Pierre Gauthier: A Shot in the Dark

Written by Rick Stephens, AllHabs.net

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Montreal Canadiens General Manager Pierre Gauthier addresses the media on the firing of Asstistant Coach Perry Pearn prior to the NHL game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Philadelphia Flyers at the Bell Centre on October 26, 2011 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

MONTREAL, QC. — We were left shaking our heads. Ninety minutes prior to puck drop, news filtered out that Canadiens assistant coach Perry Pearn had be relieved of his duties. Given the state of chaos that was the Habs organization, the move was baffling — brushing away the grain of dust in one eye but leaving the plank firmly planted in the other.

But we are all the great unwashed, and incapable of understanding such complexities.

The move was made just before the Canadiens faced their toughest test so far — the Flyers are expected to be among the conference powerhouses this season. They came into the game with the NHL’s best power-play while the Canadiens sported one of the worst peanlty-killing records. Add to that the Habs six-game losing streak and a start to the season that hasn’t been seen in these parts in 70 years.

It seemed like a recipe for disaster.

“To me, the greater the odds, the greater the shall-ange. And as always, I accept the shall-ange.” — Inspector Jacques Clouseau

Fortunately, the Canadiens have their own super sleuth on the job. General manager Pierre Gauthier sprung into action to accept the difficult task of investigating the problems and putting the team back on track.

“Anytime you face a new challenge, you need to look in the mirror, and that is just what I’ve been doing, starting with myself.” — Pierre Gauthier

Okay, that’s a good start. I suppose. But when not admiring his reflection Gauthier began an evaluation of the team and its personnel and came to the conclusion “We don’t like the results right now.” I think we all can agree on that.

So after some deliberation dismissing Pearn was chosen as a means to right the ship. Pearn changed the defense and was in charge of the power-play this season. The power-play has been dreadful and some of the defensive choices have been questionable, particularly the deployment of Hal Gill and Raphael Diaz.

So perhaps the move makes some sense.  But was Pearn really that incompetent?

“[The firing] is in no way a reflection of who [Pearn] is as a person or what he has been doing and his competency and his professionalism.” — Pierre Gauthier

Okay, now I’m really confused. So how is this move supposed to fix everything? How will the players interpret the dismissal?

“Like I told the players earlier, this is not a reflection on Mr. Pearn’s job. It’s not the action that’s going to change anything. But over time we’re going to function more efficiently, we’re going to fuction better, we’re going to function out of the box a little bit more than we have and this is one thing that’s part of that change.” — Pierre Gauthier

The translator is still trying to explain this one to Alexei Emelin. Perhaps I need his services too.

2672988 640px 228x300 Pierre Gauthier: A Shot in the DarkIt was at this point that I was reminded of Inspector Clouseau. Through the genius of Peter Sellers, he would deliver one of his explanations with mind-numbing logic, followed by “I gather the facts, and examine the clues, and before you know it, the case is sol-ved.”

Nothing to it! Clouseau would always solve the crime, usually achieving success by accident — falling ass-backwards into the desired result.

“It’s all part of life’s rich pageant, you know.” — Inspector Jacques Clouseau

Gauthier got his desired result. The ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking temporarily calmed the masses. And the players made him look good notching an impressive 5-1 win over the Flyers.

The question is: Will Canadiens fans, playing the role of Chief Inspector Dreyfus, be driven mad by puzzling moves that seemingly turn to gold?

Are there other moves to come? Will our inspector do the right thing and fire his friend or will other scapegoats be sacrificed first? The real worry is that amidst the bumbling towards a solution a major trade of a young asset will be made.

I remember the movies — that’s akin to destroying a Steinway along the way.

One wonders how long Canadiens owner Geoff Molson is prepared to let this script unfold.  The bleeding has been stopped temporarily with tonight’s win.  But it’s also provided a glimpse into the fact that his Canadiens aren’t so bad after all, and may have a better chance achieving their potential under the guidance of a new management team.

And what of Gauthier?  Are his words just GM-speak concealing a deeper plan? Is he a misunderstood genius, or is he our own lovable Clouseau?

