Gauthier described as micro manager

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:25 AM ET

VANCOUVER - Well, visitors to the Jacques Beauchamp media lounge at the Bell Centre could be the first to feel the effects in the Pierre “The Ghost” Gauthier era of the Montreal Canadiens.

Gauthier took over the reins of the hockey operations Monday when GM Bob Gainey, his energy for the job seemingly sapped by years of personal tragedies, walked away from the top hockey job of the franchise for which he became an icon as a Stanley Cup-winning captain.

Gauthier, who has been Gainey’s right-hand man as assistant GM, is a micro manager with a low profile and, according to colleagues and former employees contacted by QMI Agency yesterday, is a sometimes enigmatic leader with a fiery temper behind the scenes.

When he was the general manager of the Ottawa Senators, he once limited visitors to the media room pre-game buffet to one cookie apiece after he arrived one night to find the cookie basket empty.

He banned the so-called “vanity numbers,” from the Senators’ backs, limiting players to numbers between 1 and 33 because he felt numbers like the 91 worn by Alexandre Daigle drew attention to individuals and away from the team.

There wasn’t an aspect of the organization that didn’t bear Gauthier’s fingerprints and that attention transformed the Senators from a running joke into a Stanley Cup contender. He hired Jacques Martin as coach, and, in light of Monday’s developments, it is no coincidence Martin is now behind the Canadiens’ bench.

Gauthier was plucked out of the Anaheim Ducks organization to take over the Senators’ operation in December, 1996, when the expansion Senators were in crisis and faced with thousands of seats to sell in their new building. Dave King and Serge Savard had been interviewed to replace Randy Sexton, but, at the behest of then-consultant Roy Mlakar, Bryden and the others were told to look at the best number two men in the league. Gauthier got the job.

In his two-and-a-half years as Senators GM beginning in the middle of the 1995 season, he transformed the Senators with the hiring of Martin and trades that brought in goaltender Damian Rhodes defencemen Wade Redden, Janne Laukkanen, Jason York and Igor Kravchuk and forwards Shawn McEachern and Shaun Van Allen, who all played key roles in the Senators’ turnaround.

His strength has always been in evaluating player personnel.

He left the Senators in controversy after the 1997-98 season, quitting to return to Anaheim after at first denying such a move was in the works.

In his time in Ottawa, Gauthier earned the nickname “The Ghost,” as he was seldom visible for long stretches of time and then, like an apparition, would suddenly appear in a hallway of Scotiabank Place.

He is guarded at the best of times both with the media and employees, one remarking yesterday, “you never knew if you saw him in the hallway if he would acknowledge your presence or not. It made a lot of people uncomfortable.”

Pierre Grouchy was another nickname.

Always composed and retiring publicly, he became legendary for his fits of temper behind the scenes. After one game in which goaltender Ron Tugnutt relieved Rhodes and was awarded one of the game stars, an enraged Gauthier slapped a bag of pretzels from the management suite into the crowd and supposedly dropped kicked a chicken dinner into the wall.

The tirade continued downstairs in the coaches’ room where he sent a bag of popcorn flying, leaving the coaching staff looking at each other in amazement.

The reason?

He thought the awarding of a game star to Tugnutt would fuel a goaltending controversy and Gauthier was loathe to see any such thing in the papers.

It’s interesting now that a goaltending controversy is exactly what is uppermost on the minds of most Canadiens fans and the media as the Canadiens are in a fight for a playoff spot.

The Ghost knows his stuff and that's good because he'll have a lot more to worry about in Montreal than how many cookies are in the basket.


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