Dominique Ducharme has officially been named head coach of the Montreal Canadiens after the team agreed to a three-year contract extension, general manager Marc Bergevin said in a news release on Tuesday.
Ducharme thus becomes the team’s 31st head coach in the franchise’s history.
The 48-year-old Joliette, Que. native took over from Claude Julien as interim head coach in February, after a two-year stint as an assistant coach.
During a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Ducharme told reporters he was hoping his time as interim coach would lead to taking on that roll in a permanent capacity.
“I didn’t have the intention of just passing through,” he said.
“I always believe that when you do good things, good things happen to you. I have that belief that if we do things right — if we live the right way, if we commit like we should commit — at one point, you’ll get rewarded.”
Under Ducharme, the Habs posted a 15-16-7 record and managed enough points to squeak in to a playoff spot in the North Division.
Then began the Habs’ historic playoff run which included overcoming a 3-1 deficit over the Toronto Maple Leafs to win the series in seven games, before moving on to sweep the Winnipeg Jets in the second round.
The Canadiens then surprised naysayers by beating the heavily favoured Vegas Golden Knights in six games, making it to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1993 — though the storied club lost the series to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“Dominique has managed to set his system in place and establish himself as a head coach in a very unusual season with challenging circumstances,” Bergevin said in a statement.
“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.”
Bergevin added he believed those qualities would help take the team to the next level.
Ducharme said his coaching style is all about being respectful and building a partnership.
“Having success as a team is a partnership,” he said, adding everyone has a job to do from coaches to players.
“We’re putting in the plan, we’re adjusting the plan and we show the direction what we want. Their job is to get into that and bring their own individual skills, their personality as a player within our team structure.”
Ducharme said he doesn’t foresee any changes to the coaching staff except maybe to bring in a fourth person.
As for Luc Richardson and Alex Burrows, Ducharme had only good things to say.
“Excellent coach,” he said of Richardson. “The kind of teammate you want to face any sort of situation.”
While Burrows has less experience behind the bench, Ducharme said he brings energy to the group and balances out the mix.
“He did an excellent job with the power play…and has a good vision for the team and of the game,” he said.
Ultimately, whether changes are made to the coaching staff, is a decision that rests with Bergevin.
Prior to joining the Montreal Canadiens in 2018, Ducharme spent 10 seasons with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. This included seven seasons in Halifax as head coach for the Mooseheads before he spent the remainder as head coach for the Drummondville Voltigeurs.
During his time with the QMJHL, he earned several distinctions including the CHL’s Brian Kilrea Coach of the Year Award and the Ron Lapointe Trophy as the top coach in the league.
On the international stage, Ducharme — again acting as head coach — led Canada to a gold medal win at the World Junior Championship in 2018, and silver in 2017.
The calendar for the upcoming season has yet to be released, but the off-season will likely be the shortest in NHL history.
Ducharme said he’s ready to take on the new challenge and build on what they learned last year.
“Playing together,” is the path to improvement he said.
— With a file from the Canadian Press