CALGARY - Bob Gainey has no regrets about his decision a year ago to step down as the general manager of the Montreal Canadiens.
Gainey, who spent 16 years as a player in Montreal before eventually serving as the team's GM for seven seasons, commended Pierre Gauthier on his performance after taking over for Gainey.
“I think Pierre Gauthier’s insertion into that position last year in February had a real impact on the team,”Gainey said Saturday.“I understood when I left my job last February that you walk away and you leave the good parts behind and you leave the not-so-good parts behind.
“There was some crap that I left behind that Pierre had to clean up and there was some good things I left behind that he got to take care of. I can say easily Pierre took what was left to him and he’s done an excellent job with it.”
Gainey left as GM for personal reasons but remains with the club as a special advisor to Gauthier.
Gainey travelled with the team for Sunday's Tim Hortons Heritage Classic outdoor game and coached the Canadiens' alumni team Saturday night against their Flames counterparts.
Gainey said the time was right last February to take a less prominent role with the Canadiens.
“It was a big change,”he said.“My day-to-day responsibilities and my day-to-day habits changed.
"I had a lot more freedom and a lot more time, which I enjoyed.”
Similar to Craig Conroy’s new role as a special assistant to acting Calgary general manager Jay Feaster, Gainey does his best to keep tabs on Montreal’s farm team, the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs.
“I see quite a few home games and I have stayed in touch and up-to-date with the team in Hamilton so that I can speak to Pierre with an idea of all the players in the organization,”said Gainey.
He approved of Gauthier's decision to retain goalie Carey Price and trade last season's playoff hero Jaroslav Halak to the St. Louis Blues in the off-season. Montreal drafted Price fifth overall in 2007 during Gainey's tenure as GM.
“(Price) had to earn his way past skeptics and some of his play from last year,”said Gainey.“I think he’s done a really fantastic job of just hunkering down and taking care of his work and really being a solid pro. Montreal’s lucky to have him.”
Montreal rookie defenceman P.K. Subban has been a polarizing player in the NHL because of his brashness, but Gainey doesn't want Subban to change his style.
“I think he should have fun and he should play and some of those people should shut up and play against him—just keep their mouths shut and play,”Gainey said.“Anyone who’s met him knows that his personality is outgoing, overflowing and it hasn’t yet been tempered with full maturity.''
Gainey went so far as to compare Subban to a former Canadiens’defenceman who went on to a long and successful NHL career.
“One player who came into our team at one point and had impact like that, a huge impact, was Chris Chelios,”he said.“I think Montreal’s lucky to have him, the NHL’s lucky to have him.
"He’s difficult to play against. He’s the kind of player on a team you play against that you have to be conscious of him and you know he can hurt you.”