Monday, January 2, 2012

Classless

Last week I wrote that Pierre Gauthier is a shithead. I said it because when he fired Jacques Martin two weeks ago, he blamed the coach for failing to prepare the team properly and for the players' lack of compete level in third periods. Those statements were ridiculous, as Martin certainly didn't suddenly change the game prep that had been perfectly acceptable to Gauthier until this year, nor did he tell the players to change the plan and start sucking in the third. If Gauthier had been honest, he would have admitted he fired Martin because the team is going to hell on a rail this year and shock treatment was required. The statements Gauthier made were insulting to Martin and basically classless.

The problem is, his entire reign as Habs GM has been marked by such low-class decisions. This year alone, he declined to make even a token offer to Kirk Muller which might have kept the popular coach around. Muller's departure may or may not be partly responsible for the dreadful state of the Canadiens this year, but the callous way he was let go without even a phone call was classless.

Then there was Perry Pearn's firing. Gauthier tried to pin the blame for the team's dreadful start on Pearn, while simultaneously firing a warning shot over Jacques Martin's bow. Martin found out about his closest colleague's dismissal an hour and a half before a game. The GM handled the situation awkwardly and, once again, with no class.

When Gauthier traded Jaroslav Spacek, he gave us another example of his disregard for people. He called Spacek in just as he was about to go onto the ice for practice and told him he'd been dealt. When Spacek asked where to, Gauthier said he couldn't tell him because the deal hadn't been approved by the league. So, a good man and dedicated player, sat there for an hour and a half knowing he'd be facing a huge life change, while the asshole responsible refused to tell him the details.

Now the latest example of outright classlessness is in the way Gauthier essentially fired Randy Cunneyworth in front of the media. In his latest state of the team address, he apologized for hiring a coach who didn't speak French and assured the media that the coach who will start the season next year will be bilingual. The statement was a completely unnecessary repeat of the comments made by Geoff Molson last week. Molson already threw Cunneyworth under the bus over the language issue, but Gauthier's comments basically tell the team this guy's not going to be around long, so whatever he's attempting to do is temporary. He has managed to destroy Cunneyworth's chances of making a real mark in his first NHL coaching position, and limit the respect he can expect to garner in the room. There was no reason for Gauthier to say those things, and his decision to do so was smug, disrespecful and disdainful of Cunneyworth. It's further evidence, if there hasn't been enough, that Gauthier has little of the class on which the Habs organization has traditionally built its reputation.

When the team president failed to return Larry Robinson's phone calls when Robinson expressed interest in a coaching position, we knew the days of the "Classy Canadiens" were numbered. Now they're gone, and whatever we might think of Gauthier's managerial decisions in themselves, the way he treats people is emblematic of what the organization has become.

21 comments:

moeman said...

Sadly I agree 100%.

Anonymous said...

You're a shit head

Anonymous said...

Boom. There you go. Short and to the point. Love it.

J.T. said...

@anon #1: Pierre? Is that you? Next time you want to name-call, have balls enough to tell us who you are.

the Baruch said...

This may be the only time I ever find a bone to pick with you, but I heard the entire 23 minutes of the interview posted at HIO and I didn't hear what you did. I heard PG dodging around the sticky language issue like the snake-oil slick politico he is, but he didn't out and out say that the coach next year will be bilingual. I can't remember his words exactly, but first he said something like "bilingualism is important" and then later made some cops to French-speaking fan base... But, depending how far Cunny can expand on 'je suis très content' he might still qualify under the conditions espoused yesterday. OTOH I was very dismayed with PG's appraisal of the team's performance, he spoke almost exclusively in numbers, treating the team like a salarial mass in comparing it to other teams, then having to backtrack acknowledging other teams with lower caps are doing better. in other words, he doesn't have a clue and ain't about to get one. He should do more of that apologizing to the fans for putting out a poor product though, I'll take some more of that, say after every loss.

Harry said...

It's easy to comment from the shadows- I tried to tell you JT that posting anonymous was a mistake but you are too kind and too fair.
I think the words classless and smug have said it all ......
Robinson and Muller=two quality men disrespected by management,things like that always have a way of coming back to bite you.
It may get old, but thanks for keeping the blog .

Anonymous said...

Not to mention not even bothering to thank the Wiz for his services last year...You're right on the money JT. Wondering about Molson's class too.

Cape Breton Mojo

Anonymous said...

Yes, but he prefaces everyone's name with Mr., so he must be respectful. Just kidding. The guy is a detached, respectless disposable feminine hygiene product.

