Category Archives: Bob Gainey

Gun Shy About Size

Take your mind back, back to the summer of 2009, when Bob Gainey ruined our team?

June and July of that year were when Montreal traded for Scott Gomez and brought in UFA’s Brian Gionta and Mike Cammalleri. I was excited at the time, mainly because the Canadiens needed fresh blood, and I’ve been an optimistic bugger for pretty well every move the Habs have ever made, beginning when I was a kid. I’m always so hopeful, and maybe because I’m a Libra, I come up with all kinds of positives.

I thought fire-wagon hockey was back. I figured it would be a lightning-fast team of new Henri Richards and Ralph Backstroms, swirling around the ice and causing many a headache for lumbering forwards and defencemen of other teams. I was so hopeful

Did these three, who were immediately coined “The Smurfs,” improve the team a great deal? Hah! Montreal, in the blink of an eye, got smaller, became the laughing stock of the league, were mentioned everywhere by everyone as too small (I got so sick of that), and got pushed around in the playoffs like a grade one kid playing with grade fivers. We can only thank Jaroslav Halak for that beautiful run in the 2010 post-season against Washington and Pittsburgh.

We know how Gomez has turned out and I don’t want to get into it now. I’ve just eaten. Gionta and Cammalleri had their moments, Cammalleri shone at times, especially in those Caps and Pens games when he was a gunner-extraordinaire, and Gionta, although talented, is way too small at 5’7′ and his best days are behind him. Even more unfortunately, his best days were with New Jersey, not Montreal.

I hated that Montreal had gotten so small almost overnight. I cringed when I saw teams like Boston manhandle them. I knew that to win a Stanley Cup, it helps to be big and strong.

I say all this because I’m feeling bad. In the 1970s and 80s, I was one of Bob Gainey’s biggest fans. I loved his work ethic, his strong skating, his quiet and intelligent demeanor, his leadership, his penalty killing, his goals, his huge role in all those Montreal Stanley Cups. Never in a million years would I think I’d be joking about him, calling him down, and almost ridiculing him for what I think was basically destroying the team instead of improving it.

But I find myself doing these very things now. What was he thinking? Not just taking on the sinful Gomez contract, but making the team so small in almost one fell swoop. He played against tough Bruins squads, and the Broad St. Bullies. He knew muscle is usually needed to succeed. He learned under people like Scotty Bowman and Sam Pollock, who envisioned the proper mix of muscle and skill. But he turned the club into a laughing stock, Pierre Gauthier coming in turned the county fair into a circus, and Montreal every year remains the favourite team for predictors, along with the Leafs, to not make the playoffs.

Hopefully the black cloud is beginning to move away, everyone has woken up, and the team is now being gradually corrected under Marc Bergevin and the other new leadership boys. I know that whenever I hear that someone small, like Brendan Gallagher, is on the cusp of making the team, my heart sinks a little. Gainey has made me gun shy for the little guys, and I know I’m not right.

I admired Gainey so much as a player, and when he became management, I remember, when others were beginning to question him, my stock answer would be, “In Bob we trust.” And I did trust him. I trusted him as a player and from what I heard from him in interviews, and I saw no other reason not to when he took the reins. So I guess it comes down to two questions. What was he thinking? And what was I thinking?

The BIG Story Of 2012

There goes 2012. Maybe it’s a good thing.

The Habs were disturbingly mediocre in 2012, finishing 15/15 in the Eastern Division, one point behind 14th place Islanders and two behind the Leafs. I still feel nauseous.

Along the way, Hal Gill and Andrei Kostitysn were shipped to Nashville and I miss Hal. The other guy – not so much. Mike Cammalleri was given a one-way ticket to Calgary after saying publicly that his team was quite pitiful, and that was all well and good except for the fact that the Canadiens got Rene Bourque in return. We’re still not sure if Bourque is dead or alive or just really stoned on valium.

Habs’ brass Pierre Gauthier and Bob Gainey were dismissed after doing quite a lousy job for way too long, and interim coach Randy Cunneyworth and assistant Randy Ladouceur were let go when the season ended, with Michel Therrien announced later on as Cunneyworth’s replacement. It wouldn’t have mattered if Cunneyworth learned to speak French without a trace of an accent. He was on his way out and he and everyone else knew it. Finishing in the basement didn’t help matters either.

Alex Galchenyuk was chosen third overall by the Habs in the 2012 entry draft, thus allowing us to dream that the young fellow will blossom into a Guy Lafleur-type superstar. If we’re going to dream, we might as well dream big, don’t you think?

