Getty ImagesSaturday night's 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers officially eliminated the Montreal Canadiens from the playoffs. With five games remaining in their season, the Habs sit dead last in the Eastern Conference and 29th overall in the NHL with a Draft Lottery spot awaiting them.
Now the time has finally come for the Habs and owner Geoff Molson to begin the process of building for next year and that first move was to relieve general manager Pierre Gauthier of his duties as of this morning. An 11:45 a.m. press conference has been scheduled to discuss the change in regime. No replacement GM will be announced as the team is beginning to explore their options.
UPDATE: Molson announced during the press conference that former GM Bob Gainey will no longer be in an advisory role for the team and Serge Savard will assist the Habs owner in the search for a new GM.
Gauthier's dismissal was a long time coming, especially after a season that featured more stories about off-ice issues than the product on the ice at Bell Centre.
In October, Gauthier, putting the head on then-head coach Jacques Martin, fired assistant Perry Pearn 90 minutes before a game. A month and a half later he finally decided to move on from Martin and controversially brought in Randy Cunneyworth before throwing him under the bus after the messy language debate that ensued. Then there was the way he traded Mike Cammalleri to Calgary, having the forward pulled before the second period of a game and told he was dealt and to go back to the hotel and wait for further instruction.
Since the Habs won't be naming their next GM today, the Patrick Roy-as-GM speculation will only increase. Last week, Roy shot down rumors that his return was imminent, but didn't completely push aside talk that he could be in the mix for some sort of job within the organization. The hot name at the front of the pack will likely be Tampa Bay Lightning assistant GM Julien BrisBois, who spent nine years with the Canadiens.
Heading into next season they have 13 players signed and $44.7 million committed, and Carey Price's new deal (RFA) will only increase that number. There are a lot of changes that need to be made this summer in Montreal. The GM is just the start.
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy