I feel like breaking into song. I know, I know, it’s a frightening thought.
Nah nah nah nah, nah nah nah nah, hey hey, good-bye!
Pierre ‘Major Major’ Gauthier has officially been tossed on to the trash heap of history by the Canadiens owner and president Geoff ‘My New Hero’ Molson. And not a moment too soon, I might add. Better yet, Molson also made it clear Thursday morning that I need a new nickname for Bob ‘Elvis Has Not Left the Building’ Gainey. That’s right – Bob ‘I’m Always the Last Guy at the Party’ Gainey is in fact leaving the building.
This is – in case you can’t figure it out on your own – great news. The only downside is I will now have to think harder before penning my Top Shelf blogs because I will at last have to retire the ‘Gauthier-must-be-fired’ template. Oh well, life becomes tougher for me as a blogger but I am infinitely more happy as a Habs fan.
The firm of G&G have decimated one of the greatest franchises in professional sports. I got into a bit of a tiff on Twitter Thursday morning when I described the nine years of the Gainey & Gauthier reign of error as a “disastrous” era. Folks pointed out that the team once finished first in the Eastern Conference – a bit of a fluke – and made it to the conference final in 2010 – that entirely due to one man, Jaroslav Halak, a fellow that G&G had actively and openly tried to run out of town earlier in the season.
Fact is G&G’s Habs never won nothing. Worse, their management motto was ‘let’s try not to lose too badly.’ I’m not the world’s biggest Mike Cammalleri fan but man did he nail it when he let it all hang out that day just before he got shipped off – between periods! – to the Flames. Montreal does have a “losing” culture or, if you prefer, a “loser’s” culture. That’s the way it’s been ever since Gainey took-over.
The mantra has been – ‘struggle to make 8th place, so we can keep the fans and media off our backs for another year.’ No one ever talked about winning the Cup. That’s a pathetic excuse for a team philosophy if you’re the New York Islanders. If you’re the Montreal Effin Canadiens, it’s beyond pathetic. It’s a slap in the face to the team’s fans.
But what I heard Thursday morning was something else altogether. Molson, the new kid on the Habs block, talking about winning. Now some are already saying those are empty words but at least he’s saying the right words, something I haven’t much heard since 1993.
“Ownership will accept nothing less than a winning culture in this organization,” said Molson.
Them’s fighting words. And it gets better. Listen to how he describes the Habs culture in recent years.
“The Montreal Canadiens is a storied franchise, often cited as one of the greatest sports organizations in the world. Our 24 Stanley Cups are a testament to this. However the traits that are common to all successful organizations have been lacking in recent years. When one looks to the great organizations of the past or the ones that are performing particularly well currently, the root of their success lies in their consistency and stability.”
With stable owners in place, Molson goes on to suggest the time has come to bring the same stability to the on-ice product.
“It is my responsibility to identify solutions and rebuild the winning culture that this franchise’s fans, its history and its tradition demand.”
Molson wants the Cup. It might be ego on this part. Maybe he wants to go down in history as the guy who brought the Holy Grail back to its rightful home in Montreal. Who cares why he’s doing it. What matters is that he wants to win. And he says he’ll do whatever takes to do it.
Of course, the Habs aren’t out of the woods now by any stretch of the imagination. It’s going to take some time to recover from the G&G mistakes – mistakes named Scott ‘Yikes’ Gomez, Tomas ‘Soft As Cadbury’ Kaberle, Rene ‘Complete Bust’ Bourque. There’s also no getting back the players lost in goofball deals and/or via sheer negligence, like Ryan McDonagh, Mike Ribeiro, Mikhail Grabovski, Mark Streit.
But at least management is finally admitting they messed up badly. That’s the key first step. It’s like the alcoholic admitting he has a problem. You can’t start the cure until you admit you’re sick.
But the worst thing we can do is give Molson a free ride. The culture of the organization has to change. The contempt Gainey and Gauthier showed for both the fans and the media has to end. Management has to be out there answering questions.
Like Molson did Thursday. That press conference was the polar opposite of the botched media event introducing Randy ‘Parlez-Vous’ Cunneyworth – a press conference where all concerned forgot they were holding the event in a mostly French-speaking city and seemed surprised by every question that came their way. Molson spoke at length in the language of Beliveau and handled every media query without missing a beat.
It was light years from the G&G style – Gainey and Gauthier always acted like they couldn’t believe these peasants (aka journalists) had somehow snuck into the castle to pester them with childish inquiries.
So today there is much room for optimism. Now let’s see if Molson – with help from his new adviser, Serge Savard - takes advantage of this great opportunity. I for one am jumping back on the bandwagon. You should too.