Perry Pearn was a scapegoat for the Montreal Canadiens. Everyone knows this.
While the hockey world was ticking down the seconds to Jacques Martin's firing by GM Pierre Gauthier, or some trade to shake the team out of its malaise, it was assistant coach Pearn who paid the price hours before the Canadiens' game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday.
As Pat Hickey wrote in the Gazette, this is a time-honored tradition … in baseball:
When a baseball general manager or owner wants to send a message to a manager, they fire his drinking buddy who is usually the pitching coach or the hitting instructor. I'm not privy to Martin and Pearn's drinking habits, but I do know that they have had a good working relationship going back to Martin's tenure as head coach of the Ottawa Senators.
He was an easy mark for Gauthier because Pearn's primary responsibilities — special teams — were struggling, and the juxtaposition between the departed Kirk Muller's performance in that capacity (special teams good, Canadiens winning) and Pearn's (special teams bad, Canadiens losing) was elementary.
Does Pearn believe he was given a raw deal by Montreal? "I'm a proud person, I think I'm good at what I do, so I can't help but be disappointed that what's happened has happened," he told Sportsnet Magazine on Friday, speaking about his firing.
"Do I think it's my fault the Montreal Canadiens had a bad start?" Pearn asks. "I'll take my share of the responsibility. Our power play wasn't as good as it should be; our penalty-killing wasn't as good as we wanted it to be. But to say I'm the only reason we had a bad start, no, I don't accept that.
"And I'm sure that's not the point of me being let go, is that it was all my fault. It was a way of sending a wake-up call to everybody that things had to change."
… "I had two good years here," he says, "successful years given the competitive nature of our team in the playoffs. I'm not hanging my head in shame by any stretch of the imagination. I do think I've had a positive impact in lots of areas in terms of helping the team become a little bit better than it was the day we arrived."
Here's what Gauthier said about the firing on Wednesday (via Stu Cowan):
Montreal is 3-5-2 on the season, winning both games since Pearn was fired. The Habs are 1-for-6 on the power play in those games, and have killed off 9 of 10 power plays.