Canadiens fire head coach Dominique Ducharme, replace him with Martin St. Louis

Jesse Fuchs & Eric Engels discuss the Canadiens firing head coach Dominique Ducharme, the reasons for his departure, and what Martin St. Louis brings to Montreal as he gets set to make his NHL head coaching debut.

The Montreal Canadiens have fired head coach Dominique Ducharme, the team announced Wednesday, replacing him on an interim basis with former Stanley Cup champion Martin St. Louis.

Ducharme’s firing comes on the heels of another lopsided loss, this one a 7-1 pasting at the hands of the New Jersey Devils, who are in the bottom third of the league. The Habs allowed 33 goals in their last five games, a franchise record. They have lost seven straight, including two in overtime, and 13 of their last 14 (with four OT losses).

The Canadiens are in the throes of one of their worst seasons in the long history of the storied franchise, sitting dead last in the 32-team league with an 8-30-7 record.

St. Louis, 46, spent 16 seasons in the NHL, scoring 391 goals and adding 642 assists for a total of 1,033 points in 1,134 games with the Calgary Flames, Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Rangers. The Laval, Que., native won a Stanley Cup in 2004 with the Lightning and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018.

Despite his Hall of Fame playing career, St. Louis’ coaching history is sparse. His only NHL experience outside of playing was a special teams consulting position with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2018-19.

Behind the bench, St. Louis was head coach of the Mid Fairfield Rangers under 13s AAA in Connecticut during the 2021-22 season.

Assistant coaches Alex Burrows, Éric Gravel, Mario Leblanc, Trevor Letowski, Éric Raymond and Luke Richardson remain on staff.

The team has struggled with the absences of superstar goaltender Carey Price, who is recovering from knee surgery and also spent time in the NHL’s substance abuse program, as well as captain and stalwart defenceman Shea Weber.

As Sportsnet’s Eric Engels wrote after Tuesday’s game, Ducharme had “been dealt a horrible hand and even worse luck – a brutally short turnaround from the Stanley Cup Final in July, season-long injuries to his best players and having to put more bodies in COVID-19 protocol than any other team in the league.”

The team’s earlier struggles resulted in long-time general manager Marc Bergevin being fired at the end of November, with replacements Jeff Gorton (vice president of hockey operations) and Kent Hughes (general manager) inheriting the troubled franchise.

Ducharme, 48, led the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup Final last season, where they lost to the defending-champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

He was promoted to interim head coach in February 2021 after spending the previous two seasons as an assistant coach alongside Claude Julien, whom he replaced. Under Ducharme in 2020-21, the Canadiens were 15-16-7, good enough for the fourth-place record in the North Division, to qualify for the playoffs.

His career coaching record with the Canadiens, the only NHL team he has coached, is 23-46-14, which is a .361 winning percentage.

Ducharme signed a three-year contract after the Stanley Cup Final, on July 13.

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