Monday, February 08, 2010

Bob Gainey To Step Down:

Highs And Lows

All the rumblings about today's 4 pm presser are about Bob Gainey stepping down from his post as GM of the Canadiens.

Depending on whether you use Bob Gainey's calendar, or the one passed down from Roman times, he has managing the team for near 6 or 7 years now. The year he joined the team, the Canadiens were a non-playoff team only a year removed from the rousing efforts of 2002 (trophies, Bruins ousting and all). He leaves the team in much the same way – though the Canadiens made the playoffs last season, they may as well not have, and just like 2003, they are only a season removed from lofty achievements.

Ultimately, I feel this plays very much into Gainey's decision (and the gentle suggestions from his bosses). We may like to think there's some big conspiracy, or a controversy waiting to break. But with a 7-year record like this staring us all in the face, I don't think conspirators needed get off their seats.

AS I've said elsewhere, there would have been a time when an announcement like this one would have been a difficult pill to swallow. This time has passed, perhaps long ago. As we await the press conference to bid farewell to our beloved alum and GM, I ponder the highs and lows that Gainey's tenure has brought us:

Low: Saku Koivu not asked to return
The day after this happened was the first day in my life that I questioned my allegiance to this team. Though time has healed the wound, it remains a low point for the team over this 7-year period.

High: Centennial game
Having organized a centennial this year myself, I'm aware of how difficult it is to get one right. All involved should be proud of the festivities they dreamt up and followed through on.

Low: Trading Cristobal Huet
Never mind whether he played a single minute the following year, the Canadiens were poised to make the playoffs in good position for the first time in 15 years. Gainey preferred to put a rookie forward, in hope that he would gain experience. "Look a gift horse in the mouth" comes to mind.

High: 2005 Draft lottery
The beginning of the end of the lockout for real. The Habs looked to the Forum ghosts to bring them Crosby. In the end, they walked away with a high pick without the pain of losing.

Low: February 2009
Controversies and locker room schisms abounded as the Canadiens slid from a steady start into the nothingness of a playoff sweep. Gainey needed to do more sooner if as many as 11 players and a coach were truly problems.

High: Guy Boucher hired
Despite the inevitable let down of May, the management wins a major race for the brightest young coach in all hockey.

Low: Brisebois re-signed
I hope Patrice appreciated his long final bow. In a 5-year plan to rebuild a contender, there probably isn't so much room for favours and favourites.

High: Kovalev trade
Gainey's first major move showed what he can do when he is aggressive. The addition was a brilliant addition to a lacklustre squad, even without considering it was a complete steal.

Low: Game 82, 2007, Toronto
A nightmare scenario as the Canadiens miss the playoffs at the hands of a glorious Leafs comeback. One of those things, to be sure. As the sting lasted a summer, it's a low.

High: 2006 Playoff run
Making the playoffs on a full-on hot streak, only a freak accident stopped the Habs and cleared the path for the soon-to-be champs.

Low: Offering $10 million to Daniel Briere
Cracks in Gainey's veneer begin to show as he nearly gives away the farm to a very good (not great) one-time 80+ point man.

High: Markov contract
The coup of the contract season that year. Markov identified as the key (check). Markov signed for significant years (check).

I'm sure there are many more. These are just quick ones that come to mind. Please, i'd like to hear what you all think of as some highs and lows from over the last 7 years...

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