Dominique Ducharme will remain coach of the Montreal Canadiens.
The 48-year-old was promoted to replace Claude Julien, who was fired Feb. 24, after he was an assistant the past two seasons.
“Dominique has managed to set his system in place and establish himself as a head coach in a very unusual season with challenging circumstances,” Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said Tuesday. “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. These are important qualities that we look for in a head coach and he fully deserves the chance to lead our team and take it to the next level.”
Ducharme agreed to a three-year contract. He was 15-16-7 in the regular season to help the Canadiens finish fourth in the seven-team Scotia North Division and qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He guided Montreal to the Stanley Cup Final, where it lost in five games to the Tampa Bay Lightning. It was the first time the Canadiens reached the Final since 1993, when they won the Cup.
“I’m proud of this group,” Ducharme said after Game 5 against the Lightning. “I told the guys after the game. We had to go through a lot of things, and you talk about practice, you talk about injuries, scheduling, COVID. Even through the playoffs, being down, being up, many things. And we kept moving forward. We kept getting better. So we grew as a team a lot.
“We’ve got to use that the right way. And we want to make it back here with a different result.”
The Canadiens defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games in the Stanley Cup First Round after rallying from down 3-1 in the best-of-7 series. They swept the Winnipeg Jets in the second round and defeated the Vegas Golden Knights in six games in the Stanley Cup Semifinals.
“I thought he came in and obviously did a very good job,” Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry said. “Coming in in the middle of the year is difficult for a head coach to not shake up too much too soon, but I thought he managed our crazy schedule well (25 games in 44 days after COVID-19 outbreak). At the same time, he was adding the systems and the things he thought would help our team. I thought he brought the best out of each guy, he knew how to approach each guy, how to bring our team closer and get us playing a more consistent, harder game. I thought he did a great job with that and did a great job with our group.”
Ducharme missed six playoff games because he tested positive for COVID-19 on June 18, before Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals against the Golden Knights. He returned to coach Game 3 of the Final, a 6-3 loss, after being required to quarantine for 14 days.
“He came in at a tough time,” Montreal forward Nick Suzuki said. “We weren’t playing that great (9-5-4 to start season) but implemented his system and what he believed in and I think as a team we really embraced that and he did a great job with our whole group, listening to the players and really trying to get the most out of us.
“And with the conversations that I’ve had all season with him, just tried to help me out as much as possible, trying to give me little bits here and there of how I can take my game to a higher level. So he did a great job.”
Prior to joining the Canadiens, Ducharme coached Canada to first place at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship after a second place finish the year before. He coached seven seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with Halifax (2011-16) and Drummondville (2016-18), winning the Memorial Cup with Halifax in 2013.
“He’s to the point, he gets his point across, he’s definitely detailed and structured,” forward Corey Perry said. “That’s everything you want from a head coach. He’ll talk to you, he’ll let you know where you stand, and I can’t say enough about him. He did a tremendous job for us.”
NHL.com staff writers Tracey Myers and Tim Campbell contributed to this report