One year ago today, Montreal Canadiens fans were caught a bit off guard when GM Bob Gainey resigned. Many felt that Gainey would call it quits come season's end, but nobody thought it would happen before the trade deadline.
The reigns were passed on to his immediate lieutenant, Pierre Gauthier. "I leave the team I love the most, to the man I trust the most," Gainey said at the time. "In my heart, I am always a Canadien. It's been a privilege to participate with the organization again, in a different roll. I'm very thankful."
Gauthier now has a full 365 days under his belt, albeit with Gainey still lurking in the shadows in an advisory role.
The Canadiens went on a 11-7-4, with Gauthier in the GM seat, to close out the 2009-10 regular season. Along the way he picked up Dominic Moore in a trade just three days into his tenure, that parlayed into a big acquistion into the playoffs.
We're all aware of what the Canadiens did in last season's playoffs, and the subsequent trade of hero Jaroslav Halak shortly after. The Halak deal has thus far been advantage Habs, given the performance of Carey Price (who signed for less money), and getting a promising rookie in Lars Eller in the deal.
The most pivotal part of the Halak trade was opening up cap space to resign Tomas Plekanec, who is the MVP of the 2010-11 Habs, next to Price.
Gauthier then dealt problem child Sergei Kostitsyn for the rights to Dan Ellis and Dustin Boyd. Ellis signed the next day with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Boyd is now in the AHL. For the time being, some feel this deal is one against Gauthier, but considering Kostitsyn's market value was next to zero at the time, it may have been his best or only option.
Then again, there was a plan B in acquiring Alex Auld to be Price's backup and a mentor, and so far that has been a bargain signing on and off the ice.
Speaking of bargains. how about Jeff Halpern? Not a bad deal, and more economical upgrade on Moore or Glen Metropolit, who now play in Tampa and Switzerland respectively.
A series of re-signings also reinforced the Hamilton Bulldogs. Gauthier was able to lure Alexander Avtsin back, after his KHL team dissolved, and also resigned David Desharnais and Ryan Russell.
As the 2010-11 season opened, Gauthier traded Ryan O`Byrne to the Colorado Avalanche. OB couldn't find a home in the Habs depth chart under Jacques Martin, and seems at home in Denver. The prospect the Habs received in return, Michael Bournival, appears to be worth the risk long term.
Gauthier also responded to adversity when Andrei Markov was lost for the season. His quick response was to snag pending UFA James Wisniewski for the New York Islanders. Wisniewski has been a tremendous asset to the Canadiens power play, and a better choice than last year's emergency replacement, Marc-Andre Bergeron.
The one arguable blemish on Gauthier's record so far might be allowing Guy Boucher to walk and take an NHL job in Tampa. Many feel that his close ties to Martin left him no choice. Now that it appears that Kirk Muller may be the next to seek a head coaching job, it will be interesting to see Gauthier reacts.
So far though, we can't be overly critical of Gauthier's moves through year one, unless your name is maybe Jack Todd. The Habs are 30-19-5 this season, which adds up to a combined 41-26-9 record in a calender year. That's 91 points, with six games to go in a typical season, and a trip to the Conference Final sandwiched in between. Not too bad, is it?
Let the debate begin, as the trade deadline approaches and Gauthier has a potential of over 4 million in cap space with Josh Gorges and Markov on LTI