BROSSARD – With Thursday morning’s announcement, the Canadiens put a difficult season in their rearview mirror and look towards the team’s future, and a new era for the organization.
Thursday morning at the Habs’ practice facility in Brossard, Canadiens president and owner, Geoff Molson, met with the Montreal media to discuss his biggest decision since taking over the organization.
“Following extensive reflection, I have the unfortunate task of announcing the present changes in our organization,” stated Molson to the throng of reporters gathered at the Bell Sports Complex. “Effective immediately, Pierre Gauthier has been relieved of his duties as general manager. After discussing this decision with Bob Gainey, Bob and I agreed that he will no longer be acting as advisor to the club, given Pierre’s departure.
“This was a very emotional decision. These are two men that gave nine years of their lives to this organization, both working very hard the entire time,” he added. “Over the last several years, we’ve had some great moments, we’ve had some success – but we haven’t been at the level that our organization needs to be – which is one of the best. That’s the primary reason for this decision.”
After nine years and the culmination of a disappointing season for fans and players alike, the Canadiens franchise is set to embark in a new direction, beginning with the delicate process of selecting the team’s next general manager. In aiding with the selection process, Molson will enlist the help of an already very familiar face.
“In the search for our next general manager, I’ve retained Serge Savard to act as my advisor on this matter,” continued Molson, who will be able to count on the experience of the former 12-year GM that helped bring the Canadiens’ last two Stanley Cups to Montreal. “Serge Savard has had a great career as a player and as a general manager. He’s someone that my family has known since the late 60s and he’s very much a part of the fabric of this organization. I believe he’ll be someone who will be a huge asset in our selection of a GM. His priority, like mine, will be to choose the best possible person to help us win.”
Despite what the Canadiens’ current standings might suggest, the goal of restoring the team to their winning ways has a very strong foundation to build upon. Along with the possibilities that a new GM brings, Molson also made a point of taking a frank look at his team’s most recent campaign and what it could mean for the future.
“This season our team was decimated by serious injuries, and while this in and of itself is not an excuse, we take pride in knowing that our players had the character to show up and be competitive almost every night,” expressed Molson, of a team that in 2011-12 saw many new stars emerge, many players set personal highs, and that also saw 35 of their 77 games to date, were decided by only a single goal.
“I firmly believe that we have a strong group of core players on this team,” he added. “We also have some exciting new players coming into this organization, as well as the chance to add even more depth over the next two years where we have seven picks in the first two rounds.”
While for many, the surprise at Thursday morning’s announcement stemmed from its timing, Molson offered some perspective on what led to the decision being made with five games still remaining on the regular season calendar.
“The decision to make this announcement now, has two principal reasons behind it,” explained Molson. “The first, being that we wanted to wait until we were 100% eliminated from playoff contention before making this decision. Second, the selection of our future GM is incredibly important – this gives us as much time as possible to begin the process of finding the right person for the job, because next season isn’t that far off.”
The day’s movement in personnel not only affected the front office of the Canadiens organization, but as a result, also the make-up of the team’s coaching staff.
“Larry Carriere will be stepping away from behind the bench and returning to the position of assistant general manager,” said Molson, of the team’s assistant coach’s departure from behind the bench. “It will be a slightly expanded role in that he’ll be helping us plan for the next few months, and so he and I will be working closely together. Due to the void behind the bench, Pierre Groulx will be replacing him for the remaining five games.”
While the Canadiens president remained tight-lipped on the possible short-list of candidates for the position of new GM, he was quick to offer up the qualities he and Savard will be on the hunt for in the coming weeks.
“Our priority is to find the best possible person to take on this challenge of helping build a winning team; someone who can lead this organization from a hockey perspective – that includes leading the coaching staff, the recruiting staff, the players, and having command of the ship,” finished Molson. “It’s also important for our general manager to be an excellent communicator, within the entire organization and also externally. And of course the third element, which is harder to quantify – but that undying desire to win, and win at all costs.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
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