From the beginning of the 2018-2019 season, it was no secret that former Ottawa Senators coach Guy Boucher was coaching on borrowed time.
The third-year Ottawa Senators bench boss was coming off a catastrophic campaign, following the team’s Cinderella run to the 2017 Eastern Conference Final, and the Senators were clearly poised for another tough year come October.
Then, with 18 games left in the season, the shoe finally dropped, and Boucher was unceremoniously fired. While Marc Crawford has taken over the job on an interim basis, the Sens are supposedly considering outside candidates as well. While everything the organization says should be taken with a heaping helping of salt, rumours have begun swirling about who Pierre Dorion and Co. are looking at.
One of the names that has come up is Montréal Canadiens assistant coach, Dominique Ducharme. The 45 year-old is on his first NHL job, but has a stellar coaching pedigree. Ducharme spent nine seasons in the QMJHL, with seven as head coach of the Halifax Mooseheads and Drummondville Voltigeurs, respectively. He led the Mooseheads to their first, and only Memorial Cup in 2013.
Considered by many to be Montréal’s head coach-in-waiting, perhaps the biggest indication of Ducharme’s coaching ability has come from the people he’s encountered during his career. Hockey Hall of Famer, and Stanley Cup Champion, Martin St. Louis played with Ducharme for two years at the University of Vermont, and has complimented the coach’s “high IQ”.
Another notable name with good things to say about Ducharme is Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon. A key player on the Mooseheads’ 2013 championship squad, MacKinnon gave a glowing review of his former coach to the Montreal Gazette.
With reviews like that, it’s easy to see why the Ottawa Senators are interested in Dominique Ducharme. They’ve had plenty of encounters with him, being on the bench of their divisional rival, and much of his career has been right in their backyard of Quebec. Including the 2017 World Junior Championship, where he led Team Canada to a silver medal, while coaching tournament MVP, Thomas Chabot.
Would Ducharme Be A Good Fit?
So, is Ducharme a good candidate for the Ottawa Senators?
I would say so. As hungry as Sens fans are for an established NHL head coach, which they haven’t had in more than a decade, they need to be realistic with their expectations. I can’t imagine that coaches like Joel Quenneville or Alain Vigneault are eager to come coach in this organization. Heck, even Dan Bylsma is likely to keep his assistant job in Detroit, rather than coach a Eugene Melnyk-owned hockey club. One that has purged itself of all talent, and credibility.
Beyond that, the Senators could benefit from a young coach. One that isn’t far removed from the junior ranks, much like the majority of their roster. Who better to coach the crop of young kids than a man who coached the likes of Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin during their junior careers?
The advancement of young Montréal players is also an encouraging sign. While it’s uncertain how much of that is Ducharme’s doing, a lot of their kids have taken surprising steps this year. Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Arturri Lehkonen, and Victor Mete have all turned in solid seasons, and that gives way for some optimism if the Habs coach lands the Ottawa job.
Ducharme Would Be A Good Mentor For The Young Sens
With young bucks like Brady Tkachuk, Colin White, Thomas Chabot, Christian Wolanin, and Rudolfs Balcers currently establishing themselves as the core of Ottawa’s lineup, and the likes of Drake Batherson, Alex Formenton, and Erik Brännström on the way next year, it’s important to have a coach that can establish a rapport.
Ownership aside, the key to the Senators’ next few years lies in the development of their youth. With veteran presences like Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, and Erik Karlsson no longer around to help guide them, a head coach that’s able to reach the young players becomes that much more important.
Ottawa could do a lot worse than Dom Ducharme.
Stats from Hockey-Reference
Featured Image Photo Credit – Nikos Michals
Brandon Maki is a Staff Writer at SilverSevenSens.com, and Ottawa Senators contributor for Puck77.com
Follow him on Twitter: @BrandonMaki6