The Summer Olympics took place in London and I’m still regretting not training to be a gymnast for these games. Judging by the more than 150,000 condoms that organizers gave out to athletes, it seems like I missed an excellent party. And September of 2012 marked the 45th anniversary of the 1972 Summit Series, a series which catapulted Paul Henderson from normal, everyday NHL player to monumental icon, and a series which allows me tell everyone how I was a bartender in Sudbury at the time.

And of course 2012 saw the L.A. Kings win the Stanley Cup, once again the Vancouver Canucks collapsed when it counted, a lockout began, and the world didn’t end like it was supposed to.

But none of this can match the BIG story of the year. The story destined to become a movie, a story to tell grandkids and at parties and around the supper table for years to come.

February 9, 2012. The night, while playing against the New York Islanders, when Scott Gomez scored a goal.

It was a mighty feat, his first in more than a year, and it was the winner to boot in the Habs’ 4-2 decision over the Isles. The puck came out to him and although it seems impossible, he shot it right into the net. He did. It’s in the video below if you don’t believe me.

Yes, the biggest story of 2012. Can it get any better than that?

Oh, and Happy New Year. May great things happen to you over the next 12 months.

Gomer-Watch

I know you’re itching to find out how Scott Gomez is doing with the Alaska Aces of the ECHL. Going crazy wondering. You can’t eat. You can’t sleep. You’ve started to bite your fingernails again. You’re a wreck.

He and his team are doing this:

The Aces sit in first place in the Western Conference with 26 points, and play in places like San Francisco and Las Vegas, so it seems like a pretty good gig. They’re a healthy 13 wins and 5 losses, have played 18 games, but Mr. Gomez has only been there for four.

But in four games, our man has two goals and three assists, although his first goal was a puck that bounced in off his rear end. I don’t know how his second went in but I’ll bet it was a beauty.

Gomer also has four penalty minutes, eleven shots on goal, and is plus one. He wears number 23, which coincidentally is the number Bob Gainey wore back in the good old days. Maybe it’s Scott’s way of saying thank you to the guy who agreed to take over his massive contract and bring him to Montreal. Grrrrr.

The Aces next game is Wednesday in Stockton, California to meet the Thunder, and I’m thinking Gomer’s going to bust out and get two on this night. All he has to do is make sure his rear end sticks out when he’s in deep.

Our man is doing so well and enjoying himself so much, heck, he just might want to stay there!

 

 

Roy, Robinson, Gretzky, Messier – In Ottawa

On Friday, September 19, 1986, the Montreal Canadiens played an exhibition game against the Edmonton Oilers at the Ottawa Civic Centre.  I lived in Ottawa at the time but sometimes, as was the case here, real life gets in the way and I had to work and couldn’t go. Just like the time I had a couple of front row seats for Roy Orbison at the National Arts Centre and was out on a truck run, got back late, and missed that too.

But my buddy Frank and his son Robin went to this Habs-Oilers clash, and brought me back a program.

This was a charity event for the Canadian Cystric Fibrosis Foundation, and two beauty teams went at it that night. Montreal had won the Stanley Cup that previous spring, and boasted Patrick Roy in nets, along with guys like Bobby Smith, Larry Robinson, Guy Carbonneau, Bob Gainey, Chris Chelios, and Stephane Richer.

The Oilers were pretty well in a class by themselves. They had won the two previous Cups, in 1984 and 1985, and the two after, in 1987 and `88, with a lineup of Wayne Gretzky, Grant Fuhr, Paul Coffey, Glenn Anderson, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri etc.

Edmonton won the game that night 8-3, so maybe it was good that I missed it.

Gomez On The Verge?

I’m not ready to break into a dance quite yet as we await word that Scott Gomez is about to be bought out – Puck Daddy, or possibly buried in the minors, but the day is coming when I click my heels and dance a jig when we finally see the report that says Gomez will take some cash from the Molson vault and go away and not come back, or will be suiting up for the Wheeling Nailers next fall if he makes the team.

If it’s a buyout, as Puck Daddy says, does this mean the price of Molson beer is about to go up to pay for the sins of Gainey and Gomez?

Cap Geek explains it – Scott Gomez is 32 years old on the buyout date of June 15, 2012, setting the buyout ratio at 2/3 and the total buyout cost at $6,666,667 spread over 4 years. His contract was originally valued at $51,500,000 beginning in 2007 and ending in 2014, with $10,000,000 remaining from the buyout year forward.

When it becomes official, and it better, I’m going to say a quiet thank you, maybe a loud thank you, dance that jig, or least wave my arms around, and try to remove the image of Scott Gomez wearing a Montreal Canadiens sweater forever from my memory.

