11.5 reasons to fire Pierre Gauthier

When a NHL general manager makes a major mistake, he can be forgiven. If he makes two or three, it makes fans antsy. Usually by the time he makes five mistakes, it’s time to get a new general manager.

Resolute photo, via Wikimedia Commons

Pierre Gauthier should have traded more than just Andrei Kostitsyn on trade deadline day.

Gauthier has done some things right. He got more for Hal Gill than most people expected. I think he got the best he was going to get for Jaroslav Halak. Erik Cole has turned out to be a good signing.

And to be fair, he did inherit a team with a lot of problems. He’s not the one that traded for Scott Gomez. He’s not the one that has a decade of poor drafting history. He’s not the one that gave many players no trade clauses.

That being said, it’s time for Gauthier to go. He’s just made two many mistakes to keep in any type of role in the Canadiens organization.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog post listing 23 reasons why Bob Gainey should have been fired as general manager of the Montreal Canadiens.

Since Gauthier has only been a GM for half as long as long, I decided to do a list that was half as short.

So without further adieu, here are the top 11-and-a-half reasons why Pierre Gauthier should be fired.

1: Not trading their players this year.

Really, when Montreal realized a couple of months ago that this year was lost, they should have went into full-scale fire-sale mode, similar to what the Ottawa Senators did last year. When Ottawa realized last year they were screwed, they dealt guys like Mike Fisher, Chris Kelly, Jarkko Ruutu, Brian Elliott, Alexei Kovalev and Chris Campoli. In return, they got draft picks, a new number one goalie and some prospects. More importantly, it allowed the young guys some playing time to develop chemistry. Guys like Colin Greening, Erik Condra and Bobby Butler were given lots of ice time.

This year, what did the Habs do when in the same situation? They tried stop-gap measures at first. They traded for Tomas Kaberle. They traded for Rene Bourque. It wasn’t until the past week that they became serious about dealing their veterans for picks/prospects.

Of course, they also had a quiet trade deadline day. After trading Andrei Kostitsyn, they never did anything. They should have made deals to trade Plekanec, Kaberle, Campoli and Moen. Then give guys like Louis Leblanc top six minutes and see what happens. See if the young guys are ready to play a regular shift in the NHL.

Instead, we’re have to look forward to more of the young guys playing on the fourth line, while the “established” like Pleks and Gomez continue to get lots of playing time.

Seriously, what’s the point in announcing you won’t be trading Travis Moen a few weeks before the deadline? That’s the type of guy that will get you something. Paul Gaustaud got the Sabres a first round pick. Yet Moen might walk from the team this summer for nothing.

2. Trading for Tomas Kaberle

Jaroslav Spacek is a solid player. He’s not flashy. He’s not going to wow you with open-ice hits. He’s not going to dangle the puck around three opponents. He’s not going to score a lot of goals with a howitzer from the point. He’s just going to work hard every shift and try to shut down the other team’s players.

Resolute photo, via Wikimedia Commons

Gauthier traded Jaroslav Spacek for Tomas Kaberle.

So Gauthier does trade him. For Tomas Kaberle?

Let’s run through the checklist. Is he a prospect? No. Is he a draft pick? No. Is he a young player? No.

Is he overpaid, seen his best years behind him and is the ridicule of at least three other cities he has played in? Yes.

Welcome to Montreal, Tomas Kaberle.

Kaberle is the exact opposite of what Montreal needs. He’s signed for another two years at a ridiculous cap hit ($4.25 million). He’s soft in the defensive zone. He’s taking away ice time from young guys. He doesn’t improve the powerplay.

Even if Spacek was a member of the Habs, he’d be gone this summer, and it would save much needed cap space for raises for Price, Subban, Emelin, Diaz, Eller and Darche, not to mention any free agents.

Instead, the Habs are paying $8.5 million for the next two years to Kaberle.

Still, Gauthier thought this was a good trade.

3. Telling guys they are traded, but won’t tell them where.

To me, this is one of the most bush league things you can do to a player.

On at least three occasions this season, Gauthier has traded a player. Gauthier had the courtesy to tell the player they were being traded. But when the players asked where they were going, Gauthier wouldn’t tell them.

Spacek, Gill and Cammalleri all tell the same story. Gauthier left them twisting in the wind. They have families, they’re already anxious about being traded, but Gauthier wouldn’t even tell them where they were going. Gill called his wife, and they tried to figure it out on their own.

