So Gainey is gone.
After a night of sleep, I feel ready to write about this.
To begin with, I’ll miss Bob Gainey as a person. I like how he behaves, how he adresses the media, how he treats his players, and the sense of respect he has for the franchise. The Canadiens are everything to him. I also love his cold sense of humor. As everyone said yesterday, he’s a classy person, and one who deserves a good salute.
About Bob the GM, now, I think it’s fair to say that his record with the Habs is mixed. I’ve always trusted him, because I’ve always felt he’s a very intelligent guy, with a LOT of hockey knowledge. His best moves were not always flashy, and they sometime took time to pay dividends. Among those smart decisions: getting Kovy for Balej and a pick (admittedly his biggest move until last summer), trading Rivet for a first pick (Pacioretty) and Gorges, trading Garon to LA for Bonk and Huet (he got lucky with Huet on that one), getting cheap but very important veterans like Lang or Metropolit. The way he personally handled some difficult situations with his players also produced pretty good results (the famous old port discussion with Kovy before his best season as a hab, and the way he handled the Sergei K issue early this season are good examples) Some of the picks made under his tenure turned out pretty good too: Sergei K and Halak, drafted respectively 200th and 271st, are great examples of this.
But to be honest, over the last few seasons, some of the decisions he took started to shake my faith in him. Some of the things that bothered me a little didn’t actually happen: his bid for Brière missed, his pursuit of Marian Hossa at the trade deadline 2 seasons ago was unfruitful, and his attempted trade for Lecavalier failed. In the end, I think the Habs really dodged a bullet in all of those cases, but the fact Bob really tried to go for those players left me a little worried.
There are also some moves that I really disliked: trading Huet to Washington for a 2nd round pick comes first. I understand the idea that the Habs were going to lose Huet for nothing in the summer, but going into the playoffs with Price and Halak was indeed a mistake.
Associated with this is the whole Price question. I think Price is Gainey’s project. I like how Gainey has always defended Price. But the way Carey was thrown into the fire and the pressure put on him is really worrying. Bob is not entirely at fault here, because the pressure largely comes from the fans and the media, but I’m not sure the situation has been dealt with ideally so far, to say the least.
Then, of course, are the moves he made after last season. It was an admission that the team he had built over the last few seasons was going nowhere, and this is probably what surprised me the most. Of course, the most stunning and debated move was the acquisition of Gomez. Gomez is a pretty good player, and honestly his association with Gio and Pouliot is not disappointing. But the real problem, of course, is his contract. I think we’ll measure its real impact in the offseason. It’ll likely force the habs to make some tough decisions. Although the good thing about Gomer is that as long as he’s there, Lecavalier and his contract are not coming. Letting Koivu go was also a move I really didn’t like, although it’s true that Saku is past his best years now.
So yeah, the results are mixed. The habs often made the playoffs, but they never went very far.
All in all, it’s weird for me to imagine the habs sans Gainey. I became a real habs fan during his first season as a GM in Montreal. So he’s the only GM I’ve known. Seeing a new face is disturbing, because Gainey really fits with the image I have of how a GM’s supposed to be. For some weird reason, I’ve also come to think of Gainey as someone from the family. He’s like a good uncle. And because of this irrational attachment I developed for him, I’m actually pretty happy to see him leave that way. He chose the moment (or at least it seems), he had obviously a say in the choice of his successor. And most importantly, he stays in the Habs family. Knowing this really makes me happy.
[I wanted this post to be about Gainey and how I feel about him, so I’ll stop here. I’ll write another post, probably later today, about two things that seriously irked me yesterday during all the habs talk. Prepare for a stupid angry rant. :) ]