In this week’s Montreal Canadiens news and rumors, new head coach Dominique Ducharme has his work cut out for him in this shortened season, Cole Caufield is still lighting the lamp often with Wisconsin, Kaiden Guhle and Gianni Fairbrother impress during their stint with the Laval Rocket, and the Habs are mourning the loss of former general manager Irving Grundman.
Dominique Ducharme’s Tough Task
General Manager Marc Bergevin rocked the hockey world this week when he fired Claude Julien and Kirk Muller, replacing them with rookie NHL head coach Ducharme and new assistant Alexandre Burrows.
The pair, along with Luke Richardson, face a tall order trying to right the ship under their current circumstances. With their bye week behind them, the Canadiens face a condensed schedule from here on in which means lots of games and not a lot of practice time for a staff that needs to implement changes quickly before it’s too late.
Not to mention that Carey Price is a shadow of his former self right now, Shea Weber is struggling, Josh Anderson is injured, Phillip Danault hasn’t scored in over a year, and their special teams still aren’t very special. Certainly not an enviable situation, but Ducharme doesn’t seem at all phased. He’s shown poise in the eye of the storm and firmly believes in his group.
“We’ve got to be good at controlling what we can control. Our focus is on that. We can talk standings all day. We can talk about how much we want to win the next game. But if we don’t do it the right way, if we don’t take the right path to success, then it won’t happen as often as we want,” Ducharme explained. “We want to build that so that at one point we’re becoming consistent in the way we play and do things. Then our results are going to be consistent on the positive side.”
Cole Caufield: A Goal Scoring Machine
Caufield continued to strengthen his case to be chosen as this year’s winner of the prestigious Hobey Baker Award after netting a hat trick during Wisconsin’s 7-0 victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday night.
The 20-year-old sophomore, a first-round pick by the Habs in 2019, now has 22 goals and 42 points in 26 games this year, already surpassing his scoring totals from last season.
Fans are restless waiting to see what Montreal does with Caufield when his NCAA campaign concludes. Logic would suggest that it’s all but guaranteed that they will give him a look in either Laval or with the Canadiens this season. It’s just a matter of when considering Canada’s current strict quarantine rules. He’s certainly earned the opportunity and they sure could use his goal-scoring prowess.
Defenseman Jordan Harris, another Canadiens prospect playing NCAA hockey with Northeastern University, could also be turning pro soon.
Kaiden Guhle and Gianni Fairbrother Return to the WHL
Meanwhile, two prospects who recently made their pro debuts with the Laval Rocket are returning to their respective junior clubs in the WHL.
Fairbrother, a 2019 third-round selection, is going back to the Everett Silvertips for his fourth and final junior season after collecting an assist in his first AHL shift.
Guhle, the Canadiens’ first-round pick in 2020, will begin his third season with the Prince Albert Raiders after being named the 44th captain in team history this week. In January, he helped Team Canada win the silver medal at the World Juniors.
The 19-year-old is leaving Laval having made quite the first impression with his teammates and especially head coach Joël Bouchard who probably wishes he could have stayed a little longer.
“He’s impressive. He practiced once and with each game he gained more and more confidence. He made some nice plays too, he understood what we wanted to do, he’s confident. I won’t hide it; I like him a lot. I am not surprised by his presence on the ice,” Bouchard said.
Laval improved its record to 5-2-1 this weekend thanks to a pair of wins over the Manitoba Moose to sit atop the Canadian Division.
Canadiens Mourn the Loss of Irving Grundman
The Canadiens and the entire Montreal community are mourning the loss of Irving Grundman, a former Habs GM and skilled businessman who dedicated his life to the city.
Following the acquisition of the Canadiens and the Montreal Forum by Peter and Edward Bronfman in 1971, Grundman was appointed president of the Montreal Forum in 1972, overseeing its business operation.
In 1978, after several years working alongside Sam Pollock, he was promoted to general manager of the Canadiens. In his first year at the helm, Montreal posted a stellar 52-17-11 record and went on to win the Stanley Cup making Grundman one the few GMs in league history to etch his name on the Cup in his first year on the job.
What’s Next for the Canadiens?
The Habs are set to begin a three-game homestand on Tuesday against the Ottawa Senators followed by back-to-back games against the Winnipeg Jets.
They’ll be hoping that a return to the Bell Centre will help them halt their current five-game losing streak and allow Ducharme to taste victory for the first time as an NHL head coach.
We’ll find out today if Anderson is healthy enough to return to practice after suffering an injury against the Jets on Thursday. It will be interesting to see if Ducharme makes any tweaks to his forward lines and defense pairings now that he’s had some time to evaluate his players.
No matter what happens, it’s highly unlikely that this week will be as eventful as the last one, but then again, in Montreal anything is possible.
Melissa has been covering the Montreal Canadiens for The Hockey Writers since March of 2020. She is also THW’s Social Media & Marketing Manager as well as co-host of Chicks & Sticks, a weekly show produced by THW. In 2006, she spearheaded the social media initiatives for Tennis Canada and Rogers Cup and was the primary person responsible for their upkeep for over 10 years. She has written articles for multiple tennis websites and interviewed the likes of Roger Federer and Serena Williams. While her career in sports started in tennis, her first love has always been hockey. She has a journalism degree from Concordia University.