Bad decisions backed up gutless communiques is a poor way for THIS organization to comport itself.

DanielleJam said...

In terms of what you say, there are some things I agree with and some things I don't. I think my number one disagreement is that unless you are a fly on the wall or have been privy to see any game prep change yourself, you are in no position to say if this is true or not.

As far as not returning phone calls saying thank you and goodbye to certain players or potential coaches, this is plain ridiculous and makes part of all the pettiness that this soap opera has become.

Let's play hockey and not lower ourselves to the schoolgirl bickering in the courtyard.

Dusty said...

Yes, but he speaks french quite well.

The Habs began down the highway of classlessness a long time ago. Harvey is the first instance that I can remeber for his union organizing which I guess was understandable at the time. Grundman really got the ball rolling with Lemaire and the list goes on. The notion that the Habs exemplify class in the NHL is laughable. Gauthier is just another in a long line. Even Gainey treated his so called friend like a piece of trash, firing him without a word of explanation.

Anonymous said...

I guess your chill pill has worn off.

Yes the Habs are having a terrible year and Gauthier deserves to have his feet held to the fire, but calling him a shithead and classless just lowers the standards of this blog.

DB

dusty said...

I think it actually raises the standards of this blog. I think it is an accurate assessment of the Habs GM and ownership.

DanielleJam said...

When you wanted Jacques canned, Jacques got canned. The team still sucks along with it's new coach. Next in line is the GM and the owner? Regardless, at the end of the day, it's the millionaire players who lace up and hit the ice.

We have a shitty team, let's admit it.

V said...

Love your writing JT and my hat is off to you for writing this blog. It really is. One of the best for years.

But finding it harder and harder to come here. IMO it's just gotten so unbalanced and baseless. Mean almost.

Look, I know, 'if I don't like it I can bugger off'. Just thought I would let you know my perspective and will keep checking in for the breath of fresh air (and class) this blog used to provide.

J.T. said...

@V: Well, I'm not one to tell you to bugger off if you don't like it. That's for you to decide. Baseless, unbalanced and mean I may be, but I've always written what I felt about the Habs. Right now, what I feel is deeply, deeply disappointed and disillusioned. I do try to see the small positives, but generally, this is not a team I'm proud of at the moment. I can take a loss, but I find it difficult to deal with the outright disgrace the Canadiens have become this year. This is not a fun part of the ride you've taken with me, I know. Still, it's part of it nonetheless, and it's a part we have to pass through before things get better. I have hope there will be better days ahead. In the meantime, this is my place and my emotional outlet. I don't claim to practice journalism here. You're very welcome to read and comment as you always have, if you choose to continue.

@DanielleJam: As I said before, I didn't necessarily think Martin was a bad coach, just not the right one for this bunch. That said, I don't think Cunneyworth is either. He's inexperienced and completely undermined by management. You take a chance with the dismissal of a coach. Someimtes it kickstarts the team. Sometimes it bombs. This time it bombed. That said, I really don't think the team is as shitty as it appears on the ice right now. Injuries have hurt, sure, but there's something wrong with the confidence as well. You know you can take a guy like Pacioretty, for example, and he'll get incredibly hot, hit everything in sight and score a ton. Then, something will happen, like his suspension, and he starts thinking and tweaking his game and suddenly the points aren't coming and his confidence plummets. I think the whole team is experiencing a version of that right now. I don't know what it'll take to get them believing again, but I really think confidence is the major missing ingredient this year.

Anonymous said...

The long line of habs fans in my family is running to an end. Sadly it's not even the play on the ice!! The whole language thing is pathetic... the best coach is the best coach regardless of language.... Randy Cunyworth never had a chance... I hope he gets a job elsewhere and wins a cup!!

Raj said...

JT:

I respect this is your blog and an emotional outlet. You're perfectly entitled to express your views -- which you usually do with vigor, and humor. That your writing is incisive helps enormously. I find you plenty balanced. When you are provocative, it is never merely for the sake of being so. We have plenty of mainstream media types who write to get website hits and are gratuitously provocative -- you are not so. I come here to escape from them.

I agree that the Habs brass have not behaved in recent time as one thinks their well-known ambassador, Jean Beliveau, would have. I was inclined to give "Mr." Gauthier the benefit of the doubt before but when stories keep mounting like the one about no contact with agents (the Wiz. for example), the incident with Spacek (a loyal soldier, if there was one), not to mention his Kremlin press secretary-like demeanor with the media, I no longer am willing to cut him any slack. I agree "Classless" is the best word to describe it.

