The Montreal Canadiens announced Monday that Bob Gainey has stepped down as general manager of the hockey club and that the team has promoted Pierre Gauthier as Executive Vice President and general manager. Gainey will stay with the front office in an advisory role.
"I've done my best and now it's time for me to pass the torch," Gainey said on Monday. "I believe that the general manager position requires a long-term vision and a long-term commitment. At this point, I'm not prepared to make a commitment of four or five or six more years in this position.
"If I had to choose between leaving a little earlier, or a little later, I'd prefer (to go) earlier."
The Canadiens are 28-26-6 this season and are sixth in the Eastern Conference standings.
Gainey, 56, was hired in 2003 as the 15th general manager in franchise history and the Canadiens made the playoffs in four of the five full seasons he led the front office. Under his guidance, the club tallied a 241-176-46-7 record and .569 winning percentage.
Their best season during that period came in 2007-08, when the team finished atop the Eastern Conference standings and made it to the second-round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"I would say one of the happiest, nicest things has been to see the new generation of Montreal Canadiens fans," said Gainey. "The youth and the enthusiasm and the passion, the joy in the building when we play, by people who are hoping for the same experience their parents had or their grandparents had. That was a bridge that I think I was lucky enough to approach six years ago and participate with a bigger organization...for me, that's a very special thing."
Once described by Russian hockey legend Viktor Tikhonov as the world's most complete hockey player, Gainey played his entire NHL career with the Canadiens from from 1973 to 1989 and was the team captain for his last eight seasons. As a player, he won five Stanley Cups and won the Selke Trophy as best defensive forward in four consecutive seasons. He was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP in 1979.
Following his playing career, Gainey coached the Epinal hockey team in France and later joined the Minnesota North Stars as head coach. He led the North Stars to the Stanley Cup final in 1991 and was coach and general manager from 1992 to 1996.
From 1996 to 2002, Gainey led his team - which re-located to Dallas - to a Stanley Cup in 1999. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Canadiens officially retired his No. 23 jersey in 2008.
"I'm leaving the team I love the most in the hands of the man I trust the most," said Gainey. "I look forward to assisting Pierre and the team in our pursuit of our 25th Stanley Cup."
Gauthier, 56, joined the Canadiens as director of pro scouting in 2003 and was named assistant general manager in 2006.
A native of Montreal, Gauthier has served as general manager of the Ottawa Senators and Anaheim Mighty Ducks. He also worked with current Canadiens head coach Jacques Martin during their days with the Senators and Quebec Nordiques.
"I like this team and I like the coaching staff," said Gauthier. "I've worked with Jacques (Martin) before, I'm very comfortable with this group. As soon as I leave this room today, I'm going to roll up my sleeves and get the job done."
Gauthier addressed some key questions regarding the current team, including the status of soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Tomas Plekanec and Jaroslav Halak and Carey Price. The new general manager said that he's already had some dialogue with Plekanec's agent Rick Curran and also discussed trade speculation surrounding his goaltenders.
"We believe we can go far with these two young men," said Gauthier. "You can never say never, but that's a strong position and we would like to keep it strong."
Gauthier worked with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim during six seasons, serving as the team's assistant general manager from 1993 to 1995. Following three seasons as general manager of the Senators from 1995 to 1998, he returned to Anaheim as President and general manager from 1998 to 2002.
Gauthier originally came to the Anaheim organization from the Quebec Nordiques, where he spent 12 seasons from 1981 to 1993, serving in all areas of scouting.
Gauthier also worked with Gainey and Bobby Clarke as one of three NHL general managers for the Canadian National Team at the 1998 Olympic Games in Nagano. He was also Team Canada's general manager for the gold-medal winning team at the 1997 World Championship in Finland, as well as the silver-medal winning team at the 1996 World Championship in Austria.
"That's the objective - to get to the top tier of the league and to do that consistently," said Gauthier.