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Gauthier Hired to Fix Duck Mess

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Rejected by a minor league coach, unable to sign free agents and taking a beating in the arena of public opinion, the Mighty Ducks turned to a familiar face Thursday to start their salvage project.

Pierre Gauthier, former Duck assistant general manager, was introduced as the franchise’s president during a news conference at the Arrowhead Pond.

Gauthier, who agreed to a five-year contract, said he couldn’t wait to get started in his new job.

Tony Tavares, who gives up day-to-day control of the Ducks to concentrate on running Disney’s Anaheim Sports, couldn’t wait for Gauthier to get going either.

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“I felt and I have felt ever since Pierre left that there was a void,” Tavares said. "[With Gauthier back] we are [now] better prepared to deal with the day-to-day process of running an NHL franchise.”

The first order of business will be to hire a coach to replace Pierre Page. Butch Goring, coach and general manager of the Utah Grizzlies of the International Hockey League, turned down the Ducks’ offer earlier this week and it appeared the coaching search was back to square one on Thursday.

“The final decision is going to be mine,” General Manager Jack Ferreira said. “Knowing Pierre, there are going to be a few people he’ll want to talk to.”

The second task is signing a free agent to bolster the defense. Most of the top unrestricted free agents already have signed elsewhere, but former Duck Fredrik Olausson is available.

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The third job is repairing the Ducks’ tarnished image before the season begins Oct. 10 against the Washington Capitals and former Duck coach Ron Wilson.

“Once we get a coach in place, it’s going to stabilize the organization,” Gauthier said. “Then we’ll talk about players and the rest of the organization.”

Hiring Gauthier, 45, figured to be a no-brainer for the Ducks right from the moment he quit in Ottawa on June 29. Tavares and Disney Chairman Michael Eisner are known to be great admirers of Gauthier’s organizational skills.

Ferreira retained his job although the Ducks finished 12th in the 13-team Western Conference, but Page and assistant coaches Don Hay and Walt Kyle were fired.

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