For me he was never a Hab in an emotional sense, he contributed almost nothing as he lined his pockets, and he smiled and laughed on camera, often when he shouldn’t. On some nights when the team wasn’t going well, I wanted to wipe that smile from his face with a brick through my television. Geez I’m glad I didn’t do that.

Yes, he and Andrei Kostitsyn had so much fun together, he once said. Maybe he taught Kostitsyn how to break curfew.

The moment can’t come soon enough. I’ve been waiting two years now to see this guy ride off into the sunset, and especially this year after he promised us he’d be playing so much better after being embarrassed with his pitiful 7 goal effort from the year before.

And what an empty promise it became. Two stinking goals. A lot of laughs on the bench. A couple of waves of his stick at opposing players. The odd night when he bodychecked a sheet of glass. Going a full year without scoring. When I saw him play in Vancouver, he blew a kiss to somebody near me as he skated by. Not the most focused thing I’ve ever seen.

Nine goals in two years for an offensive forward making all that cash, the highest on a team that struggled and needed him to chip in and show some moxie, which of course he didn’t. It was all just so wretched. He became the poster boy for overpaid underachievers, and he became a sad and unfunny joke on a team that needed points in the worst way. He was too ineffective, not tough in any way, and he became, deservedly so, amazingly unpopular with several million Habs fans. Although I suppose his family still likes him.

He also admitted he needs to work on his shot. A $7 million guy with a lousy shot.

For me, whoever dons the CH becomes an automatic hero. Everyone except Gomez.

Is he gone yet?

 

 

 

Finally….A New GM

The Canadiens took their time, talked to more than a few, including the high-profile Patrick Roy and Pierre McGuire, and finally made their choice. Marc Bergevin, a Montrealer, just 46 years old, former assistant general manager in Chicago, and a guy who most certainly watched the turmoil unfold in Montreal and decided that he can do the job and do it well.

Bergevin was a player, as many NHL executives once were, and he wasn’t exactly a game-breaker. Thirty-six goals in 1191 games won’t see him in the Hall of Fame anytime soon, but who knows, maybe he’ll be inducted another way – as general manager of the Montreal Canadiens, as the man who led the team out of the depths of hell, back to where they belong, as an elite winner, a team that pushes for a Cup every year, a team that racks up number 25 and 26 and then beyond.

That’s Bergevin’s mandate and he’s fully aware of it. Bring the team back to the winner’s circle. Shape them into a force to be reckoned with. Get them out of the humiliating basement and onwards and upwards. See how Pierre Gauthier and Bob Gainey did it and do the opposite.

The new guy has to get Carey Price and PK Subban signed, and if he needs money, I’ll work overtime and send him what I can. These two need to be on the dotted line. As far as Scott Gomez is concerned, I’m sure general managers around the league have tossed ideas around during the regular season while sitting in the hotel rooms watching Sports Centre and the name Gomez came up on the screen. Bergevin probably has it already figured out and has for some time now.

He needs to select the best possible youngster with the 3rd pick in the June draft, and it’s in his hands to do the absolute right thing here, for the team and for the fans. There can be no mistake made in choosing. He needs to make sure the kid knows what it means to put the sweater on, to wear the CH, and to have some sort of idea of the history of the franchise. There can be no player picked who floats for four games, plays for one. No player who longs the old country when his ice time decreases. No player who wishes he played in a city where nobody knows him.

A high and mighty draft pick, one who will become a star in Montreal, has to be the end result of the crapshoot. But maybe, like the Gomez situation, Bergevin also has this figured out too.

And of course we need a coach. Now a whole new set of names will be flying around.

I’m excited about our new guy. The pin was pulled on Pierre Gauthier, and now we go to Act 2 with new blood in place. It’s the second big step on the road to recovery.

I can’t wait to see how he handles the job. And until he does something nutty, which hopefully will never occur, I’m as optimistic as anyone on the Habs planet. We’ve hit rock bottom and we’re working our way back out, beginning now.

The Plot Thickens

Bob Gainey has been canned, and Serge Savard is in as an adviser in the search for a new GM. Serge, my number is 604-555-4587.

We couldn’t have Bob anymore. Not with the lingering stench of the Scott Gomez deal continuing to assault our nostrils and destroy our brain cells. What was he thinking when he did that deal with Glen Sather?

Good old Serge Savard. I met Serge once, in the parking lot across the street from the Montreal Forum, after a game in the late seventies. We were going to our car and he was going to his. “Where ya headed now, Serge?” I asked. “Philly” he answered. And that was that.

I feel like we became almost brothers after that encounter.

