Originally written on Red Light District Hockey  |  Last updated 3/30/12

On Thursday morning, Montreal Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier was relieved of his duties. After taking over the helm from long-time GM Bob Gainey two seasons ago, Gauthier was often scrutinized for not fixing his predecessor's mistakes. Furthermore, his hiring of Randy Cunneyworth was not only criticized out of proportions, it was never given a chance. Simply put, it was time.

Perhaps Gauthier's biggest mistake over his parts of two seasons was re-signing Andrei Markov. On the flip side, that also could be interpreted as letting go of a power play quarterback that actually worked in James Wisniewski. Or trading for Tomas Karberle. Nevertheless, Markov's absence put a big dent in the team's chances from day one as they lacked that elite offensive weapon from the blue line. Youngster P.K. Subban suffered out of the gate while veterans like Josh Gorges and Hal Gill couldn't fill the gaps.

After finishing the 2010-11 campaign with the seventh-best power play, the Habs struggled with the man advantage. As an average team with above-average special teams, the Habs were able to sneak into the playoff picture. However, when that well ran dry, they were exposed for what they really were: a team in transition.

The transition may be from the current core of Markov, Subban and Gorges on the back end and oft-criticized fowards Tomas Plekanec, Scott Gomez, and Brian Gionta. With Carey Price firmly entrenched between the pipes, the results can certainly be attained. But do they have the patience to withstand a rebuild-on-the-fly in order to win in the long run.

In a word, no.

Slightly before noon, team owner Geoff Molson addressed the media, explaining the rationale behind the firing. "Our priority is to find the best possible person to take on this challenge of helping build a winning team," Molson explained. "Someone who can lead this organization from a hockey perspective – that includes leading the coaching staff, the recruiting staff, the players, and having command of the ship.”

Does that statement sound like an owner telling the fans they will break it all down and start back over? Probably not.

The major players can't change. That much is known by the Habs removal of Jacques Martin, Perry Pearn and now Gauthier and Gainey. What the team can do is obtain personnel that can deliver a winning culture. And with rumors of Quebec City acquiring an NHL team, the Habs might feel they need to lock up former superstar netminder Patrick Roy now. The Roy rumor is certainly a popular one, and a justified guess, but the Habs will do their due diligence in finding the right guy for the job.

The Gainey/Gauthier era is officially over with the only remaining pre-dating pieces being Markov and Plekanec. Will this club now choose to build around Louis Leblanc, Blake Geoffrion and David Desharnais? Or will the new general manager make a blockbuster trade to acquire an impact player?

All these options, and more, are now available to the Montreal Canadiens. It will certainly be an interesting offseason for the Habs.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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