But this presumes the Habs have been a classy franchise. They might have been years ago but aren't any more. They ceded the title of the league's classiest franchise long ago to the Detroit Red Wings. Since as far back as 1980, I have looked askance at what my franchise did:

a) Bowman getting shunted aside in favor of Irving Grundman, who knew zilch about hockey but could keep the Forum filled with rock concerts
b) Lemaire feuding with Lafleur, causing the latter to retire
c) St. Patrick demanding a trade because of how he was treated by Houle and Tremblay
d) Gainey treating Saku Koivu (who bled not just figuratively, but literally, for the team and for the community) so poorly. (I can't believe that in his place we have Gomez).

So, it's not as if "Mr." Gauthier is breaking a whole lot with precedent.

I can't believe the Habs would ever keep a player's name and gear in his locker as long after he was injured as the Wings did with Konstantinov. Not these Habs, for whom Wisniewski, Spacek, Hamrlik and Halpern seem to be "assets" that can be moved around, signed or cut as needed.

Is that why Montreal has trouble attracting free agents? That would be an interesting story, wouldn't it? Perhaps it's not the rabid fans, the taxes or the French environment. Perhaps it's the management's poor people skills. When Mike Illitch bought the Red Wings, I never dreamed that a crass pizza tycoon (as he was portrayed to us by the media back then) could have transformed the Wings into a model franchise the rest of the NHL would try to emulate. That used to be my Canadiens. Alas, 'tis no longer so.

Anonymous said...

Great blog JT. But I think it's important to keep perspective here. I don't think it's fair to render final judgement of Cunneyworth....after 6 or 7 games. It's not fair to him. I have noticed the Habs play with more aggression lately. But like you said, I think confidence (and being a little out of shape) have hurt this team as much as injuries , etc. Finally, for Gauthier, I too had a very different read from the press conference. He sounded cagey, like he was trying to keep as many options open as possible. And the truth is, he has done some good things for this team: in the 2 full years he has been the GM, the Habs made the playoffs twice, and went farther than they had since 1993. He has drafted very well. He has brought over players like Cole, Emelin, Diaz. He picked the right goalie. He signed home grown leaders like Gorges and Pleks to long term, and reasonable contracts. Has he made mistakes? Yes he has. But is he awful. No, that would be Rejean Houle. This season isn't over and I don't think it's right or fair to pontificate about how awful management has been just quite yet. As for Gauthier being 'classless', well, unless you have certifiable proof and have witnessed or have sources who are inside the conference rooms and offices of de la Gauchetiere, it's hard for me to agree or disagree with any personal criticisms of this man. Let's remember: none of us would do any better.

Patrick

dusty said...

Darryl Sutter remarked that in L.A. his first job is restore the players confidence in themselves before changing systems or whatever. So too Cunneyworth has to get the Habs believing in themselves again. How the hell is he supposed to do that when the owner and GM dis him in public? Little wonder the Canadiens are 1-6 since he took over.

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work JT!!!

Mark

G said...

(It was so much easier to respond by clicking anon but who wants to be confused with the Youtube type anonymous posters...sigh)

Naw, you shouldn't have called Gauthier a shithead. He doesn't call you that. He has made some good moves, and made some bad moves. One of his jobs is to make the team better. Right now they are not displaying that. Ultimately it depends on the guys on the ice.

If you think the team has the horses to compete then it isn't Gauthier's fault. If you don't think the team has the skills to compete then it is Gauthier's fault. He has been hampered by Gomez and injury holes. But so has every team. (Ok, so maybe not the Gomez part but the injury part:}

Me I think it is a leadership issue and that they are a perimeter team. They get away with that because no one calls them out on it: leadership. Last nite Eller potted 4 and an assist. Check the highlights to see where those goals were scored from and by who (in front by a large center). Red Fisher even bemoaned the weak goaltending. I beg to differ but it is like trying to stem the tide. The world thinks goalies win games. They do not. They lose games sometimes but most times they hold you in there until you decide it through sloppy play or willpower and drive.

Anyway, it is your blog and you can write what you like. We all pop by to read it because we like your ideas, views, and ability. Most of us also agree that the team and organization of long ago went out when they doublecrossed Bowman but the team makes money and is flipped more than a Toronto condo under renovations. If they wanted to win Cups it would be a different thing. Gauthier's angst only reflects that he is letting his Montreal owners down and that is what happened to the Expos. They decreased the value of the investment so it got moved for a better ROI.

These days NHL hockey is like the Academy Awards. The gate is what counts and if the award increases gate everyone is happy. Doesn't mean the movie was any good.