When Bob Gainey was GM of the Montreal Canadiens he was often a mixed bag of responses, from the subtle to the very rare direct and frank approach on issues regarding the team.
At a presser today, in advance of today's Heritage Classic Alumni game, there was more of the latter. I was in attendance with Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette, Examiner.com's Heather Engel and numerous other media as Gainey spoke on his next duty, co-coach of the Habs Alumni team.
The Hall of Fame player, and one-time captain, of hockey's most storied franchise, was extremely open on a huge number of issues. While still in a advisory role, Gainey rarely travels and typically keeps tabs on the Hamilton Bulldogs. A grandfather to be this July, he admitted he has no direct influence on the teams current state of affairs, and that allowed him to really open up.
Gainey was rather supportive of Mario Lemieux's recent comments towards the NHL, noting that he is in good position to speak his mind, based on his playing and managerial position.
"I someone in his position, or his stature, spearheading this an excellent thing," Gainey said noting that Lemieux's outburst was an accumulation of recent league incidents. "I think changes can always be made, and should be made."
Gainey became extremely open on one of the biggest topics of the Canadiens season, P.K. Subban. As Stubbs told me after, "That's Bob, he was always good for one outburst a season."
And an outburst it was, as Gainey went after those playing in the NHL who are critical of the Habs rookie.
"Some of those people should shut up, and play against him," Gainey said. "Just keep their mouth shut and play.
"Anyone who has met him, knows that his personality is outgoing and overflowing, and it hasn't yet been tempered with more maturity. He's a 21-year-old man who does what he does well, and he's difficult to play against. The team is lucky to have him, and the NHL is lucky to have him."
When asked to think of a rookie that he played with that has an impact like Subban, the name he brought up was Chris Chelios. Pretty good company, if you ask me.
With Pierre Gauthier at the helm for just over a year, Gainey commended his successor of taking from where he left off, and praised the success of Carey Price this season. "When I walked away last February, there was some crap that I left behind, that Pierre had to clean up and some good things that he had to leave. The team over the last year has been very good."
Gainey also indicated that despite coaching the Canadiens Alumni Saturday afternoon, he has no intentions of coaching or returning to a GM position any time soon. "I'm happy that I'm still involved with the Montreal Canadiens, but I don't have this need, or craving, to participate in a more responsible way."