So Long, Bob. I Don’t Blame You

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It was easy to be a fan of Bob Gainey when he played because he seemed to do everything right, in a blue-collar kind of way. He wasn’t flashy like teammates Guy Lafleur or Yvan Cournoyer, but he was an all-important piece of the puzzle on the world’s greatest team in the latter part of the 1970’s.

So when Gainey was brought to Montreal to run the circus, to settle things down and get the job done in fine and patient fashion the way he had done as a player, I was pleased. Every move he made as a general manager I believed in, because I believed in this guy. I knew he wouldn’t do anything without long and serious thought, and so his decision was the right decision. I believed this.

But the team Gainey built after coming from Dallas is a mess. It was a mess last year and the year before. He tried players, they didn’t get it done, and so he tried some more. He fired coach Claude Julien and stepped in to do the job himself, he fired Guy Carbonneau and stepped in again. His coaching resume consisted of losing in round one every year, except when he took the Minnesota North Stars to the final in 1991. And as Habs GM, he never got better than making it to the second round of the playoffs in 2007-08.

As much as I’ve always believed in Gainey, there are questions. Taking on an $8 million dollar contract for Scott Gomez is one. Bringing in so many small players must be questioned. There’s no doubt the skill is there, but so many? Gionta, Cammalleri, Gomez? Every single hockey expert on the planet will tell you that a team of small guys will not go far in the NHL playoffs. It’s just too tough to win battles against the big strong behemoths who play in the league now.

Biggest of all is the goalie situation. PJ Stock brought up a great point last night on Hockey Night in Canada when he said the Canadiens dropped the ball with Carey Price. They should have had him living with a mature veteran and family, seeing how a guy who’s been around the league for a long time lives his life in the fishbowl. Sidney Crosby still lives at Mario Lemieux’s house. John Tavares lives with Doug Weight and family. Instead, like Stock said, they bring in a young guy from the west, give him a million bucks, tell him to take an apartment in downtown Montreal, and let him fend for himself in a classic party city. In Montreal, restaurants and clubs practically kill to have Habs players in their joints where booze flows and gorgeous women looking for rich, famous, handsome young studs, are everywhere. And Price soaked it all in.

Yes, Gainey and the organization did drop the ball with Price.

I was happy when Gainey overhauled the club this year. They needed to be blown up after bowing out in four dismal games to the Bruins in last year’s opening round of the playoffs. I’m just not happy witht the size factor. And whether or not Gainey made the right moves or not, he couldn’t control the abnormal amount of injuries the club has suffered through so far. It’s just plain bad luck for the organization when you replace most of the team in the off-season, and then the majority of the new players take their turns in hospital beds.

Can Pierre Gauthier, Gainey’s replacement, make a difference? Maybe if there are no more injuries, and maybe if he can convince Carey Price that the youngster is the future, but for now, Jaroslav Halak will play on most nights. If Gauthier can convince Price without ruining him, he’ll have done a big job.

The task at hand is simple for Gauthier. Tweak the team until you like what you see. Keep both goalies. Make the team a little bigger up front, (Dustin Penner?), decide whether you think Jacques Martin is the guy to run the bench, put the C on someone’s jersey.

For Bob Gainey, maybe he’ll bow out of hockey altogether and spend quality years with family and friends back in Peterborough. With the sadness he’s experienced, losing his wife and daughter, he needs to remove himself from a league that eats its young. He seems like the kind of guy who would enjoy sitting by a stream with a fishing rod, or diving into a good book.

All the best to Bob Gainey, a man I’ve always respected.


14 thoughts on “So Long, Bob. I Don’t Blame You”

  1. Thats it for me boys, i’m taking the rest of the year off.
    I cannot stand to watch this once proud franchise any longer.
    I guess Ole Bob should have laced up his skates.
    I can count on ONE hand the players who deserve and understand what
    it means to pull on that jersey. Good luck all……………

  2. Dennis, that was well said. Whether you agree or not with the decisions Bob Gainey has taken you have to admit, the guy is sincere and he has gone through a living hell both in his personal life and in the shark tank of the Montreal media. You really have to wonder if things would be completely different had Montreal remained injury-free and consequently in a more secure playoff spot. Gainey ends up being the goat in the end.
    This man has always worked hard and knows what it means to be proud of the CH on your chest. This on top of everything else he has endured must be really, really tough to take.
    I wish him all the best too. And I agree with you, the man deserves our respect.

  3. Bob was all class and loyalty to the Montreal Canadiens. But the timing is very strange to me, I find. Right before the trade deadline. Maybe the deadline may have nothing to do with his demotion, but you have to put that into consideration, especially that he’s been relatively inactive in the past years (Excluding this year’s makeover).

