3 Canadiens Coaching Candidates if Ducharme Is Fired

The Montreal Canadiens are now at the halfway mark season with only have eight wins to show for it.


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The long list of injuries and with everyone except for Nick Suzuki on the COVID protocol list at some point had a major impact on the losing season. However, better coaching might have mitigated the impact. Had head coach Dominique Ducharme’s system been better suited to his group, maybe the team would have added a few more points in the standings, or at the very least, keep the games competitive. 

The Ducharme System

A team decimated by injuries can be excused for being out-skilled. However, the system and effort level are within the coach and the players’ control. The coach’s system should adjust to help players that lack the skills of their opponents. In the Canadiens case, Ducharme’s inability to make adjustments between periods, or even in-game, has led to his team being outworked.

What is Ducharme’s system? On defence, the defenders collapse easily, giving up the blue line and allowing the attacking forwards time and space to enter with control. They also allow far too many shots, not just from the blue line or the perimeter, but in the slot. The defensive gaps are wide enough to allow forwards to set up in the gap and have time to receive passes and shoot before being checked. On offence, Ducharme seemingly allows a player’s skill to determine their best form of attack, which doesn’t help when the only consistent offensive threat is Suzuki paired with American Hockey League call-ups.

Canadiens Coaching for Development

It wouldn’t be fair to expect a winning season, but we should expect the team to be competitive in every game. A losing season is one thing, but the Canadiens cannot allow complacency to settle in or a losing atmosphere. Young players such as Cole Caufield will better develop in a setting that values winning, a consistently high effort and doesn’t accept anything less than a player’s best effort.

Cole Caufield Montreal Canadiens
Cole Caufield, Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

If Ducharme is unable to get that from his players, the organization should move on. If they do move on, here are three plausible names that could fit the Canadiens’ needs.

Related: Hughes’ First Steps Will Lay Foundation for Success

Patrick Roy

Patrick Roy has instant credibility in Montreal as a Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender who won four Stanley Cups and had his number retired by the organization. He also checks the box as a bilingual candidate and, more importantly, he brings credibility as an NHL head coach who won the Jack Adams Award in 2014 with the Colorado Avalanche.

His fiery, competitive personality would be beneficial to a team that lacks consistent leadership – this season due to injuries and COVID issues. He is a coach who demands the best from each player and has the credentials to get their attention. However, Roy has an aversion to advanced statistics, something that Hughes has mentioned is going to play a larger role in player usage and development moving forward.

Benoit Groulx

Benoit Groulx is also a bilingual coach who might interest the Canadiens. He doesn’t have NHL head coaching experience, but he has paid his dues working his way up, first as a coach in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), then as a head coach for Canada’s 2015 under-20 World Junior Championship gold medal-winning team. For the last six seasons, he has been coaching the Syracuse Crunch – the Tampa Bay Lightning’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate – where he has proven he can successfully develop young players like Erik Cernak and Anthony Cirelli while fostering a winning atmosphere.

Anthony Cirelli, Tampa Bay Lightning
Anthony Cirelli, Tampa Bay Lightning (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

He has shown he is ready to make the leap to becoming an NHL head coach, but his lack of experience might be an issue, especially in Montreal where, even in a rebuilt, fans will demand a lot of a team they pay hundreds of dollars per ticket to watch live.

Guy Boucher

A hockey analyst for RDS, Guy Boucher is another bilingual candidate who could be a good fit with the Habs. Like Groulx, Boucher has worked his way up the coaching ladder, from the QMJHL to internationally for Canada to NHL head coaching experience with the Lightning and the Ottawa Senators. Playing six degrees of separation, Boucher formerly coached Vincent Lecavalier, who is close friends with Hughes and also rumoured to be in the running for a job in the Canadiens’ front office, which he addressed on Quebec radio stating:

“I’m going to let Hughes get acquainted and organized, Kent is going to have a lot of decisions to make. A good general manager knows how to gather good people around him. We are very good friends. If he approaches me, I will think about it.”

Vincent Lecavalier

It’s a tenuous connection, but Boucher is also known to use advanced stats and has attempted to modernize special teams systems with varying success. While he is a longshot candidate because he’s been out of coaching for the last two years, management would likely be interested in an interview.

Ducharme has been told his job is safe for this season, which means he can continue to audition for a position he was supposed to hold for three seasons or prove to the 31 other teams that he is a capable head coach. But how long will his job security last when Ducharme seems unable to adjust according to the players he has available? The Canadiens are very inconsistent from one game to the next, and that instability on and behind the bench should force Hughes’ hand sooner than expected, perhaps even before the end of the season.

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