The Canadiens have undergone a coaching change, and their new leader is a surprising choice.
The team announced Wednesday that it had fired Dominique Ducharme, who was named to the position less than a year ago. Hours after that move, general manager Kent Hughes announced that the team had hired Hockey Hall of Famer Martin St. Louis as interim coach.
“We would like to sincerely thank Dominique for his work and contributions to the Montreal Canadiens organization. At this point in the season, we felt it was in the best interest of the club to make a change,” Hughes said in a statement.
Ducharme was fired a day after the Canadiens suffered a brutal 7-1 loss to the Devils. The team is last in the Atlantic Division with an 8-30-7 record. It has given up 33 goals in its last five games and lost 13 of its last 14 games.
Ducharme, who was hired on an interim basis Feb. 24, 2021, signed a three-year contract with Montreal last July to become the full-time coach. The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reports the deal was worth $1.75 million per season. LeBrun noted that the team is also paying former coach Claude Julien a $5 million salary through June 30.
Why did the Canadiens hire Martin St. Louis as interim coach?
Montreal is taking a chance on St. Louis, who has no previous coaching experience. The team has been out of rhythm since losing to the Lightning in five games in last year’s Stanley Cup Final.
“We are very happy to welcome Martin to the Canadiens organization,” said Hughes. “Not only are we adding an excellent hockey man, but with Martin we are bringing in a proven winner and a man whose competitive qualities are recognized by all who have crossed his path.”
St. Louis will get a chance to turn things around for the franchise, but his long-term future in Montreal is uncertain Reports say that the Canadiens’ plan is for him to serve as head coach for the remainder of the regular season and then reassess the situation.
The former NHL star served as a special teams consultant with the Blue Jackets in 2019. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018 after playing 16 seasons with the Lightning, Flames and Rangers. He helped lead Tampa Bay to a Stanley Cup and earned the Hart Trophy in 2004. The Quebec native won a gold medal with Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.