MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens, mired in a historic slump to start the season,fired assistant coach Perry Pearn prior to facing the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night,but general manager Pierre Gauthier said the move was more significant than it may sound.
The players learned of Pearn's departure about 90 minutes before the opening faceoff.
Pearn was a long-time assistant under coach Jacques Martin,and Gauthier said when he informed his coach of his decision – and it was Gauthier's decision – Martin tried to talk his GM out of it.
But as Gauthier explained to Martin,the decision to fire Pearn was part of what he described as an organizational shift in the way they operate.
"We're going to function outside the box more than we have,” Gauthier said. "This is one move in that direction."
With the entire city of Montreal in a panic over the Canadiens' 1-5-2 start – their worst since 1941 – Gauthier assured that Martin's job is safe.
"It's a not a big trade or a coaching change that we needed to get out of this slump,” he said. "We needed a more long-term solution."
However he said everyone -- management,coaches and players -- must be accountable under the current circumstances.
"Any time you face new challenges you need to look in the mirror,starting with myself," Gauthier said. "We're not looking to place blame on anyone. But to do my job as the leader of this team I need to help people function better."
Removing Pearn apparently accomplishes that for the Canadiens,though Gauthier would not get into specifics about why that is so,saying only that "we are in a competitive environment.”
However,Gauthier did admit the move got the attention of the Canadiens players when he told them about 90 minutes before game time.
"There were some eyes opened wide," he said. "I didn't talk to them very long,but the message was that things need to change."
Pearn was responsible for the Canadiens' power play,which was a dismal 3-for-32 through the first eight games of the season,though Gauthier said that performance was not a factor in the decision.
Replacing Pearn behind the Canadiens bench Wednesday night was assistant coach Randy Ladouceur,who had been the eye in the sky. A former NHL defenseman with 931 games of experience,Ladouceur will take over Pearn's role of handling the Canadiens' young and inexperienced defense corps.
That young defense corps may be getting a much-needed infusion of experience,as Gauthier also confirmed that No. 1 defenseman Andrei Markov will be back from a three-week rehab stint in Florida on Friday evening and may be ready to jump back on the ice as soon as next week.
"He's gone through every step,” Gauthier said of Markov,who's recovering from knee surgery. "The only step remaining step is to get him on the ice."
Gauthier said the three weeks in Florida were very beneficial for Markov and left no doubt in his mind that the reconstructed ACL in his right knee has no structural issues at all.
"We had three different people from the organization who were down there with him at one time or another,” Gauthier said. "He was pushed to a point that made it clear his knee is healthy. He just needed to strengthen the area around his knee to make sure it could handle the rigors of playing hockey. There is absolutely no structural problem with the knee or the ligament. The only problem is we have to wait.”