It is clear that the Montreal Canadians have an identity crisis whether they want to admit it or not. The Habs currently sit 12th in the Eastern Conference with a 16-20-8 record and their confidence is at an all time low. Before they can decide who should play and coach for them, owner Geoff Molson must decide who should run this storied franchise. Is Pierre Gauthier his guy? The facts state otherwise.
In his tenure as Habs GM, Gauthier has made several questionable moves. He signed defenseman Andrei Markov to a three-year, $17.25 million contract only to find out Markov’s chronic knee problems are in fact still chronic. He acquired defenseman Tomas Kaberle who has scored only one goal in the past year from the Carolina Hurricanes along with his three-year, $12.75 million contract. He fired assistant coach Perry Pearn right before a game. He then fired head coach Jacques Martin right before a morning skate, and placed replacement Randy Cunneyworth in no position to succeed on or off the ice, failing to anticipate the uproar and protests from delusional Habs fans due to the fact that Cunneyworth does not speak French.
That led to a statement from Molson, ensuring that everyone knew that Cunneyworth was just an interim coach and that the ability to speak both English and French would be important in hiring a permanent head coach next season. Gauthier later apologized for the man he hired in a press conference in front of the Montreal media.
His most recent transaction came a day after Mike Cammalleri complained about his ice time and criticized the Habs for having a losing mentality. As a result Gauthier yanked him from a one-goal game against the division rival Boston Bruins. He pulled him moments before the start of the third period, put him in a taxi and sent him back to the team hotel, though the Habs had already checked out. He shipped him back to the Calgary Flames and said it had nothing to do with his comments.
Many hockey fans are unaware that this was not a simple swap of Cammalleri for Rene Bourque. The Canadiens also gave up goaltending prospect Karri Ramo and a fifth-round draft pick in 2012, and they also received prospect center Patrick Holland and a second-round pick in 2013. The deal has already been compared to the Jaroslav Halak trade. Halak was the only playoff hero bigger than Cammalleri in 2010 paving the way to the Eastern Conference final with several outstanding performances in net, while Cammalleri scored a league-leading 13 goals. However, since then Cammalleri’s production has declined, and his goal total, 9 is actually lower than Bourque’s 13 goals this season.
The Canadiens will never be what they once were. We are long past the Original Six and early expansion eras. The Habs need to look for the best executives, coaches and players and can not expect to dominate the NHL again with only homegrown coaches and players. Molson needs to find the best general manager he can and that most likely is not Pierre Gauthier. That GM must then find the best coach and the best players to fit the coache's system and style. Until the Canadiens realize and act upon this, they will always have a loser's mentality.
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