February 08, 2010
As soon as the words "important announcement regarding the Club's management" were read on the media advisory sent out Monday morning by the Montreal Canadiens, the immediate thoughts were that Bob Gainey would be out as the team's general manager. During a news conference this afternoon, Gainey made it official that he would be stepping down from the post and staying on in an advisory role with the club.
Gainey leaves a Canadiens team that is currently sixth in the Eastern Conference and about three weeks away from potentially making a big decision regarding their goaltending situation. That decision will now be left in the hands of new executive vice-president and general manager Pierre Gauthier.
During the news conference, Gainey admitted that what's best for the club is a person who can step in and be willing to spend the next few years reshaping the team:
"I've done my best and now it's time for me to pass the torch. I believe that the general manager position requires a long-term vision and a long-term commitment. At this point, I'm not prepared to make a commitment of four or five or six more years in this position."
The summer spending spree by Gainey is something that critics will look back on now and say is the reason Montreal is not in a better position in the East and heading into the upcoming off-season with roster questions abound. Brian Gionta(notes) and Scott Gomez's(notes) bloated contracts will count against the salary cap until after the 2013-14 season as Craig Custance noted. With Tomas Plekanec(notes) approaching free agency, money could have been saved to give him a new deal (Gauthier noted that negotiations have begun) along with either Carey Price(notes) or Jaroslav Halak(notes), who will both be restricted free agents July 1.
What Gainey left behind will now have to be fixed, overhauled, tweaked or any other verb you want to use to describe what needs to be done now for the Canadiens. Two seasons ago Montreal sat atop the Eastern Conference. Last season the Canadiens were fortunate enough to win a tiebreaker over the Florida Panthers to grab the eighth seed. This season, they're ahead of the pack of teams fighting for one of the final three spots in the East and not much room for error given the parity at the bottom. Clearly, Gainey's alterations over the past two seasons weren't enough to keep the Habs on top and have since put them in somewhat of a hole in regards to the salary cap. Gauthier will have his work cut out for him and being that it's Montreal, the fans will expect results quickly.