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Last-Place Montreal Canadiens Fire General Manager Gauthier

Former Montreal Canadiens Manager Pierre Gauthier
Then Montreal Canadiens General Manager Pierre Gauthier. Photographer: Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

Pierre Gauthier was fired as general manager of the Montreal Canadiens with five games remaining in the National Hockey League season and the club in last place.

Gauthier, 58, has been relieved of his duties effective immediately and the search for a successor is under way, Canadiens owner Geoff Molson said today in a televised press conference from the team’s practice facility in Brossard, Quebec. The team is 29-34-14, worst in the Eastern Conference, and is on pace to have more losses than wins for the first time in eight years.

“It goes without saying we’re all very disappointed with our performance this season,” Molson said. “Everyone in this organization, including our players, expected better.”

Bob Gainey, who played for the Canadiens and was an adviser under Gauthier, was also fired, Molson said. Serge Savard, another former Montreal player and the team’s general manager from 1983 to 1995, was hired to assist Molson with the search for Gauthier’s replacement.

Gauthier worked in the Ottawa Senators and Anaheim Ducks organizations before coming to Montreal in 2003, and became general manager in February 2010. In his first full season as GM, the Canadiens finished sixth in the Eastern Conference and lost in the first round of the playoffs to the eventual Stanley Cup-champion Boston Bruins.

The team opened the 2011-12 season 1-5-2, its worst start in 70 years, and Gauthier fired coach Jacques Martin in December. His hiring of Randy Cunneyworth as Martin’s replacement was met with protest from many fans because the new coach didn’t speak French, Quebec’s official language.

The Canadiens have won a record 23 Stanley Cup championships, 10 more than the next-closest team, the Toronto Maple Leafs. Montreal’s most recent title came in 1993, the last time the team reached the finals.

“Just qualifying for the playoffs cannot be our goal or our standard,” Molson said. “This organization going forward must set its sights on competing for the game’s ultimate prize every season, and no lesser standard should be accepted.”

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