So Pierre Gauthier becomes the first general manager dismissed this season. The last one to lose his job was Don Waddell in Atlanta, who was never really part of the True North plans in Winnipeg.

I have been rather critical all season long of Gauthier’s work with the Montreal Canadiens. I didn’t like the way he handled Perry Pearn or Jacques Martin, nor did I like the Jaroslav Spacek-Tomas Kaberle deal, the Michael Cammalleri-Rene Bourque deal, or the length of the Erik Cole contract (although his career-high 31 goals are impressive) and the signing of an injured Andre Markov for three seasons.

Like former Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson, Gauthier never appeared to enjoy himself. His aloof style and his formal presentation were never endearing to the media or fans. Not one person even considered giving him the benefit of the doubt, because you felt he gave little respect for anyone outside of his inner circle. I can only hope that Pierre can learn from this fall, and be a better communicator and even a better manager in the future.

But make no mistake, Gauthier is not alone in the demise of this great franchise. Geoff Molson, who heads the consortium that purchased the team less than two years ago, has to take some of the blame for the state of the team.

I am sure Molson’s heart is in the right place, and his desire to have his family name reconnected with the greatest hockey franchise in the world was an honourable endeavour. However, running a professional sports team is a difficult and complicated task. It takes the institutional knowledge of professional hockey combined with the savvy of marketing, public relations and big business with the ability to mesh the two sides of the team together to make it successful.

It is not something that can happen quickly. It takes patience, persistence and humility and it is not something that can be learned in such a short period of time.

Managers manage, presidents preside and owners own. It’s that simple.


Speaking of managers, a few statistics about the “Mandarins” of the game from my pal Jason Farris, the author of Behind the Moves: NHL GMs Tell How Winners are Built:

– The 2011-12 season has so far seen coaching changes in St. Louis, Carolina, Washington, Anaheim, Montreal, Los Angeles, and Toronto (23 per cent of teams).

– Yet, with less than two weeks to go in the regular season, just one GM has been fired this season.

– It has been 16 seasons (1994-95) since an NHL GM wasn’t fired mid-season.

– A mid-season NHL GM change has occurred in 37 of the 46 seasons (82 per cent) since 1967 expansion (excluding the 2004-05 lockout).

– The eight seasons when a GM wasn’t changed are 1967-68, 1968-69, 1979-80, 1984-85, 1985-86, 1990-91, 1991-92, and 1994-95.

Farris’ book is by far the best look at the private world of the managers and is available at www.nhlgms.com.


As March ends, there has been plenty of discussion about the three-point game. I, for one, love it. It keeps hockey interest in many more cities for a great deal longer of the 1,230 games of the regular season.

And while the critics say it gives a false impression for a few teams struggling to make the playoffs, that can’t be offset by the interest in almost every game of every night this month. It has been spectacular.

What I’m not fan of is the seeding of the three division winners in the Top 3 positions of each conference. This season will see the winners of the Southeast and Pacific Divisions receive the No. 3 seed and home-ice advantage in the first round and maybe more, despite possibly having less points than the teams in the fourth, fifth and even sixth position.

It will also force two of the better teams in both divisions out of the first round, when they are faced to play better teams than those weaker division leaders. As of this writing, Florida and Dallas are division leaders and Pittsburgh is forced to play Philadelphia while Detroit takes on Nashville. Doesn’t seem right.

By the way, I’m all for the division winners to get a guaranteed playoff spot, but they should be seeded by points. In that case, Florida would be seeded sixth and face Philadelphia in the first round, while Dallas would also be seeded sixth and face Detroit in the first round.

If the playoffs started today, the match-ups would be:

Eastern Conference

New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals

Boston Bruins vs. Ottawa Senators

Florida Panthers vs. New Jersey Devils

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Western Conference

St. Louis Blues vs. San Jose Sharks

Vancouver Canucks vs. Los Angeles Kings

Dallas Stars vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Detroit Red Wings vs. Nashville Predators

In the John Shannon system:

Eastern Conference

New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Ottawa Senators

Philadelphia Flyers vs. Florida Panthers

Boston Bruins vs. New Jersey Devils

Western Conference

St. Louis Blues vs. San Jose Sharks

Vancouver Canucks vs. Los Angeles Kings

Detroit Red Wings vs. Dallas Stars

Nashville Predators vs. Chicago Blackhawks

And for those of you who will say that realignment will change everything, we are still at least a season away from correcting this problem, if it can in fact be fixed through the Collective Bargaining process.

Just a thought.