Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin said he needed to be “100 per cent sure” he was ready to make the decision to fire longtime goaltending coach Stephane Waite.
It turns out the reached that point during the second period of the Canadiens’ 3-1 win over visiting Ottawa on Thursday night.
The Canadiens announced shortly after the game that Waite, who had been with the club since 2013 and helped Carey Price reach elite goaltender status, would be replaced by Montreal scout and former NHL goalie Sean Burke.
Bergevin, who said the move was made while the game was in progress, said the decision to fire Waite was the result of a years-long pattern in his goaltenders’ play that he found troubling.
“There was not one incident that happened,” Bergevin said Wednesday in a video conference. “I thought about it thoroughly and 98 per cent is not good enough for me. I had to be 100 per cent sure it was the right decision for me and I came to that decision yesterday.”
The abrupt dismissal of Waite was another example of how quickly Bergevin is ready to make a move in a shortened NHL season with little room for error.
Waite was fired a week after Bergevin replaced head coach Claude Julien with Dominique Ducharme following a string of disappointing results. The last straw was a pair of road losses to the last-place Senators.
After an impressive start to the season that saw the Canadiens briefly lead the North Division standings, Montreal has produced just three wins over its last 11 games to slide to fourth place.
Part of the issue has been the play of Price, who has posted a pedestrian 6-4-3 record with a .296 goals-against average and an ugly .893 save percentage so far this season.
“Again, everybody goes through it, but it was a gut feeling I had and sometimes you have to trust your instincts. My instincts told me a change was needed.”
Bergevin said Price was not consulted on the change. The goaltender said Wednesday that he found the move “surprising.”
“I’m grateful for the time I spent with Steph,” Price said. “He’s been a hard-working, dedicated goalie coach, and I really appreciate all that hard work he’s done with us.
“Right now it’s a quick turnaround. We don’t have a lot of time to dwell on things, so it’s about regrouping, getting the work done and start bonding quickly.”