“It’s of course a tough day because of all the emotions running through the team at the moment,” began Gauthier. “Emotions on the side of frustration and disappointment - we felt that we could have won this series.”
With Wednesday’s Game 7 overtime loss to the Bruins still fresh in the minds of the players, coaching staff and management alike, the Canadiens’ GM was quick to express his belief in the team’s promising future.
“We’re at the same time extremely proud of our team at the moment,” he continued. “We take pride in the way they fought back through adversity all year long, as well as in the playoffs, and it gives us a feeling of optimism moving forward. This is a team that we believe in, a team with a good core of veterans as well as a good core of young players that we feel we can go very far with.”
While some might think that summertime marks a break for anyone working in hockey after the season comes to an end, the Habs’ GM will tell you that his upcoming summer – just like the ones that came before it – promises to be as busy as ever.
“Last year we had a big decision to make regarding the fact that we had two talented No.1 goaltenders that were both ready to take a starting job somewhere,” explained Gauthier. “Carey Price is a player we’re very happy to have with us. He’s enormously talented, battles hard and is still very young and continuing to improve. We’re extremely proud to have him as part of our club.”
“The year before that, in 2009, it was also an important summer where a lot changed. Every summer is a big summer for us, and I can promise you this one will be too.”
With a number of question marks already looming over the Habs defensive core of 2011-12, the Canadiens management will have some tough decisions to make in the coming months. With pillars Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges falling to injury early in the season and the Habs forced to end the year with 11 defensemen listed on their roster, Gauthier will be looking to avoid a repeat come next season. He’ll be forced to choose from among a long list of restricted free agents that include the likes of Markov, Roman Hamrlik, Paul Mara, Brent Sopel and James Wisniewski.
“Not a single one of our players has told me they don’t want to return next year,” stated Gauthier. “It makes our job that much more difficult because we know all the guys we’re dealing with care about the team and have its best interest at heart.”
The Canadiens general manager went on to mention that he and his staff hope to have a plan of action in place within the coming weeks, while also taking a moment sound off on the topic of underachieving center Scott Gomez, and his plans for how the veteran will fit into next year’s team.
“While we have some players that obviously didn’t live up to the expectations of their salaries, we had others that went well beyond the expectations of what they were paid. Scott is under contract and we expect him to have a better performance next year, but if we know one thing, it’s that everyone on this team cares and we’re going to do everything we possible can to help them and make sure they come back stronger.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
End of season assessment from the players
Bruins 4, Canadiens 3, OT