They haven’t exactly gone from first to worst over the last couple of decades, but they’ve certainly come quite close. The Montreal Canadiens, the most storied franchise in the NHL and the winner of the most Stanley Cups in history with 24, fired general manager Pierre Gauthier on March 29. Club president Geoff Molson made the move official at a noon hour press conference and also announced that Bob Gainey, a special advisor, had left the Canadiens organization.
Molson said that he realized the team needed a change in direction after losing to the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 on March 24, which officially knocked the Canadiens out of playoff contention. The club sat in 15th and last place in the NHL’s Eastern Conference at the time of the firing with a record of 29-34-14 for 72 points and had won only two of its past eight contests, placing them 28th in the 30-team league.
Gauthier was named GM of the team in February of 2010 when he took over the helm from Gainey. The team made the playoffs that season by grabbing the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They upset the Washington Capitals, the leagues’ top team that season, as well as the Pittsburgh Penguins, the defending Stanley Cup Champions, and were beaten in five games by the Flyers in the conference finals.
The Canadiens improved last season and finished the season in sixth place in the East, but after jumping out to a 2-0 lead over the Boston Bruins in the first round of the playoffs, lost the series in seven games. The Bruins went on to win the Stanley Cup in seven games over the Vancouver Canucks. Montreal got off to a bad start this season though by winning just one of their first eight games. Gauthier didn’t like the road the team was heading down and fired assistant coach Perry Pearn just before game time on Oct. 27. The team then went on a four-game winning streak.
However, they went back to their losing ways soon after and head coach Jacques Martin was fired by Gauthier on Dec. 17 and was replaced by Randy Cunneyworth, his assistant coach, on an interim basis. This move sparked criticism in some circles in Montreal since Cunneyworth doesn’t speak French. The team didn’t improve under him either and has gone 16-22-7 since he took over behind the bench.
Molson didn’t name a replacement for Gauthier, but he said whoever is hired can decide whether or not Cunneyworth remains as head coach. Molson said that Larry Carriere will return to his original post as assistant general manager after helping out Cunneyworth behind the bench as an assistant coach. Pierre Groulx, the team’s goaltending coach will replace Carriere as Cunneyworth’s assistant.
Gauthier originally joined Montreal in the summer of July 2003 as the director of professional scouting. He was named the club’s assistant general manager in 2006. He was also an assistant with the Anaheim Ducks before taking over as GM between 1998 and 2002. Before that, Gauthier was the Ottawa Senators first general manager from 1995 to 1998.
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