Former Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme felt new management left him in the dark
Former Montreal Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme spoke with Athleticismof Marc Antoine Godin during his first individual interview since his dismissal, clearly indicating that he disagreed with the management of the team.
Ducharme helped the Canadiens lead an unlikely run to the 2021 Stanley Cup Finals – where they lost in five games to the Tampa Bay Lightning – but the team stumbled to an 8-30-7 record in 2021 -22 before being fired Feb. 29. The 49-year-old said he never spoke to executive vice president of hockey operations Jeff Gorton or general manager Kent Hughes about how to navigate the rest of the year, before being fired.
“If the plan was to lose as many games as possible and get the younger players playing, I would have liked to know that because I would have had a different approach with them,” Ducharme told Godin. “I was trying to press as much as I could everywhere to try to get results. I saw teams that had games canceled because five of their players had COVID. We had 10, and another eight injured, and we still played.
Montreal has arguably the most stretched fan base in the NHL and when things go wrong like they did last season, fans can get ruthless. Ducharme defended himself against the idea that he was rooting against Cole Caufield, a popular preseason Calder Trophy pick who struggled with one goal in 30 games. Caufield was on fire with 22 goals in 37 games after Martin St. Louis was named head coach.
“Everyone said he would score 40 goals before the season even started,” Ducharme said. “If he had got off to a good start he could have done it, but he got stuck in a spiral and the fact that the team struggled didn’t help him individually.
“When I hear things like that, it’s like I don’t want Cole to score 40 goals. I wish Cole had scored 40 goals!”
Ducharme also gave his thoughts on the new leadership of the rebuilding Canadiens, offering St. Louis a resounding endorsement, while speculating that Nick Suzuki will eventually be named captain – a position vacated after Shea Weber was traded to the Golden Knights from Vegas in June. However, Ducharme can’t help but reflect on what could have been and firmly believes his tenure with the Canadiens would have been stronger had it not been for a series of injuries and complications related to COVID-19. 19.
“Maybe we would have been lucky enough to fight for a playoff spot if we had the perfect conditions, and that means having Carey (Price) and Jake (Allen) in goal, having (Joel) Edmundson… everyone start, everyone healthy, everyone playing their best, and if we played good hockey, we would have had a chance to make the playoffs.
Montreal is now beginning its rebuild in earnest and with 2022 first overall selection Juraj Slafkovsky headlining a promising group of prospects, the worst may be over. Ducharme hopes he won’t be remembered as the face of the franchise’s lowest point of the last century.
“How many Habs coaches have reached the Stanley Cup Final? There haven’t been since 1993 and there have only been four since 1980, so I’m proud of that. Nothing is perfect and you can’t choose.
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