“We shall see who is the one that will be saying nonsensical things that are sensing of nonsense.” — Inspector Jacques Clouseau

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Rick is the Editor-in-Chief, lead contributor, and owner of the All Habs network of websites. His mission is to build a community of Canadiens fans who are informed, engaged and connected. He is the vision behind all four sites within the network - All Habs, Habs Tweetup, We Are Canadiens, and The Montreal Forum - and is responsible for the design and layout of each. In concert with the strong belief that "Habs fans are everywhere!", Rick is pleased that people use All Habs as a conduit to find and connect with other Habs fans worldwide. He is also proud that Habs Tweetups have allowed fans to meet in person and develop long lasting friendships.

8 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Chantal says:

    The only thing that caught my attention in his presser is the fact that he actually has a reflection in the mirror. Uh.

    What i got from all this is that Gauthier is a control freak. Most GMs will let their coach choose their own assistants. They may recommend people, but not impose them.

    Now, Jacques Martin is behind the bench with people all hired by Gauthier. Pearn was Martin’s man. No more.

    Puzzling. Gauthier : Puppet Master.

    • Eric says:

      Hi Chantal, I do believe that the decision that PG took regarding Pearns caused a bit of friction with JM. PG did mention that JM argued(or like PG said brought valid arguments)with his decision at first.Habs situation isn’t better yet.

      • Chantal says:

        Hi Eric. Yes, i believe it must have. I’m sure Jacques wasn’t too happy. As i wrote, Pearn was his man. Was he the right man ? That’s up for debate, but he trusted him.

      • It is normal for Martin to be an advocate for his friend, Pearn. You can bet the conversation was relatively short however when Gauthier pointed out that the firing was one of the few moves available that would save Martin, for now.

    • Don says:

      I think it was GM speak and trying to axe him as PC as he could.
      As with Martin, i was never fond of Pearn’s choices for d-men and coaching (especially with OByrne’s lack of play and constantly running Spacek out there).
      As to who should call the shots and hire/fire assistant coach’s, it ultimately is upper management who can do as they wish and also may signal Martin is almost out of rope?

      Also Rick, your poll of the week, regarding importance of Coach’s language skills, seems a bit odd (touchy subject) dosent it? English is the common language of NHL teams isnt it and merit should be the one and only correct answer shouldnt it?
      If you eliminate all those like Muller, MacTavish, etc. strictly based on language, then you are left with a short/limited list of choices and in my opinion, the main reason Martin was hired in the first place. Not that i dont think many french coachs are capable and could be great choices, but if Martin was not french, i would wager he would not be behind the bench.

      • We know that Martin is not a coach for all, which means that Gauthier has been forced to make poor trades to rid the team of some very talented young players like Sergei Kostitsyn, Ryan O’Byrne, etc. for little return.

        As far as hiring/firing assistant coaches, Gauthier certainly has the authority but it is an unusual move — head coaches typically manage their own staff.

        The poll question may or may not be a “touchy subject” but it is still worthy of discussion. Try having a discussion about the next head coach of the Montreal Canadiens. You will likely be asked if your recommended candidate speaks French. If not, some consider the conversation dead. The poll is simply an attempt to challenge the notion that fans demand that the team base their selection on language. Talk to most fans regardless of first language and they will overwhelming answer ‘merit’ as the primary consideration for hiring. It’s time that the Canadiens organization remove the blinders placed there by the media and pursue a policy that is supported by the vast majority of their fans and has the best chance to lead to on-ice success.

  2. beakermania says:

    It seems to be working.

    There were two huge issues with the team, a PK that wasn’t killing penalties and a PP that wasn’t scoring goals.

    In the last three games the PP has 3 goals and the PK hasn’t given up any goals against.

    Is this what Gauthier wanted to fix? The special teams?

    • There were certainly far less dramatic ways to fix the special teams. Your stats are correct but keep in mind, against the Flyers, the Habs power-play was 1-for-5, and the penalty-killing unit was perfect. Did they ditch Pearn’s special teams schemes and set a new course 90 minutes before gametime? Not at all. So let’s call it a happy coincidence.

      Since then there have been changes to personnel deployment, but again, was Pearn’s departure necessary to accomplish this?

      The move has worked out for Gauthier but it had an equal chance of being a disaster.

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