How the mighty have fallen. Can you imagine having legendary Habs GM Sam Pollock come out and apologize for making some bone-headed decisions that cost the Canadiens dearly? Exactly. No, what you could much more easily imagine is Pollock coming out to talk about how good it felt to win yet another Stanley Cup.
But flash-forward to 2011 and you have Pierre ‘Major Major’ Gauthier standing in front of the gang of ink-stained wretches looking more and more like, appropriately, a ghost, and dejectedly trying to make amends for the mess he’s created.
“We’re disappointed and we’re sorry if we offended anybody by hiring someone who is not bilingual right now,” said Gauthier. “But when you’re in the middle of the season and you’re trying to effect change and you’re having the difficulties we were having, you evaluate all your options. We felt the best option at this time was to work from within the organization….but having a bilingual coach of the Montreal Canadiens is very important and it will be something that will be part of our decision going forward.”
A couple of things right off the bat. Gauthier shouldn’t be apologizing. He shouldn’t have hired a unilingual coach in the first place. If he knows it’s wrong now, he should’ve known it was wrong a couple of weeks back. The damage that decision has caused to the Habs is impossible to measure.
But I think it’s fair to say it’s the worst move by a Canadiens GM in the past 25 years. And that’s saying something, given that it tops trading Chris Chelios, Patrick Roy, and John Leclair and Eric Desjardins (in the same era-changing deal!), just to name a few horrific moments in the past couple of decades of shoddy Canadiens management. That decision alone should’ve been reason enough to fire Mr. Gauthier.
Then there’s the small detail that Gauthier, on Monday, basically threw coach Randy Cunneyworth under the bus. As Jack Todd points out in yet another blockbuster column, Gauthier’s belated apology saws off the plank behind Cunneyworth. So now the over-priced, under-achieving players and the fans know for sure that Cunneyworth won’t be back next year.
Well actually we always knew that because Gauthier made that clear from day-one by naming him ‘interim’ coach. There have been a lot of coaching changes in the NHL this season but only one GM couldn’t step up to the plate and find a real new coach and resorted to hiring a lame-duck interim guy instead.
But the real reason Canadiens president Geoff Molson should fire Gauthier sooner rather than later is that the Ghost can do so much long-term damage if Molson leaves him in charge of the keys to the Habs for a few more months. The scary thing is that at this stage, Gauthier will do anything to save his butt.
Why did he sign Josh Gorges to a pricey six-year contract on Sunday? Because he was set to give his mid-season briefing to the media troops on Monday and he wanted to try to deflect the heat on his disastrous record by talking about Gorges. But is it a good deal? No. I like Gorges but six years is ridiculous and it still doesn’t solve the Habs No. 1 problem – they don’t have an A+ D-man to replace Andrei Markov.
You like the Tomas ‘Cadbury’ Kaberle deal any better? Montreal has two-and-a-half more years on his contract, paying Kab over $4 million a year. And what’s he done for us? He has seven assists and is -3 on 10 games, and he has done nothing to help the team’s loser power-play.
You really want Gauthier with his sweaty hands on the Bell Centre hotline as we move toward the trading deadline and there are huge decisions to make? When you think about it for more than a few seconds, you realize there is no possible logical reason for Molson to wait any longer. In fact, maybe it’s time for Mr. Molson to not-so-politely tell the Ghost to take a hike and come do the GM job himself. Just a thought.