Five weeks ago, after leaving his job as general manager of the Ottawa Senators, Pierre Gauthier said, "No way, not a chance," in response to rumors that he would replace longtime friend Jack Ferreira as general manager of the Mighty Ducks.
Thursday, he did just that.
Of course, Gauthier is now Ferreira's boss, having been named president of the Ducks three weeks ago. At the July 16 news conference to introduce him, the new Duck president said he was excited to be reunited with Ferreira, who had been Gauthier's boss when he was an assistant general manager with the Ducks from 1993-95. "As a team, we can bring this franchise back to where it needs to be," Gauthier said.
After three weeks of evaluation, however, Gauthier apparently has decided to forgo the team approach and go it alone. Ferreira, who did not return calls Thursday, was offered a new position--vice president of hockey operations--and relieved of his duties as general manager, which Gauthier will assume.
"I've known Jack a long time, I was there in the beginning when we started building this club and this has been a success story from day one, largely due to Jack's leadership and contributions," Gauthier said. "You won't get a negative word from me about Jack Ferreira.
"Believe me, I didn't want to let go one of my very best friends. I don't know that I would say he was surprised, but [Wednesday] night was a very difficult night for us both.
"Like any new president of an organization, it's been my job to evaluate where we are and where we want to be and I believe this is the best scenario for the franchise. There are quite a few people doing both jobs [president and general manager] around the league, eight or nine now. In many ways, what this says is that we've got one philosophy, one direction."
It's probably no coincidence that Disney Chairman Michael Eisner and Tony Tavares, who stepped away from his job as Ducks' president to concentrate on overseeing Disney Sports, conferred at length during Wednesday's Angel game at Edison Field. Both men have long admired Gauthier's organizational and administrative skills, and Tavares was believed to have been frustrated by what he saw as Ferreira's lack of organization.
But if Gauthier was only following orders, he stressed that he didn't want Ferreira to be caught up in a similar situation. He was determined to assume the duties of the general manager and basically said he didn't want Ferreira to be the general manager in name only.
"Everyone has to do their own job, carry their own weight," he said. "My train of thought was that if there's one guy in charge, it provides stability. Expansion teams go through stages and it's time for us to turn a page and make the step up to the next level.
"Now we can concentrate on this team acquiring an identity on the ice and the chemistry . . . to win."
Gauthier reiterated his belief that free agency was not the answer in the NHL, where unrestricted free agents are often close to the end of their prime playing years and usually demand long-term contracts.
"There are better ways of improving a hockey club than going out and spending stupid money on retirement contracts," he said.
And that's where Ferreira--if he takes the new position--would come in handy. His scouting acumen is well-respected around the league, and Gauthier said Ferreira would become his senior advisor on player-personnel decisions.
"I sincerely hope he takes it," Gauthier said. "When it comes to evaluation of talent, or teams around the league, or our team, he would be right there beside me. There's great value in getting the perspective of someone who's not involved in the everyday operation of the team."
Ferreira, 54, has been involved in the Ducks every day since the franchise's inception. He was named the club's first general manager in March 1993. He was largely responsible for building the Duck team that tied the NHL record for victories by a first-year club. He also helped build the San Jose Sharks, serving as their general manager from 1990-92. Last season was his 23rd in professional hockey.
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Changes at the Top
\o7 The Mighty Ducks' coaching and general manager moves: \f7 *--*
Year Coach Record 1993-94 Ron Wilson 33-46-5 1994-95 Ron Wilson 16-27-5 1995-96 Ron Wilson 35-39-8 1996-97 Ron Wilson 36-33-13 1997-98 Pierre Page 26-43-13 1998 Craig Hartsburg (*74-63-27)
Jack Ferreira 1993-98 146-188-44 Pierre Gauthier 1998-
\o7 * Only head coaching experience, two seasons with Chicago Blackhawks \f7