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Grim future awaits Gauthier & Habs publicly apologize to fans


Guest habsguy26
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The Montreal Canadiens' whacky season got a little weirder Monday.

The team's general manager took the unusual step of issuing a qualified apology, barely two weeks into the reign of new coach Randy Cunneyworth.

post-313-0-47641100-1325541893_thumb.jpgThe Dec. 17 hiring of Cunneyworth, on an interim basis for the rest of the season, touched off a language controversy. He is the team's first coach in decades unable to speak French.

"I'm sorry if we upset people. Because that certainly wasn't our intention," Pierre Gauthier told reporters Monday.

It was a far cry from the defiant response Gauthier offered last month, when a reporter asked about Cunneyworth's inability to communicate with francophone fans in their language. At the time, his testy reply was that languages could always be learned.

On Monday, he stressed that Cunneyworth's hiring was not necessarily permanent and he said his status would be re-examined after the season.

"What will happen in the future, at the end of the season, is that we will re-evaluate the whole file," Gauthier said.

"As (owner Geoff) Molson said in his communique a week ago, it's very important to us that our head coach be bilingual.

"So that will be part of our decision at that point."

The Cunneyworth hiring touched off a language flap given that the Habs, for their entire century-long history, have always marketed themselves as French Canada's team. It's been 40 years since the team last hired a coach who couldn't speak French.

That controversy has merely been fuelled by the team's poor play; under Cunneyworth, the Habs have won only one of seven games.

Our on-ice struggles also continue, as we have dropped dropped seven of our last eight games and currently sit 13th in the Eastern Conference.

Habs owner, President and CEO Geoff Molson has been quite concerned with his club's performance this season, which post-313-0-81661400-1325542436_thumb.jpgprompted to the firing of head coach Jacques Martin on Dec. 17.

On Dec. 7, TFP first reported that Molson and the Canadiens' top management brass were considering a major shakeup, which let to Martin's dismissal, and could soon result in the firing of GM Pierre Gauthier.

Gauthier has been widely criticized for his moves recently, including his latest acquisition of veteran defenseman Tomas Kaberle, who has two-years left on his contract beyond this season at a cap hit of $4.25 million.

post-313-0-13958600-1325542578_thumb.jpgAccording to two separate sources close to the organization, Gauthier will not be back with the club next season and could be let go once the 2011-12 campaign is over, while interim head coach Randy Cunneyworth could share the same fate.

Gauthier, however, said on Monday that he isn't concerned by any rumors related to his job and that the concern remains on the ice.

With the trade deadline looming, the Canadiens could be a significantly seller if they fail to make any ground on a playoff spot or their season continues to dwindle down the standings.

Gauthier hinted that the team's upcoming homestand -- eight of their next 11 games are at home -- will determine what moves he'll make.

However, with Gauthier presumably in limbo, it's believed all major decisions will need to be approved by Molson, who is reportedly being anchored by former Habs GM Bob Gainey, who named Gauthier his replacement and remains within the organization in an advisory role.

Yesterday, the Habs locked up stay-at-home blueliner Josh Gorges, an important piece to their roster, to a six-year, $23.4 million contract. Montreal's internal focus will shift to goaltender Carey Price and young star P.K. Subban, both of whom can become restricted free agents this summer.

"In due time, we'll address those contracts," Gauthier said during his mid-season address to the media.

Meanwhile, any major trade could prove to be difficult, as the likes of Brian Gionta and Michael Cammalleri possess no-trade clauses and could have to approve any deal the team tries to make.

Their salaries, however, pose another concern; they do not reflect the offensive output either player has failed to produce this season.

"We need to focus on turning this team around," Gauthier said. "We'll be in a good position (this summer). We'll have all the resources to keep all the young players we want to keep."

post-313-0-17770000-1325542778_thumb.jpg

If the Canadiens remain a bottom-feeder team in the East leading up to the Feb. 27 trade deadline, management could entertain offers for impending unrestricted free agents Andrei Kostitsyn, Hal Gill and Travis Moen.

Edited by habsguy26
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