Gill told the Montreal Gazette:

“Pierre told me to be ready for it, and it wasn’t  for 45 minutes or so that I knew it was Nashville,” Gill said. “I said:  ‘Why don’t you just wait and tell me all at once instead of keeping me  on pins and needles?’ “

Gill hustled to his room to fill his thin  bag and call his wife, Anne, who was home in Westmount with their  4-month-old, Talon. Together, they speculated about the defenceman’s destination.

That’s just brutal. Once could be an oversight. But three times in one season?

Bush league.

4. Overpaying Tomas Plekanec.

Here’s the thing. I like Tomas Plekanec, no matter what it may sound like on my site. But I think Pierre Gauthier gave him too much money.

Johnny Barboza, Jamie Fitzpatrick photo, via Wikimedia Commons

Tomas Plekanec is a little overpaid.

Plekanec is making $5 million a year for the next four seasons. He has a no-trade clause of some type (which is another stupid thing to do). But Pleks isn’t worth that money.

Two years ago, I wrote this before the Habs re-signed Plekanec:

1) Plekanec is a streaky player. His season point totals since the lockout goes like this: 29, 47, 69, 39,  and 70. Is that worth $5.5 million a year for four years? No, it’s not.

2) He was only 49 per cent faceoff winning percentage in the regular season (key faceoff guy, but loses the majority of his draws). That number plummeted to 47.1% in the playoffs. Not good for a #1 centre.

3) He’s not a great shootout guy. Only one for six in 2009-2010 and two for 13 in his career. Heck, Pierre Dagenais has two shootout goals for the Habs, and he only played 32 games in the shootout era. Winning shootouts gets you playoff spots, and a guy wanting a lot of money needs to be able to come through in the clutch.

and most importantly, 4) his size. He’s not a big guy (only 5′ 11, 190 pounds, which makes him big on the Habs, but not against other teams). The Habs have plenty of undersized players, and they don’t need to worry about keeping another one.

And this doesn’t take into his poor playoff performance.

Since he signed that huge contract, he hasn’t performed.

He has 57 points last year, and is on pace for 55 this year (and only 16 goals). He’s not used in the shootout (only five shots the last two seasons, despite the Habs being in 17 shootouts for a total of 67 shots). He won 50% of his faceoffs last season and this season.

And he doesn’t make his teammates better. He doesn’t seem to click with anyone, save for Kostitsyn and Cammalleri a couple of seasons ago, and both of those players are gone.

This year, he’s -18, which would be the worst on the team if it wasn’t for Kaberle and his -19.

He’s overpaid, and he won’t waive his no trade clause. Not a good move for a team if they’re rebuilding.

And speaking of overpaying to re-sign a player…

5. Signing Andrei Markov to such an expensive deal.

Andrei Markov played 52 games for the Canadiens in the two seasons before last summer, including only seven games last year.

Maniacduhockey photo, via Wikimedia Commons

Andrei Markov is also overpaid, considering he hasn't played a game this year.

So of course, Gauthier signs him to $5.75 million a year for three years. And of course, he is a given a no-trade clause of some type.

Markov has missed the whole season because of his knees, and has undergone 19 knee operations this year. He won’t be playing a game this season.

That was $6 million well spent.

Of course, with Markov out, that led to Gauthier’s next mistake.

6. Signing Chris Campoli.

Campoli is making just under $2 million for the Habs ($1.75 million to be exact). Only Markov, Kaberle and Gorges make more. Yet Campoli often a healthy scratch.

There’s a reason he’s been with three teams in the past two seasons. He’s okay offensively, but is brutal defensively. Yet teams keep giving him a chance.

Yes, the Habs made a mistake with the Markov signing. But to compound it with the Campoli signing is just absurd.

Of course, the Campoli signing wasn’t the only mistake last summer.

7. Signing Peter Budaj.

Does Pierre Gauthier not watch any hockey games? Peter Budaj is the second coming of JC Bergeron. He hasn’t had a winning record in four seasons. Last year, he had a 3.20 goals against average and a .895 save percentage.

He’s so bad, he lost the starting job to every other goalies the Avalanche has brought in throughout the six years he was with Colorado (in no particular order: Craig Anderson, Jose Theodore, David Aebischer and Brian Elliott). The only exception is Andrew Raycroft.

Yet, somehow he is supposed to be a capable backup? An good NHL backup can step in if something happens to the starter. The only chance we’d have with Budaj in net is if the team ties him to the posts like Goldberg in the original Mighty Ducks movie.

Yet, he’s making more than a million a season, and is signed for another year.

