I was surprised and not surprised to hear Bob Gainey has had enough of the general manager's role with the Canadiens today. Surprised, because I really thought he'd stick it out until the end of the year. Not surprised, because I've suspected nothing but sheer stubbornness has kept him going in the job this long.
We can talk legacies, good and bad, for years to come when we look back at the Gainey regime. Right now, in the first blush of his departure, it's about emotion. I'm sad to see Gainey leave. It's never a good day when an icon leaves the organization for which he's toiled for most of his professional hockey career. In Gainey's case, it's particularly poignant, even if he plans to be involved as a consultant, because Gainey was a real team man.
As a player, he was the man who always put the team first and who was never happy to be scoring goals if it meant leaving the team open to getting scored upon, so he sacrificed personal numbers for the good of the team. As a manager, he stepped in when his team needed him. The Canadiens were foundering and needed a man who knew his hockey and garnered respect around the league. They needed someone patient and smart, classy and experienced, who reminded everyone that the Canadiens deserved to be taken seriously once again.
He did that much. As I said, we can debate his moves on the job for a long time to come. He made some mistakes, but he did some good things too...the same as any GM who's not got a crystal ball or any other form of supernatural foresight to help him in his decisions. The team was better for having Bob Gainey at the helm. Now Pierre Gauthier will take the frame of the team Gainey has built and try to finish it.
I hope he's able to do so with as much dignity and respect as Bob Gainey has done.