- Associated Press - Thursday, March 29, 2012

MONTREAL (AP) - The Canadiens fired general manager Pierre Gauthier after a dismal season and split with Montreal great Bob Gainey on Thursday, insisting such play will not be tolerated by a franchise long part of hockey history.

“We need to remember that our fans want us to win, period,” owner Geoff Molson said. “Our organizational culture is to support and adopt this passion for victory. Nothing else matters.”

A string of moves by Gauthier failed to revive Montreal, which has been hit by injuries and is 29-34-14, last in the Eastern Conference.

“Everyone in this organization, including our players, expected better,” said Molson, stressing the Canadiens’ standard is to reach the top, not just make the playoffs.

Gainey, whom Gauthier succeeded as GM, is leaving his role as team adviser, Molson said at news conference. Gainey and Gauthier are longtime friends. Serge Sarvard, another Canadiens star, will advise Molson in the search for a new GM.

Molson praised his team’s fans and spoke of a restoration to the day when the Canadiens ruled the NHL, pointing to a stockpile of draft picks and promises of acquiring new talent.

Gauthier fired assistant Perry Pearn and then coach Jacques Martin in mid-December, only to find himself in even more trouble for appointing unilingual Randy Cunneyworth as interim coach.

With protests from some Quebec nationalist groups and an ongoing controversy in the media, Gauthier apologized and promised that a French-speaking coach would be behind the bench next season.

In February, Molson resorted to Twitter to deny that Gauthier had been dismissed. Gauthier was hired as GM and executive vice president in February 2010, taking over from Gainey. He joined the organization in 2003 when he was appointed director of professional scouting.