Why not keep Auld instead of brining in Budaj? As backup last season in Montreal, Auld had six wins, two losses and two shootout/overtime losses. He had a 2.64 goals against, and a .914 save percentage.

That’s pretty decent numbers for a backup.

So far this season, Budaj has two wins, six losses, one shooutout/overtime loss, a 2.88 goals against and a .902 save percentage.

In other words, he’s a worse backup than the guy we had.

If something happens to Price, I’d feel a lot more comfortable in nets with Auld instead of Budaj.

8. Getting nothing for Sergei Kostitsyn.

Not every trade can net you a good player or pick. Sometimes, you just need to shake up the team, or get rid of someone who is a distraction.

Well, Pierre Gauthier certainly learned from the best. Remember when Bob Gainey sent Mike Ribeiro to Dallas for Janne Niinima? Bad deal all around.

Gauthier decides he needs to emulate Gainey, so he dealt Sergei Kostitsyn to Nashville for Dan Ellis, Dustin Boyd and future considerations. Ellis never played a game for Montreal. Boyd played 10 games. I’m hoping we get those future considerations soon.

Kostitsyn led the Predators in points last season. And is on pace for his second straight 20-goal, 50-point season.

Other teams, when they deal guys they need to get rid of, get a decent return. The Habs get nothing.

But hey, at least we got rid of a troublemaker.

9. Firing Perry Pearn.

Yes, the Habs special teams sucked at the time. The powerplay still does.

But of course, that’s not Gauthier’s fault. It’s obviously the fault of the special teams coach.

So what does Gauthier do? He fires Perry Pearn. Not after a bad loss. Not after the team gave up six shorthanded goals in two games. Not in between games.

No, Gauthier does it an hour or two before a game in an effort to shake up the team.

Bush league.

But it’s not like Gauthier would ever pull a player from the middle of a game, send him to a hotel, tell him he’s traded, but then not tell that player where he was traded to for an hour. No, that would be classless.

10. Throwing Randy Cunneyworth under the bus.

Yes, firing Jacques Martin was the right thing to do. Hiring Randy Cunneyworth was probably not the best decision, but there’s nothing wrong with letting an assistant coach get half-a-season under his belt as head coach.

But it blew up in Gauthier’s face. The French media in Montreal went nuts because Cunneyworth doesn’t speak French. So Gauthier has a press conference, and decides to try and save his own behind.

Gauthier apologized for not hiring a French coach and pretty much said Cunneyworth will not be back next season, no matter what happens, as they need to find a bilingual coach.

Wow. If I were Cunneyworth, I think I would have quit right then and there. Screw the team. If the GM doesn’t have your back, then why should you have his?

11. No big free agent signings after going to the Cup semifinals

Back in 2010, a lot was good in Montreal. The team just went to the final four. The Jacques Martin system seemed to be working.

But still, the team could have used some improving. They lost in five games to Philly. They rode the back of Halak and Cammalleri. They were still a too-small team.

And what free agents did Pierre Gauthier sign that summer? Alex Auld, Alexandre Picard, Jeff Halpern, Alain Berger and Kyle Klubertanz. Not exactly a lot of help.

11.5. Letting quality coaches walk.

Kirk Muller left the team as an assistant coach, and is now a head coach in Carolina. Guy Boucher was allowed to leave the Habs organization, and is now a head coach in Tampa (and can speak French too!).

Now the team struggles with a lame duck head coach. Wouldn’t it have been nice to see Muller or Boucher behind the Habs bench this season?

Conclusion

Gauthier has been an inept general manager in Montreal. He makes poor decisions, and then compounds them by making more poor decisions to try and fix the ones he’s already made.

If someone was a general manager of a team for six years, I could see it being pretty easy to find 12 or 13 blunders. But to be a general manager for two years and have this record is pitiful.

He treats his coaches poorly, his players even worse and the fans suffer by watching this team for 82 games this season.

It’s a simple decision. Pierre Gauthier should be let go, and should not be making any decisions that would affect the team’s future. He should be replaced immediately after the regular season ends, and a new general manager who can take a few months to get ready before the draft and the free agency period begins.

To keep Gauthier any longer would be ludicrous.

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1 Comment

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One response to “11.5 reasons to fire Pierre Gauthier

  1. Excellent list, Tom. Great job, and I agree with everything. I’m just hoping Moen doesn’t walk. And I didn’t know that about keeping Gill in suspense, which is just ridiculous and quite nasty.

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