 

Orillia’s Ray

Every so often I get these guilt feelings for spending money on trips and other things, because I feel I should be socking it away for retirement. Plan ahead, they say, and I’m not always very good at it. I want to live now, before arthritis comes back, or something worse says hello. It’s a big reason why we’re driving, once again, to California and Vegas soon, and why I’ve gotten carried away a couple of times at Classic Collectibles Auctions.

It’s also why we’re spending big bucks, and we don’t have many, to see the Habs in Vancouver next Saturday. “Do it while we can, within reason” is the motto.

But because of these guilt feelings, I sometimes need inspiration from others to remind me that it”s not a bad thing to think this way.

I’ve never really known Ray Ryan. He’s a couple of years younger than me, but I would see him playing goal in peewee or bantam, usually before our game began. He was a good goalie too, and at one point was offered a tryout with the Niagara Falls Flyers. His Orillia Junior B team went to to the All-Ontario where they met a Peterborough team in the semi-finals with future NHLers Jimmy Jones and Habs’ Bob Gainey in the lineup, and although Orillia would lose in the 7th game against this powerful team, it’s a magnificent accomplishment to say the least.

From all accounts, Ray is an excellent fellow, a really good guy. Like I say, I only remember him from years ago, this chubby kid stopping pucks in winter and hitting baseballs in summer, but I know he has always been an Orillian, a hard worker, and a mover and shaker in the community. Just a fine upstanding citizen.

Now Ray’s just been told he has pancreatic cancer and has three months to live.

And if you’re thinking you can’t afford that cruise or trip to the West Coast because you’re saving for old age, this is what Ray told the Orillia Packet and Times. “People should do what they want – not put it off. We almost didn’t go (to Panama last November), we almost decided to wait until April. I’m so glad we didn’t.”

There was one other thing Ray told the Packet. “I’ve played a lot of sports in my life and I’ve always loved that I had a chance to win. I decided not to take chemo or any other treatment because there’s no chance to win. The best you could hope for is losing in overtime… That’s not for me.”

I want to say good luck to you, Ray. I’ve seen people beat cancer before, and you can too.

Oops, Missed Again!

Geoff Molson, Pierre Gauthier, and Bob Gainey were in the building for the Canadiens 4-2 loss to the Florida Panthers, and what a coincidence to see the big shots gather in Florida. Nice weather, palm trees. Pretty sure you don’t see these three all that often in Winnipeg or Columbus or Minneapolis where there’s a definite shortage of bikinis this time of year.

And it’s great that they saw another feeble effort from the Habs up close and personal. I hope Gauthier is nervous. I’m sure he’s wondering if he’s about to become unemployed. How many millions does he get in his buyout package?

I thought Montreal showed spunk in the first period as they took the lead 2-0. David Desharnais opened the scoring, they managed a 5 on 3 power play goal (Subban), and Ryan White took on Erik Gudbranson in a lively fight at the end of the period. As we’ve seen in the past. White will go up against bigger guys, and although he doesn’t always fair well in these encounters, at least he shows heart and is a battler through and through. He’s exactly what several on the team aren’t, and we appreciate his giving his all.  (Gudbranson is 6’3, White 6′).

That was only the first period, after looking fairly good for awhile, but we knew they’d blow it. That’s what they do. If they didn’t I would’ve been almost disappointed.

Peter Budaj was in nets, and although it wasn’t an outstanding performance by the guy, who can blame him for screened shots and the fact that it must be incredibly difficult to come in cold again after only playing a handful of game all season. How can a backup get in a zone when he’s always on the bench? I don’t blame Budaj. He’s only played in eight games.

Surely something has to happen now, with the Three Wise Men in attendance and the boys falling flat on their faces. Something better happen. How much longer are these geniuses going to put us through this ridiculous ringer? They’re there now, they’re chatting probably as we speak, and let’s just hope a surfer doesn’t slip a love drug in their pina coladas.

Random Notes:

Nest game is Tuesday when the team makes the trek over to the other side of the state of Florida to visit the Tampa Bay Lightning. This gives Geoff Molson the better part of two days to listen to Gauthier and Gainey suck up to him.

Shots on goal – Florida 32, Habs 20

Habs mentioned lately as changing teams soon include Travis Moen, Andrei Kostitsyn, and Tomas Plekanec. You have to ask yourself – is Ryan White enough to provide all toughness required? Having two who don’t mind the heavy going would be nice, and I’d like to see Moen stay. I’d like Plekanec to remain a Hab too. He’s had too many quiet moments this season, but he’s a great player and would probably come back to kill us on a regular basis. Kostitsyn can leave. I’m tired of seeing a few good moves out of this guy only every five games or so.

It’s just too bad Scott Gomez’s name isn’t coming up more often, but we know the situation. I say buy him out and be done with it.