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After Losing First Four, Canadiens Clean House : NHL: Demers, Savard are dismissed because of last season’s poor finish and this one’s start.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Montreal Canadiens, who missed the playoffs last spring for the first time in 25 years and are winless this season, fired Coach Jacques Demers and General Manager Serge Savard on Tuesday.

Demers and Savard survived an 18-23-7 finish last season, but club President Ronald Corey said he was forced to dismiss them and Andre Boudrias, assistant general manager, after the Canadiens lost their first four games and scored only one goal in each game.

Savard, who was appointed in 1983, presided over Montreal’s 1986 and 1993 Stanley Cup triumphs. Demers was in his first year with the Canadiens in 1993 when he led them to a five-game victory over the Kings in the finals.

Assistant coach Jacques Laperriere will run practices until successors are named. Corey said he has candidates in mind but would not identify them.

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“You might think I am pushing the panic button, but I am not,” Corey said at a news conference in Montreal. “It’s just that the season is so young, we need a new group to run this team for the balance of the season.”

A possible general manager candidate is Pierre Gauthier, the Mighty Ducks’ assistant general manager and a former scouting director for the Quebec Nordiques. The Canadiens have not yet asked permission to speak with Gauthier, said Jack Ferreira, the Ducks’ general manager.

Former Canadien John Ferguson, who recently resigned as director of player personnel for the Ottawa Senators, reportedly is a candidate for the general manager and coaching jobs. He has done both with the New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets.

Demers, 51, helped change the course of the 1993 Cup finals by successfully challenging the curve of a stick used by King defenseman Marty McSorley in Game 2. Montreal tied the score on the ensuing power play, won in overtime and swept the next three games.

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The next season, the Canadiens lost to the Boston Bruins in the first round of the playoffs. Last season they stumbled to a league-worst 3-18-3 road record.

Despite speculation he was in trouble, Demers told the Canadian Press he “never saw it coming. But all the talk about it in the media must have weighed psychologically on the players.” Demers, who was 107-86-27 with the Canadiens and has a career record of 375-372-113, will stay with Montreal in an unspecified job.

Savard’s downfall was the result of mediocre drafting and the failure of his two major trades last season. He sent left wing John LeClair and defenseman Eric Desjardins to Philadelphia in February for right wing Mark Recchi, only to see LeClair score 25 goals in 37 games and Desjardins become the Flyers’ steadiest defenseman. Recchi scored 14 goals.

He also dealt team captain Kirk Muller and Schneider to the Islanders for the streaky Pierre Turgeon and defenseman Vladimir Malakhov, who has not played to his potential.


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