MONTREAL — The Montreal Canadiens named Joel Bouchard coach of the Laval Rocket, their American Hockey League affiliate, on Thursday.
The 44-year-old Bouchard succeeds Sylvain Lefebvre, who was fired at the end of the regular season after six years on the job. The also announced that Lefebvre’s assistants Donald Dufresne and Nick Carriere, wouldn’t be back.
Bouchard left as co-owner, president, general manager and coach of the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League to take the Rocket job that may one day lead to coaching or management with the NHL club.
Bouchard said he’s not thinking that far ahead, for now.
"Everything I do, I do with passion," said Bouchard. "The most rewarding opportunity for me, the job I wanted, was to be coach of the Laval Rocket."
"Following our evaluation, we concluded that Joel was ready to make the step up as a head coach at the professional level," Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin said in a statement. "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."
The Canadiens also announced that Larry Carriere will no longer serve as general manager of the Rocket but will stay on as director of player personnel and remain senior adviser, hockey operations, for the Canadiens.
The Bouchard hiring follows the April 27 announcement of Dominique Ducharme as assistant coach of the Canadiens. Bouchard was part of the management team that had Ducharme as head coach of the Canadian world junior championship squad that won a silver medal in 2017 and gold in 2018.
They also coached together with the Montreal Juniors before Bouchard put together an ownership group with former NHL players Danny Briere, J.S. Giguere and Ian Laperriere as well as business partner Pierre Gendron and the Videotron media company to buy the franchise and move it to Boisbriand north of Montreal in 2012.
Bouchard acted as GM the last seven years and added head coaching duties in 2014-15. He was named QMJHL coach of the year this season after finishing first in the regular season, only to lose in the final round of the playoffs for a second year in a row.
The former defenceman has always been an organizer. During the 2004-05 lockout, he found a sponsor and put together a successful charity tour of Quebec by a team of NHL players.
Some see him as a future GM in Montreal, just as Ducharme may eventually be Claude Julien’s successor as coach.
Bergevin decided to leave the GM job open in Laval, although he said he was "extremely satisfied with the work of Larry Carriere."
Bouchard played 13 NHL seasons with the Calgary Flames. Nashville Predators, Dallas Stars, Phoenix Coyotes, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders. He was drafted by Calgary in 1992.
His playing career was plagued by injuries and illness, including a bout of spinal meningitis.