The Montréal Canadiens, the storied NHL franchise celebrating it's 100th year of existence this season, got swept out of the playoffs by the Boston Bruins during the first round of the playoffs. This, you should know by now.
The Habs hit several road bumps down the stretch including a scandal involving the Russian Mob and firing head coach Guy Carbonneau on March 9th. Hoping to right the ship, Gainey himself took over the team.
"The last eight weeks of performance have been below average, and I believe a change in the direction at ice level is necessary.....It's never an easy message to deliver to anyone, but it was at a point where I felt it was needed."
It would not be incorrect to say that Bob Gainey panicked.
This was the Habs 100th anniversary, the expectations were ridiculously vaulted: the city would host the All Star Game, and will host this summer's NHL draft on top of the anniversary celebration... The Stanley Cup returning to Quebec for the first time since 1993 was a certainty, or so the expectations were as such. Nothing short of perfection was worthy enough.
It would also not be a stretch to say that Gainey, during his final press conference of the season yesterday, grasped for a scapegoat and blamed the Tampa Bay Lightning -- Oren Koules, Brian Lawton, etc -- for the Canadiens collapse:
"The second half of our season was when things started to go off course and I felt the first place was when we had discussions with Tampa Bay. We had an agreement with them that I got a call early in January with a list of names from their team that they wanted to talk about, and those players ended up public because they used those names to take them to other teams to see if they could create a different trade for Vincent Lecavalier,"
Now, I am the last person that will run and defend OK Hockey, but as a friend of mine likes to say, "It takes two".
You see, Bob wasn't content enough with his roster (as I stated above, nothing short of perfection was worthy enough). Instead of being concerned about the volatility of a big-ticket acquisition to the chemistry of his locker room, he decided to indulge overtures from a former-agent-turned-GM and a Hollywood producer... Who went public with those names in a negotiating tactic straight out of Entourage.
As much as I despise the Lecavalier trade rumors, the folly in this case was with Gainey to start with. He was, most likely, simply a starting point for trade talks with other teams (up until Tampa Bay fans and sponsors got wind of these discussions and revolted).
What really gets me is Gainey's quote, trying to defend his own players who were part of speculation:
"I think it was disgraceful that Josh Gorges and Tomas Plekanec and Chris Higgins have to read that stuff."
So, Vincent Lecavalier himself can keep playing in spite of rampant speculation regarding his future that has followed him -- with thanks to the Canadian press -- for much of his career, but Higgins, Plekanec and Gorges were all effected under the pressure?
Even if that were the case, Gainey put his players in that position by negotiating to begin with. Talks would not have remained private, no matter how serious or casual trade discussions were between the two teams. Not with leaks rampant in the league and the scrutiny of the Montreal press.
In the end, Bob Gainey simply wants a scapegoat for his own failings. And the easiest one to find was 1,400 miles away at 401 Channelside Drive. OK Hockey may be described as cowboys and unprofessional, but they aren't responsible for Gainey's panic down the stretch that ruined the Habs season.