Bouchard hiring could lead him to bigger things with Canadiens

Marc Bergevin talks about how the Montreal Canadiens will approach the off-season and how the team will need an attitude change.

MONTREAL — The worst-kept secret in hockey has now been revealed with Joel Bouchard officially joining the Montreal Canadiens organization to coach the AHL’s Laval Rocket.

You’ll have trouble finding anyone in Quebec who doesn’t consider that to be a win for the Canadiens.

Perhaps the only surprise here is that the coaching responsibilities will be the only ones Bouchard undertakes. There was plenty of thought — reasonable thought — that he might also have a managerial role with the Canadiens; that he might be in charge of player personnel for the Rocket, too. After all, he was making the move from being a part owner, general manager and head coach of the QMJHL’s highly successful Blainville-Boisbriand Armada and it was considered he might not leave all that behind just for a job as a bench boss in the AHL.

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But the Canadiens’ press release made sure to stipulate that Larry Carriere, who had run Montreal’s AHL affiliate for the last six years, was continuing in that role. And the fact that Bouchard is on board with that tells you everything you need to know about the appeal of the job. It goes without saying, this could lead to bigger things for Bouchard, but most importantly it could lead to bigger things for him in Montreal.

Wouldn’t that be a dream for any aspiring Quebecois coach? Sure, Canadiens coach Claude Julien is in Year 2 of a five-year contract, but the opportunity to eventually ascend to his chair became that much more tangible for Bouchard when he put pen to paper on a three-year contract with the Rocket.

And perhaps of equal importance is what this means to the Canadiens.

"Following our evaluation, we concluded that Joel was ready to make the step up as a head coach at the professional level," said Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin via press release. "His experience at the junior level in Quebec, as well as on the international stage with Hockey Canada, makes him an excellent coach who can develop great young players. He also has a solid knowledge base of junior players from across Canada. We are confident he will bring a dynamic approach to the Rocket organization. Having done some outstanding work with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada for the past several years as a coach and a general manager, Joel has an excellent reputation and very good knowledge of the North Shore market."

About Bouchard’s success: The 44-year-old has a 145-99 record as coach of the Armada. This season the team went 50-11-4-3 and fell just shy of winning the President’s Cup and earning a berth to the 2018 Memorial Cup.

As a GM, not only did Bouchard assemble the ultra-competitive Armada, he put together Team Canada’s last two entries into the World Junior Championship, helping them capture silver in 2017 and gold in 2018.

He’s got an impressive resume. We’re talking about a 13-year NHL defenceman who quickly found success as a broadcaster, and then quickly found his way to becoming one of the most successful people in junior hockey. You have to think he’s well-equipped to turn the Rocket into a perennial playoff contender, which is something Montreal’s AHL affiliate hasn’t been in six years under Bergevin, Carriere and recently fired coach Sylvain Lefebvre.

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We’re also talking about a homegrown talent — one the Canadiens were wise to snatch up before someone else came around and stole Bouchard away from them. It happened with Benoit Groulx, who did a fabulous job with the Gatineau Olympiques before being lured by the Tampa Bay Lightning to coach the Syracuse Crunch. Pascal Vincent was plucked from the Q to become an assistant coach with the Winnipeg Jets in 2011 and just finished off a Coach of the Year performance with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose this season.

The Canadiens also had Guy Boucher as their head coach with the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs before the Lightning stole him away in 2010.

But Bouchard? He’s right where he belongs, being groomed to one day be where he wants to be.

That’s a trend now with Dominique Ducharme being added as an assistant coach with the Canadiens back on April 27.

Bouchard and Ducharme have enjoyed plenty of success together. They shared a bench in Montreal already, when Bouchard was an assistant to Ducharme with the upstart Juniors in the Q from 2008-11. And, of course, Bouchard served as boss to Ducharme, who coached Canada on the last two world junior runs. Now both men will have considerable influence — and hopefully a strong impact — on the team they grew up cheering for as kids. They’ll both be working hand in hand while also competing for a chance to be the next coach of the Canadiens.

We can’t see the downside in any of that.

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