Bob Gainey, who has led the Canadiens for five years as General Manager, resigned unexpectedly Monday afternoon.

CTV News learned of the changing of the guard during the lunch hour, but the announcement was officially made at a 4 p.m. news conference at the Bell Centre.

The news caught everyone off guard, including long-time sports reporters, like CTV's Brian Wilde.

"Firings happen during the middle of the season, resignations happen at the end," said Wilde.

At the conference, Gainey said that he felt he has done as much as he could, and it was time to pass the torch to new leadership.

In the past year Gainey oversaw drastic changes in the Canadiens roster, letting go ten unrestricted free agents, and has managed to get the Canadiens into a playoff position despite a rash of injuries.

Assistant general manager Pierre Gauthier will take over the duties on an interim basis.

He has held the top position before, for the Ottawa Senators and Anaheim's Mighty Ducks.

Gainey, 56, was hired in 2003 as the 15th general manager in franchise history and the Canadiens made the playoffs in four of the five full seasons he led the front office.

Their best season during that period came in 2007-08, when the team finished atop the Eastern Conference standings and made it to the second-round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Canadiens are currently sixth in the Eastern Conference standings.