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Sports What the Puck: Habs' Ducharme stuck between a rock and a hard cap place

23:45  19 april  2021
23:45  19 april  2021 Source:   montrealgazette.com

Canadiens Game Day: Eric Staal will make his Habs debut vs. Oilers

  Canadiens Game Day: Eric Staal will make his Habs debut vs. Oilers Eric Staal will make his Canadiens debut Monday night at the Bell Centre and Carey Price will be in goal against the Edmonton Oilers (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM). The Canadiens acquired Staal from the Buffalo Sabres on March 26 in exchange for a third-round pick a fifth-round pick at this year’s NHL Draft. Staal completed seven days of COVID-19 quarantine on Saturday and skated by himself Sunday morning at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard while the rest of the Canadiens enjoyed a day off. Staal joined his new teammates for Monday’s morning skate in Brossard and was at centre on a line with Jonathan Drouin and Tyler Toffoli.

a group of baseball players standing on top of a building: Montreal Canadiens interim head coach Dominic Ducharme watches the last minute of third period against the Calgary Flames behind players Paul Byron, left, Jonathan Drouin and Artturi Lehkonen in Montreal on April 14, 2021. © Provided by The Gazette Montreal Canadiens interim head coach Dominic Ducharme watches the last minute of third period against the Calgary Flames behind players Paul Byron, left, Jonathan Drouin and Artturi Lehkonen in Montreal on April 14, 2021.

You have to feel for Dominique Ducharme.

The Canadiens’ interim head coach looked like a deer caught in the headlights during a video conference after the team’s pathetic 4-0 loss Saturday to the Ottawa Senators. Did I mention that the Sens are the second-worst team in the National Hockey League?

Ducharme sounded exasperated when journalists repeatedly asked him about potentially making changes to the lineup.

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“This is going to be the third time I say it, I can’t make changes,” said Ducharme.

What he means is that there is simply no room under the salary cap for him to make any changes to the roster. He looked beyond frustrated when he said this and you can understand. The lineup he is stuck with is looking downright mediocre and there’s nothing he can do about it.

That statement is also a shot across the bow at his boss, Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin, who tied his hands. Bergevin spent to the cap and the result is a team that can’t beat the lowly Senators. The subtext of Ducharme’s remarks is that it’s Bergevin who’s responsible for this mess.

If Ducharme sounds upset it’s because the other subtext is that it might well turn out to be a very short NHL coaching career for Ducharme. If the Canadiens go down in flames, and it sure looks like they will, it’s a virtual certainty that Ducharme will be fired. And, given what happened this season, will there really be another team ready to give him a head-coaching job any time soon?

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You have to hand it to Bergevin. He’s already fired two head coaches in Michel Therrien and Claude Julien and it looks like another is set to hit the unemployment line. How many head coaches is the GM going to be allowed to fire before owner and team president Geoff Molson finally wakes up and realizes maybe the coaches aren’t the problem here?

Ducharme is failing first and foremost because Bergevin named him “interim” head coach. Do you really think captain Shea Weber takes him seriously? Exactly. Neither do I. As I wrote Friday , the captain is a disaster this season. If John Tortorella was the coach, you know he’d be ripping the Man Mountain.

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I can only imagine what Torts would be saying to Jonathan Drouin . But Ducharme has no authority to do anything. He’s a lame-duck coach thanks to the “interim” tag and by the fact he can’t make any lineup changes.

Canadiens Game Day: No changes to Habs lineup against Flames

  Canadiens Game Day: No changes to Habs lineup against Flames Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme won’t make any changes to his lineup for Friday night’s game against the Flames in Calgary (9 p.m., SN, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM). That means Jake Allen will be in goal — like he was for Wednesday night’s 4-3 win over the Oilers in Edmonton — and Canadiens fans will have to wait at least another game (and probably longer) until Cole Caufield makes his NHL debut. The Flames cancelled their morning skate Friday after a player tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday. The Canadiens held an optional morning skate Friday. “We’re getting ready for the game,” Ducharme said during a video conference Friday morning from Calgary.

So, in many ways, it isn’t really Ducharme’s fault. He didn’t sign Carey Price to that ridiculous contract. He didn’t pick up Weber’s even dumber contract. He didn’t think building a team around two centres with almost no experience was a good idea.

However, Ducharme has shown no particular flair in his new job and it seems clear he wasn’t ready for prime time. He just keeps putting Eric Staal, Drouin and Weber out on the power play even though everyone else on the planet knows they don’t deserve to be there. As an aside, we haven’t heard quite as many of those comments recently about how Alex Burrows is a power-play genius.

That leads to the bigger question. Were Bergevin’s hands tied when it came to hiring a new coach? Did his boss, Geoff Molson, tell him he had to go with the guy already behind the bench as assistant coach in order to save money?

Speaking of Molson, where is he these days? For a while, he was very present, often sitting beside Bergevin at news conferences. But since the pandemic hit, he’s gone AWOL. He held a bizarre news conference last spring. That was at the height of the COVID crisis here and the Black Lives Matter movement across the world, yet the Canadiens’ owner opened the event by focusing on a story in Le Journal de Montréal that suggested Molson might step down as Habs president and hire Vincent Damphousse for that post.

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Since that day, he’s kept a low profile, letting Bergevin do the explaining. So if this team self-destructs, does Bergevin keep his job? Close to the 12th anniversary of Molson and his partners buying the team, the record speaks for itself and it’s not pretty. Four head coaches have been fired under Molson’s watch and it looks like a fifth is on his way out.

The biggest success came during the early years, but his blind loyalty to Bergevin is inexplicable to most outside of the Bell Centre executive suites. Bergevin’s hottest moment was during the 2014 playoffs with a team essentially constructed by his predecessors.

Since then, the team has won one playoff series. Could this turn out to be the worst era in history for a team owned by the Molson family? Food for thought.

bkelly@postmedia.com

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Canadiens Game Day: Banged-up Habs get ready to play Jets .
The Canadiens are a banged-up hockey team. That was the message from head coach Dominique Ducharme ahead of Friday night’s game against the Winnipeg Jets at the Bell Centre (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio). Forwards Paul Byron and Tomas Tatar aren’t expected to play after missing practice Thursday because of lower-body injuries. Jonathan Drouin is on long-term injured reserve for personal reasons, while Brendan Gallagher isn’t expected back before the end of the regular season because of a fractured thumb and goalie Carey Price is still recovering from a concussion.

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This is interesting!