It was inevitable. The Habs are in the midst of their worst season since the NHL expanded to Los Angeles. And Pierre Gauthier, who got off to a good start as GM, seemingly lost all bits of common sense once this team started to lose a few hockey games to start the 2011-12 season. For the moves since the start of this season, Pierre Gauthier deserved his fate. He was fired today as General Manager of the Montreal Canadiens.
Instead of looking at the process, he looked at the results. Instead of noticing the team was playing very well, outshooting and carrying the play in the vast majority of games, he panicked. He fired an assistant coach for a PP that was one of the league's best in shot production but the worst in shooting percentage, a notoriously fickle stat. At this point, he notoriously claimed that the team had to start "thinking outside the box." It was a statement that would become a haunting one for Canadiens fans, as it changed the direction of the team from one of patience and discipline to one of impulse decisions based on emotion.
While noticing the team was leading the league in man games lost to injury, he failed to note how well the team was dealing with the injuries: the team had emerging young talent on the blueline while Jacques Martin managed to lean on three lines up front to squeeze out results in November. He traded an overpriced expiring contract for an overpriced contract that had two more years on it. He fired a coach who had a better reputation league wide at his job (and much better results) than Gauthier had at his.
He was then left to promote Randy Cunneyworth to the head coach role, even if just on an interm basis, it showed his lack of foresight for both the demands of coaching in the NHL and the specifics of the market of Montreal. In his two offseasons as GM, he let Guy Boucher go to Tampa Bay instead of trying to promote him within the organization or give him a substantial raise in order to try and keep him. The next offseason, he let former Canadiens captain and longtime assistant coach Kirk Muller leave for an AHL coaching job in Milwaukee. These moves seemed to indicate a faith in Jacques Martin as a long term coach, but in the end he fired Martin after just over two months of a game or two below .500 hockey. Cunneyworth was a disaster from the perspective of results, process, and public relations.
But Gauthier wasn't done: his masterstroke was the trading of the team's highest paid winger, Mike Cammalleri, during a key game against the team's biggest rival. In the second intermission, Cammalleri was pulled from the team and told he had been traded. The team was down by a goal and could've definitely used the offence, instead the team was left shorthanded on the bench while the thought of salvaging the season was very much still a possibility. Cammalleri had made some pointed criticisms of the team in the press the previous day, and although Gauthier claimed the trade was a long time in the making, the manner in which it was conducted made it seem like it was intended to publicly humiliate Cammalleri. He was traded for a player who was currently suspended and signed to a long term contract that Calgary wanted to get out of in Rene Bourque, a decent prospect in Patrick Holland, and a 2nd round draft pick. The rights to European goalie Karri Ramo and a 5th round pick were shipped with Cammalleri to Calgary as well.
His trade deadline deals as a seller were alright, but the team is definitely worse today than it was a year ago. And it is because of Gauthier's colossal failures in judgement that this is so. While a lot of GM's get more than two years on the job, Gauthier's third year was by far his worst on record, and gave no indications that his previous decisions were made using methodology that was either innovative or logical.
Au revoir, Pierre.