  4. Today I’m saddend by the news that Bob was stepping down. This is a person who gave his all to Les Canadien, he was called by the great coach of the strong Russian teams as the most complete & best player in the world in his prime! Many have questioned his lack of player movements but he moved when he felt the need for change, not media pressure.
    How many of us out there could have provided such a steady hand while enduring the loss of a loving wife, a daughter who was turning her life around & still put 100% into turning our team into a success? Yes mistakes were made but if any out there can say they are mistake free you are denighing the truth.
    I to this day feel that letting Guy go was forced onto him by George Gillette, you only have to watch the night his sweater was retired who did he call up to join him, come on up Carbo (his words ). Gillette wanted that 25th cup to coincide with are 100th. anniversary & I feel forced Bob into making Carbo the sacraficial lamb! Some may have been upset by his slow but steady attempt to improve our team, but quick moves without thought can come back to bite you. He never fell into that trap!
    Thanks Bob for all the years you gave it your all for the Les Canadien, may you find peace while you spend more time with your family, no one could have given more than you did for the Rouge et Bleu Blanc !!

  5. Danno, thanks. I just wish I’d be more careful with typos. I think it’s my eyes. Just reread it and for example, spelled “booze” “boose. I hate when this happens. Anyway, regardless of what’s happened with the team, my estimation of Bob Gainey isn’t any less. Except for a few things, like he and they could’ve handled the Price thing differently. But as a man, he’s first class.

  6. It is sad, Mike. Gainey brought class and wisdom to the team. I think he had the toughest job in all of pro sports and he did it with dignity. Hopefully, the boys will get the message and start playing for Gauthier.

  7. Hey Dennis;Great comments by Danno ,yourself and Mike.I like Bob Gainey,to me he was a very honest and sincere gm,much the same way he played the game.I know alot of people question his dealings,I thought he had a few migivings but all in all he did pretty well.I’m not going to dote on his personal life as an excuse for not making the Habs a winning team,I think he did the best that he could ,considering the pressuere that was there to succeed,most of it in their one hundredth year.Let’s give tis fellow a big round of applause that he deserves,you did the team well Bob,no shame on your part.

  8. We’re losing our ties to the glory years. Bob was a continuation of earlier great team players that became classy team executives.

    Reports say Gainey discussed with Boivin over Christmas about leaving at the end of the year. I wonder how long he’s really been contemplating leaving? Was he forced into firing Carbonneau to whom I expected him to pass the torch? Was the decision to hire Martin made more by Gauthier and their past history? Or was it just fatigue? We Hab fans can be quite tiring in our demands for success.

    Although it made perfect sense at the time, Gainey’s resignation even better explains why Laraque was let go last month.

    My bigger curiosity is why now rather than the end of the year? He and Gauthier should have been able to manage together for a few months. Did they had a disagreement on a trade? I wonder what it was, will be or would have been. Or did he step down to allow the team to get a head start on interviewing for the next permanent GM?

    Unfortunately for my curiosity, Gainey and the team have too much integrity to make any of these possible reasons known.

  9. It is strange, Chris, that he chose now rather than later. I sense somehow that the panic button has been pushed about making the playoffs, as that’s where the profit exists. Was it politics or just fatigue that made him leave? Maybe both. I think Gainey was respected at the Bell and he worked hard. Maybe he wasn’t cut out to be a gm in Montreal. Or maybe he was the perfect gm and all those who follow will find out for themselves just how hard it is in Montreal. I know I’d be tired after all that has gone on over the past five years or so. Regardless, let’s see what Gauthier does about the trade deadline and getting this team going. Who knows, maybe he’ll come out smelling like roses. But you’re absolutely right, Chris, we’re losing our ties to the glory years.

  10. Hey Dennis;Pressure is what it’s all about it Montreal,even more so in the past few years as the Stanley Cup hasn’t seen that city for 17 years.Bob Gainey was the man for the job,I would bet he dreamed of that ever since he retired,wasn’t he the last player to play his entire carreer in Montreal?I think he was.Bob was one of the ultimate Canadiens,he spoke well of his players ,unlike some g.m.’s.I think that there will always be some form of Bob Gainey in Montreal,whether it’s him in person or just in the hearts of fans.

  11. Really well put, Derry. Some fans over the last few years have been very hard on Gainey and it’s nice to hear nice things instead. I think he’s a fine man and a smart hockey guy. Just a few mistakes here and there, maybe with Price for example.

  12. Gainey was one of the reasons I began sticking up for the HABS again (after the dark years of GMs Andre Savard & Houle). He brought back ‘class’ to the team.

    Gainey’s a class act. He did his best. The media IMO were way too hard on him and evil in so many ways. He didn’t deserve that.

    I hate to be a downer, but I can’t see the future of this team getting any better.

  13. Thanks, Ir. Bob was class for sure. And I believed in him. He’s a thoughtful, intelligent guy, but through a variety of reasons, never achieved the success we thought he’d achieve. I don’t blame him for stepping down. He’s got enough money. Why not enjoy life for a change.

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