BROSSARD, Que. – Montreal Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier is defending the team’s decision to cut loose six scouts, telling reporters Friday that the time was right to shake things up in the hockey operations department.
The Canadiens decided not to renew the contracts of six scouts last week, letting go amateur scouts Denis Morel, Dave Mayville, Antonin Routa, Pelle Eklund, Nikolai Vakourov, and pro scout Gordie Roberts.
All six had contracts that were set to expire at the end of June, but Gauthier said during a media availability Friday that the move wouldn’t affect the team heading into the NHL entry draft June 25-26 in Los Angeles.
Montreal currently holds the 27th overall choice.
“These people have all done a very good job, none of it was personal or in terms of the evaluation of their work,” Gauthier said of the former employees.
“It’s strictly a restructure, those things happen from time-to-time in organizations, whether they’re hockey organizations or others, and when there is a change in leadership there’s a better chance that happen.”
Gauthier took over the general manager’s job from Bob Gainey in February.
Half of the scouts were based in Europe, leaving the club thin overseas. The purge also gives the team just one scout in Quebec, an area the Habs need to focus on given their lack of French Canadian players.
“Quebec is very important,” Gauthier said.
He wouldn’t say whether any of the scouts would be replaced or where the team will focus its efforts.
The move was not financial, said Gauthier.
“The important thing is that we’ve restructured in a way that we can cover all the territory and do all the work by the time it starts again in late August,” he said. “Sometimes you can do what you do in a different way with different people in different locations.”
One person who received a vote of confidence from Gauthier was Trevor Timmins, the club’s director of player recruitment and development.
“Trevor is here and Trevor is here to stay,” Gauthier said.
“When you do a full analysis of our scouting department, they’re doing a good job and we are clearly above the league average at the draft since Trevor has been on board.”
Gauthier was quick to defend the team’s draft record under Timmins. While the club has found some success in later rounds, the Habs haven’t been able to add an impact player in the first round.
Under Timmins, the club has drafted forward Andrei Kostitsyn, goaltender Carey Price and prospect Max Pacioretty while trading away players like Kyle Chipchura and Ryan McDonagh.
David Fischer, a first-round pick in 2006, hasn’t developed as planned and wasn’t invited to the team’s development camp this week. It’s unclear whether he will be offered a contract by the Aug. 15 deadline.
“The way the draft works, after a handful of players, the first round really becomes a long second round,” Gauthier said.
“If your first-rounder doesn’t do so well, but your second or fourth-rounder becomes a very good player, it comes to the same thing,” he added.
Gauthier said that Timmins and his team have also been able to offer insight and use their knowledge to help the club target young players through trades such as Josh Gorges and Tom Pyatt.
Notes: Gauthier said he had nothing new to report on negotiations with soon to be unrestricted free-agent centre Tomas Plekanec and would have little to add until there’s a conclusion to the matter … Gauthier also said the possibility of an expected US$2 million increase in the NHL salary cap for the 2010-2011 season will likely have little impact on the Canadiens’ plans for the off-season.