Pierre Gauthier's tenure as general manager of the Montreal Canadiens is over, as Canadiens owner and team president Geoff Molson announced on Thursday that the club has relieved him of his duties.
"We need to remember that our fans want us to win, period," Molson told reporters at the team's practice facility in Brossard. "Our organizational culture is to support and adopt this passion for victory. Nothing else matters."
The club also parted ways with former general manager Bob Gainey, who was working as Special Advisor to the General Manager. Former Canadiens player and general manager Serge Savard returns to the team in an advisory role and will assist with the search for a new GM.
Larry Carriere, who was Gauthier's assistant GM for the last two seasons, has stepped down as assistant coach to Randy Cunneyworth and will return to his front office role full time until a new general manager is named.
The Canadiens are last in the Eastern Conference with a 29-34-14 record and were eliminated from playoff contention on Saturday. "It goes without saying that we're all very disappointed in our performance this season," said Molson.
"Everyone in this organization, including our players, expected better. Our fans care deeply about our team and want nothing more than a winning team, one that follows in the tradition of our storied past. This season did not deliver on those expectations. Our fans can trust that ownership will accept nothing less than a winning culture in this organization."
Gauthier was promoted to the role of executive vice president and GM in February 2010 after Gainey stepped down.
In his first full season as GM, Gauthier's Canadiens finished sixth in the East and made the playoffs but were eliminated in seven games by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in the first round.
The team took a step back this year, stumbling out of the gate and losing their first three games on home ice for the first time since 1938.
Montreal continued to struggle through the early portion of the season and head coach Jacques Martin was eventually fired in mid-December.
Cunneyworth was appointed as interim head coach by Gauthier in a move that caused a stir in the Montreal media due to Cunneyworth's inability to speak French. The coaching change also failed to spark the team on the ice as the Canadiens continued to struggle under Cunneyworth.
Gauthier originally joined the Canadiens organization as Director of Professional Scouting in 2003.
"The process starts today," Molson told TSN after the news conference. "We're an open book today. I'm assuming a lot of people would be calling. I'm also assuming we're reaching out to people in the right way and Serge Savard will be with me throughout the process."
When Savard was contacted by the media, he made it clear that in his mind, the next general manager of the club would have to speak french.
"That's easy to understand when 80 per cent of your fan base is French and you have to be able to communicate with them," he said. "It doesn't have to be a French person, but it has to be someone who can communicate in French."
Savard said playing experience in the National Hockey League would be a plus and so perhaps was being a former Canadiens' player. However, he also stated that finding a candidate with good judgment was to the top priority.
"I'm one who started in the NHL with no experience and I believe I did fairly well," said Savard, who won Stanley Cups in 1986 and 1993 and reached a final in 1989 as a GM. "Bobby Clarke is another."