Ex-Canadiens coach Ducharme laments disconnect with new regime
Former Montreal Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme was disappointed to discover he wasn't on the same page as the club's new executives, and he says he wasn't given an opportunity to provide his perspective.
"That's the side of it that hurts, or that's most disappointing to me, is not having the chance to sit down with them to tell them how I saw hockey," Ducharme told The Athletic's Marc Antoine Godin.
"If the plan was to lose (as many) games (as) we could and to play the young players, I would have liked to have known because I would have had a different approach with them," Ducharme said. "I was trying to squeeze as much as I could everywhere to try and get some results. I saw teams that had games canceled because five of their players had COVID. We had 10 and another eight who were injured, and we still played …"
Ducharme led the Canadiens to an unexpected Stanley Cup Final berth in 2021 after taking over that February following Claude Julien's firing. But it didn't take long for the aforementioned injuries and the team's lackluster play to send the Habs spiraling toward the bottom of the league standings in the following season.
As a result, Montreal fired general manager Marc Bergevin in November and immediately named Jeff Gorton executive vice president of hockey operations. The Canadiens hired player agent Kent Hughes as their new GM in January. The new brass then fired Ducharme in February, replacing him with Hall of Famer Martin St. Louis, who had no previous pro coaching experience.
Though they still finished last in the NHL, the Habs were re-energized under St. Louis, and no one benefited more from the coaching change than rookie Cole Caufield. The Calder Trophy favorite entering the campaign produced only one goal and seven assists in 30 games under Ducharme but erupted for 22 tallies and 13 helpers over 37 contests after the move.
Ducharme isn't happy to be repeatedly told he cost Caufield the Calder, saying, "hearing that sucks."
He also didn't appreciate the double standard he felt existed in terms of his tenure compared to when the club hired St. Louis.
"We were always seen as the team that went to the Stanley Cup Final, and that couldn't win," he said. "The coaching change sent a message to the fans and the players that 'we're rebuilding, we're going to put our faith in the young players.' The result was no longer important; Martin could talk about moral victories. Me, if I talked about moral victories, I would get ripped."
The Canadiens went 23-46-14 in two partial seasons with Ducharme at the helm. He took over from Julien after serving as a Habs assistant beginning in 2018.