. However, given the succession of bizarre events that have transpired surrounding the team this season, Gauthier’s dismissal comes as the least shocking. Now, following Geoff Molson’s promise to re-establish a “winning tradition” in Montreal, a new regime with a fresh approach—Bob Gainey is also ousted as advisor—will be put in place.
Let the speculation and the search for a new GM begin. Mind you, the importance of choosing the right candidate for the position cannot be overemphasized. The organization must be prudent in selecting a new leader for the job, especially with the pending high first round pick in this June’s draft coming up soon. There is little room for error here because the potential pick will be the club’s highest in almost thirty years. I am confident in Molson’s mandate to revive the legacy of success in Montreal. With Serge Savard acting as his advisor, a man who has been a part of the Habs’s glorious legacy, Molson and the powers-that-be have a chance to conjure up some of specters of the past and implement them in the present edition of the Montreal Canadiens.
Norm Szcyrek: Christmas came early for Habs fans this March, thanks to Geoff Molson firing Gauthier [ahem, relieving him of his duties]. Everyone who still follows this team was expecting this move. I found several of Molson's words during the press conference to be encouraging, and almost apologetic for this embarrassing season. Most of us expected this announcement to occur within the first few days after the official end of the season, but upper management deemed it necessary to pull the trigger a little early. I can't help but think that the rumoured deal of an announcement for a Quebec franchise may be coming sooner than later, and the Habs may have started their housecleaning a little early to get the jump on the search for good, well qualified GM candidates. Bob Gainey is also gone, which makes sense given his ties to Gauthier. He'll always been revered as a great player and leader in Montreal, but his regime had a few blemishes and some of his architectural moves failed.
Casey Wells: The dismissal of Pierre Gauthier should not come as a surprise to Habs fans. Though the Canadiens have been racked with injuries this year, Gauthier must take the responsibility for some of the classless things that took place this year. The dismissal of assistant coach Perry Pearn shortly before a game, followed shortly by the Saturday morning skate firing of head coach Jacques Martin was just the start of this seasons circus. Left uncorrected, Gauthier took it a step further and to the shock of many, traded Mike Cammalleri midway through a game against Boston. Gauthier decided to shy away from the media and the fans this year, often giving vague reports on the status of Andrei Markov and keeping the Canadiens media relationships on freeze. As a fan, I am happy to see the door close on Gauthier. I felt that this year the coaching staff, players, media and fans deserved better, and hopefully, next year they will.
Justin Wright: In my opinion the trades Gauthier made this year weren't as bad as some think. I believed that if the Habs were getting "Toronto" Kaberle then the trade would have been a win. As for the Cammalleri trade, it did gain some cap relief and a decent return. To me, it was Gauthier's conduct through the year that led to his firing. From his almost arrogant, nothing is wrong attitude when he gave the rare interview to his firing of coaches on game days, as well as trading Cammalleri mid-game. Another reason was his inability to move Gomez via trade, waiver or demotion. All in all, his firing came at the right time. It gives the team time to find the right replacement well before the offseason and it shows the fans that Geoff Molson is indeed listening to the fans to give them what they want.
Part two with the remaining responses will appear later this week.