Canadiens fire head coach Dominique Ducharme, hire interim Martin St. Louis

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MONTREAL — The Montreal Canadiens, mired in a free fall all season, have fired Dominique Ducharme and named Hall of Fame forward Martin St. Louis as interim head coach.

MONTREAL — The Montreal Canadiens, mired in a free fall all season, have fired Dominique Ducharme and named Hall of Fame forward Martin St. Louis as interim head coach.

Ducharme, 48, was relieved of his duties on Wednesday as Montreal languished in the league basement at 8-30-7.

St. Louis, who ended a stellar playing career in 2015, has no NHL coaching experience but was a consultant with the Columbus Blue Jackets during the 2018-19 season.

“We are very pleased to welcome Martin to the Canadiens organization,” general manager Kent Hughes said in a statement. “Not only are we adding an excellent hockey player, but with Martin, we are bringing in a proven winner and a man whose competitive qualities are recognized by all who have crossed his path.”

St. Louis joins the Canadiens after a stellar 16-season NHL career that saw him tally 1,033 points (391 goals, 642 assists) in 1,134 games with the Calgary Flames, Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers.

The 46-year-old from Laval, Que., won the Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2004 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018.

At just five-foot-eight, St. Louis loomed large as a player. He played in seven All-Star Games, won the Art Ross Trophy twice as the league’s top scorer and the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy three times, as well as the Ted Lindsay Award and the Hart Memorial Trophy.

The Canadiens went 23-46-14 in 83 regular-season games under Ducharme — and 13-6 in the playoffs, reaching the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1993.

His dismissal comes following a 7-1 rout of the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.

“Nobody likes to lose,” Ducharme said after the game. “The intentions of the guys are there. In the game there are times when you need to bounce back and we need to do a better job of that.

In a statement, Hughes thanked Ducharme for his work with the club.

“At this stage of the season we felt it was in the interest of the club to make a change,” the chief executive said.

Saint-Louis has a lot of work to do in Montreal.

The Habs have allowed 33 goals in their last five outings and lost seven in a row, including two overtime losses. The fall goes deeper than that with 13 losses – four in OT – in the last 14 games.

After reaching the Cup final last year, the Habs started the season with five straight losses. General manager Marc Bergevin was fired Nov. 28 as the team struggled 6-15-2.

Montreal has recorded just two wins since and sits bottom of the league. He is yet to register any consecutive wins this season.

Ducharme paid the price for Montreal’s poor start to the season, with the Canadiens appearing to be a shell of the team that turned heads last year.

Ducharme agreed to an extension until the 2023-24 season on July 13. He had been interim head coach since taking over from the fired Claude Julien on Feb. 24.

However, he started this season with a watered-down Canadiens squad that lost centers Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Philip Danault in free agency, and is missing star goaltender Carey Price and captain Shea Weber.

Price voluntarily signed up for the joint NHL/NHL Players’ Association assistance program during training camp and is currently working his way back from offseason knee surgery.

Weber, who anchors the blue line, is on the long-term injury reserve list with a foot/ankle injury and is not expected to return.

Ducharme couldn’t get enough of his team. Notably, Nick Suzuki, who signed an eight-year contract extension worth $63 million before the season, has 27 points (nine goals, 18 assists) in 45 games. Cole Caufield, who impressed hugely when he was called up as a rookie last season, has just eight points (one goal, seven assists) in 30 appearances.

The team initially struggled with Ducharme at the helm, managing a 15-16-7 record to finish the regular season and were the lowest ranked team to qualify for the playoffs.

They couldn’t get any traction under the caretaker coach through a combination of new systems, inconsistent play, a COVID-19 shutdown, key injuries and a condensed schedule.

Then the Canadians caught fire in the playoffs.

They came back from 3-1 down to beat favorites Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, then swept Winnipeg in the North Division final.

They then eliminated the Vegas Golden Knights in six games in the semifinals before losing in five to defending champion Tampa Bay in the Cup final.

Ducharme watched much of the last two rounds from home isolation after contracting COVID-19 in June, but returned to the bench in the final.

Ducharme joined the Canadiens coaching staff on April 27, 2018. The native of Joliette, Que., has already spent 10 seasons coaching in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

He led the Halifax Mooseheads to the QMJHL and Memorial Cup titles in 2012-13, winning the Canadian Hockey League’s Brian Kilrea Coach of the Year award.

He coached Canada to a gold medal at the 2018 world junior championships and a silver medal the previous year.

Ducharme is the fourth NHL coach fired this season, following Alain Vigneault of Philadelphia, Travis Green of Vancouver and Jeremy Colliton of Chicago. Paul Maurice and Joel Quenneville have resigned as Winnipeg and Florida coaches, respectively.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on February 9, 2022.

The Canadian Press


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