The Montreal Canadiens have won five of their last seven games and are in playoff position in the competitive Eastern Conference. That still wasn't enough to prevent Guy Carbonneau from losing his job.
With one month left in the regular season, general manager Bob Gainey returns as Canadiens coach Tuesday night when they host the Edmonton Oilers.
In a season where hockey's most storied franchise celebrates its 100th anniversary, Gainey set off more fireworks by firing Carbonneau - a former Canadiens' captain and assistant coach - with 16 games remaining.
Montreal (35-24-7) was one of the East's top teams after winning 27 of its first 44 games. Since, the Canadiens are 8-13-1 and fifth in the East, where four points separate fifth from 10th place.
"The last eight weeks of performance have been below average, and I believe a change in the direction at ice level is necessary," said Gainey of the Canadiens, who are 6-4-1 since losing 7-2 at Edmonton on Feb. 11.
Carbonneau was 124-83-23 since taking over the Canadiens on May 5, 2006. He guided the club to first place in the East with 104 points last season, but the Canadiens lost to Philadelphia in the second round of the playoffs.
Gainey, a Hall of Fame forward for the Canadiens, begins his second stint coaching his former team. He went 23-15-3 after replacing Claude Julien in January 2006.
"I'm not going to make black-and-white changes," Gainey said, "but we need to move toward being a better, stronger, more consistent team defensively and an offensive team that takes advantage of our opportunities."
Montreal won 3-1 at Dallas on Sunday to avoid a third consecutive loss.
Carey Price made 30 saves to snap a seven-game losing streak and Chris Higgins, Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexei Kovalev scored for the Canadiens, who were outscored 7-1 in their previous two games - losses at Buffalo and Atlanta.
"We think this win should give us a lot of confidence," Carbonneau said after coaching his final game.
Even with Monday's coaching change, that can still hold true for Montreal, which must improve its power-play. The Canadiens are 0-for-13 with the man-advantage in their last three games.
Facing Edmonton (32-27-6), though, could help Montreal improve in that area, but it must fare better than the last time the teams met.
While the Oilers are near the bottom of the league by allowing opponents to convert on 23.4 percent of their power-play chances, the Canadiens went 0-for-7 with the extra man against the Oilers.
Kostitsyn scored his team-leading 23rd goal Sunday for his first points in seven games.
Price, who is 19-14-6 with a 2.75 goals-against average, set a career high for goals allowed in his only previous game against Edmonton last month.
Mathieu Dandenault had a goal and an assist in that contest versus the Oilers.
Edmonton is seventh in West - tied with Nashville and Dallas with 70 points - and coming off a 4-1 win at Toronto on Saturday to snap a four-game road losing streak. Kyle Brodziak had two goals, Ales Hemsky added a goal with an assist and Dwayne Roloson made 39 saves as the Oilers improved to 1-1-1 on their four-game trip.
Hemsky, who set a career with 21 goals, had one with an assist against Montreal in February. Brodziak also added a goal and an assist in that game.
Roloson, who has started 21 straight games, made 36 saves last month against the Canadiens to improve to 3-2-1 with a tie and a 2.48 GAA versus Montreal.
"He's really on top of his game," Oilers defenseman Steve Staios said of Roloson, who is 23-17-6 with a 2.75 GAA.