The Montreal Canadiens have officially named Dominique Ducharme the 31st full-time head coach in franchise history. The team has removed the interim tag and signed Ducharme to a three-year contract extension through the 2023-24 season. Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic tweets that the deal is believed to be worth $1.7MM per season. GM Marc Bergevin released a statement on his new coach:
Dominique has managed to set his system in place and establish himself as a head coach in a very unusual season with challenging circumstances. While our team has gone through its fair share of adversity, he has shown a lot of control over the situation as well as showing calm and great leadership. These are important qualities that we look for in a head coach and he fully deserves the chance to lead our team and take it to the next level.
The 48-year-old head coach took over from Claude Julien earlier this season after serving as an assistant since 2018 and ended up taking the Canadiens all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Though he missed part of the playoffs due to a positive COVID test, the systems that Ducharme instituted in Montreal carried them throughout the playoffs as a strong defensive team that attacked opportunistically off turnovers. It got them past the North Division-leading Toronto Maple Leafs, swept the Winnipeg Jets, and defeated the hugely favored Vegas Golden Knights, before eventually breaking down against the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning. With that playoff success, it seemed obvious that Ducharme would be retained as head coach and today’s news makes it official.
Even though he did have all that postseason glory, it’s important to note that the Canadiens did go 15-16 under Ducharme in the regular season. There are countless factors that go into that record, including a tough schedule caused by a COVID shutout, but this isn’t a proven name that Montreal is going with. Still, there are reasons to believe that Ducharme can be a successful NHL head coach right away, starting with his strong history in the QMJHL. He won a league title in 2013, taking home the CHL Coach of the Year trophy for his efforts. He has led Team Canada to a gold medal at the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament and the World Juniors as well, though that 2018 team was loaded with NHL talent including Cale Makar, Robert Thomas, and Carter Hart.
With their coach locked up, the Canadiens can now focus on other offseason negotiations. Phillip Danault, Joel Armia, Corey Perry, Eric Staal, Tomas Tatar, Jon Merrill and Erik Gustafsson are all pending unrestricted free agents, while Artturi Lehkonen and Jesperi Kotkaniemi are both scheduled to become RFAs. There’s plenty of work left to do for Bergevin and his staff, but he won’t have to worry about who is behind the bench moving forward.