Text by Steve Currier
If you’re a Montreal Canadiens fan like me, the 2011-12 season was quite the ordeal. That season, the Habs finished with a 31-35-16 record, their worst result since 2003. Everything bad that could have happened, did. This induction is for all you Habs fans who had to watch your team crumble before your eyes.
This is Pierre Gauthier, known to Habs fans everywhere as the worst general manager in the history of the Montreal Canadiens, and the first person inducted into the Hockey Hall of Shame. He looks pretty damn happy in this picture, but there wouldn’t be many happy days for anyone during his forgettable tenure.
I debated a long time about whether or not I wanted to induct Pierre Gauthier into the HHOS, since this hallowed hall is reserved for things that seemed like a good idea at one time or another. Let me be quite clear that Pierre Gauthier’s hiring was NEVER seen as a good idea at ANY time. His decisions as general manager, however, are completely and totally worthy of induction into the Hockey Hall of Shame, as you will soon see.
Originally, Gauthier had been the Canadiens’ Director of Professional Scouting, and then in 2006, he became Assistant General Manager, which was all well and good, but the minute he was named the Habs’ Vice President and General Manager on February 8, 2010, something just didn’t feel right.
There was just something about him that was so smug, so self-assured that drove me nuts. He had this tendency to call everyone “Mister,” like he was the second coming of Eddie Shore. You know what, from now on I’m just going to refer to everyone in this induction as “Mister _________,” so you can all see just how annoying a habit this was.
Mister Gauthier’s first year at the helm was not all that bad. In fact, the team went 44-30-8, finished sixth in the Eastern Conference, and took the Boston Bruins, who would win the Stanley Cup that year, to seven games in a first-round defeat.
So how did the Canadiens fall apart so suddenly? It was due, in part, to the knuckle-headed decisions Mister Gauthier couldn’t stop himself from making time and time again. The first boneheaded move was relieving assistant coach Mister Perry Pearn of his duties. I should also mention that Mister Gauthier did this 90 MINUTES before a game. Why would Mister Gauthier fire one of his assistant coaches 90 minutes before his team took the ice? Well, the Habs had lost six in a row, so instead of doing the logical thing and firing the head coach or making a trade, you know, NOT 90 minutes before a game, he asked Mister Pearn to step down and accept another position. Who gets rid of an innocent assistant coach thinking it is the move that’s going to turn a team around?
The baffling banquet of bullsh*t continued in January when Mister Gauthier fired coach Mister Jacques Martin and replaced him with assistant coach Mister Randy Cunneyworth, even though the team had gone 3-1-3 in the six games immediately preceding the move. Under Mister Cunneyworth, the team lost five in a row.
With the Habs 3-7-0 in Mister Cunneyworth’s first ten games, it was obvious the rookie coach needed some help, so in stepped Mister Gauthier to help a brother out. Well, it would be considered help if the Habs were playing in the Bizarro World version of the NHL. Mister Mike Cammalleri had made some unflattering remarks about the current state of the team, so it was obvious he needed to be shipped out of town. Fair enough. On January 12, 2012, Mister Gauthier traded Mister Cammalleri, Mister Karri Ramo, and a 5th-round pick to Calgary for unproductive Mister Rene Bourque, Mister Patrick Holland, and a 2nd-round pick. Already that seems like a bad deal considering in 2016 Mister Bourque has all but fallen off the hockey map, while Mister Cammalleri continues to fall in the 25-30 goal range year after year. The worst part of the deal is that Mister Gauthier had the brilliant idea of trading his most talented forward IN THE MIDDLE OF A GAME, leaving the Habs one player short for the entire third period against Boston, a team they absolutely needed to beat in order to stay in the playoff race. Timing definitely was not one of Mister Gauthier’s strong suits.
Here is Mister Gauthier looking how I imagined he would have looked after the Mister Cammalleri trade. “Damn, Pete, you done good! People are gonna remember you as one of the greats!”
“Wait just a cotton pickin’ minute here… Mister Rene Bourque is related to Mister Ray Bourque, isn’t he?”
“Oh dear… I’m gonna hear about this tomorrow.”
Câlisse de tabarnak, Mister Gauthier drove me up the wall! The Habs were 16-19-7 before the Bourque-Cammalleri fiasco, and considering they lost the Boston game by just one goal that night, Mister Cammalleri could have made a difference. The season just continued to go downhill from there.
Poor Mister Cunneyworth couldn’t do anything to right the ship since his hands had been shackled from the moment he was promoted to coach. The problem with Mister Cunneyworth was that he couldn’t speak French, which is a necessity in the one NHL city where English is not the predominant language. Couldn’t Mister Gauthier see that this would be a problem? Everyone else certainly did, from nationalist groups in Quebec, to media members, to even ANGLOPHONE fans! Everyone knew Mister Cunneyworth was going to be the Habs’ interim coach, but everyone also knows that once an assistant coach takes over the head coaching duties, there is a good chance the “interim” tag will be removed at the end of the season. Mister Cunneyworth had NO chance of staying on as Habs’ coach, that is unless the team won the Stanley Cup, AND he learned to speak French well enough to converse with the media, all in about three months. So what do you think happened? Everyone just tuned Mister Cunneyworth out because they knew there would be no repercussions if they spoke out against him, since everyone knew he was just keeping the coaching chair warm for someone else. I imagine a lot of conversations like this:
Mister Cunneyworth: “You skipped curfew, rookie.”
Player: “F*ck you, coach!”
Mister Cunneyworth: “Ok, then… glad we were able to sort that out.”
You know what… Going back over the events of 2011-12, I have to take a minute to let vent the anger of my French Canadian heritage in the only way I know how…
ESTIE D’CÂLISSE DE TABARNAK!! MAUDIT GAUTHIER NOUS A FOURRÉ DANS L’CUL!! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!! COMMENT Y A-T-IL PU TELLEMENT FOKÉ NOTRE ÉQUIPE? SAPRISTIE D’CIBOIRE!!
Ok, that felt better.
Moving on… Mister Cunneyworth was a good guy, and as far as I know the players liked him. His only “crime” was not being able to speak French, but it’s not like the guy resisted learning and he never had a hate on for the province of Quebec. If only his general manager had stuck his neck out for him, and told everyone to give the guy a chance to prove himself, but no, Mister Gauthier just stood firm in his decision to make Cunneyworth the Habs’ “interim” head coach, and he kept saying the situation would be re-evaluated at the end of the season. Translation: I’ve already been looking for the team’s next head coach for weeks.
Luckily for Habs fans everywhere, Mister Gauthier was relieved of his duties just before his second full season ended. I will give Mister Gauthier some credit however. Under Mister Gauthier’s watch, the Canadiens did in fact draft little Mister Brenden Gallagher, who is a pretty darn good, scrappy player, and Mister Nathan Beaulieu is shaping up to be a decent NHL defenseman. There are a few other draft picks like Mister Charles Hudon, Mister Zach Fucale, and Mister Jacob de la Rose who have shown promise, but the jury’s still out on them. In my book, Mister Pierre Gauthier made more mind-numbingly stupid moves and downright pointless transactions than any general manager in Habs’ history, and he had but two years to, ahem, “accomplish” this. So I stand by my decision to induct Mister Gauthier into the Hockey Hall of Shame because I feel that as a result of his seemingly endless string of idiotic decisions, most of whom I assume he thought were good ideas at the time, forced so many Canadiens fans to hang their heads in shame.