Dominique Ducharme is expected to have contract talks to remain coach of the Montreal Canadiens, general manager Marc Bergevin said Friday.
The 48-year-old was promoted Feb. 24 when Claude Julien was fired as coach after a 9-5-4 start.
“The day that I made the change with Dom, my intention was to keep him here long term in Montreal,” Bergevin said. “But it was important to give him that [interim] tag, like [the] Dallas [Stars] did with Rick Bowness. … Internally, we believed in him.”
Ducharme, who was hired as an assistant under Julien on April 27, 2018, went 15-16-7 as coach in the regular season to help the Canadiens finish fourth in the seven-team Scotia North Division (24-21-11, 59 points) and qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He guided Montreal to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1993, when it won the Cup. The Canadiens lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games.
“I think Marc is going to be [in] the better spot to answer that question,” Ducharme said of a contract. “I don’t think it will be very long, but again, there are many things going on right now and we have to do our stuff, and we’ll see what happens in the next few days.”
The Canadiens defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games in the Stanley Cup First Round, the Edmonton Oilers in four games in the second round and the Vegas Golden Knights in six games in the semifinals.
“I thought he came in and obviously did a very good job,” Montreal 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 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, including the first two of the Cup Final, after testing positive for COVID-19 on June 18, before returning July 2 to coach in a 6-3 loss in Game 3. He was required to quarantine for 14 days.
“I’m proud of this group,” Ducharme said after Game 5. “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.”
Prior to joining the Canadiens, Ducharme coached Canada to a first-place finish at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship after it finished second 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,” Canadiens 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