The Montreal Canadiens made the decision to move on from Claude Julien and Kirk Muller, the proper choice, but one with ramifications down the entire organizational ladder. Alex Burrows was plucked from Laval to move on up to the NHL bench with Dominique Ducharme and Luke Richardson.
Burrows was running the Laval power play for the last two seasons, and quite successfully as a first-time coach. In the 2019-2020 season the Rocket finished 8th in the AHL in PP% and are sitting 13th at the time of Burrows’ promotion. The Rocket man advantage functions far differently than the Canadiens, allowing more free-flowing in the offensive zone to create open shooting lanes. In his first year the team could run shots through Charles Hudon, or Xavier Ouellet, but neither player stayed tethered to one spot on the ice, opting to find soft areas to operate in.
In Montreal the big shooting pieces, aka Shea Weber, plant themselves and almost stubbornly refuse to leave. Ironically when Weber did move his shooting lanes against Ottawa he found the back of the net twice, but going forward it will be Burrows job to try and find ways to utilize the Habs best shooter.
The creativity shouldn’t just stop at revitalizing the power play either, if Chantal Machabée is to be believed (and there’s no reason she shouldn’t be) it was Dominique Ducharme’s offensive mind that drove the Canadiens earlier in the season. We saw a Canadiens team that played with pace, drove hard to dangerous areas, and played unafraid hockey. Whether it was Claude Julien overruling Ducharme or the players overthinking during the losing streak, putting the guy who had them playing exciting hockey back in charge seems like the right play.
I guess my final thought is that the onus for Claude Julien getting fired being on Carey Price’s shoulder feels extremely unfair. At five on five, Price has been more than fine with a .920 SV% (Jake Allen clocks in at .945), but his overall numbers take a massive hit when you factor in the penalty kill. While killing just five on four penalties, Price has a .841 SV% (Allen drops to .900), and before we go and fully blame Price let’s add context.
I don't know, actually; but sv% would be an even more-unfair comparison than usual here because the habs have allowed totally different shot patterns 4v5 with those two in net. pic.twitter.com/dYQHoFH9nQ— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) February 24, 2021
Somehow, the Canadiens in equal amounts of shorthanded time, have just left Carey Price out to dry, while providing Allen far better coverage in front of him. It’s a bizarre circumstance, but the team across the board isn’t doing what it needs to on the penalty kill. Price can be better on the penalty kill, this is absolutely true, but with the current system he’s being forced to guess where he needs to be or second-guess where his teammates might be in their coverage.
The team is good enough that they don’t need Carey Price to be otherworldly, but if Price is giving you a .920 type of season and you can’t kill any of the penalties you’re taking it’s more than just his fault right now.
For me personally, I’m excited to see a non-retread coach hired. Ducharme was someone I wanted to coach the AHL club during Sylvain Lefebvre’s reign of errors. I think he’s got the pedigree at lower levels to make this a successful next step, and it’s very interesting to see how highly the organization thinks of Alex Burrows as well.
To quote a WWE theme song: It’s a New Day, Yes it is.
My first reaction is that this is a fresh start for a lot of players. There is a lot of competition for spots in the lineup, both at forward and at defence. I am not expecting insane changes when he doesn’t have a full practice under his belt before the team’s first game, at least not in terms of lineup. What I am expecting to see, however, is a difference in mindset. There will be some changes there for sure.
A fresh start is always exciting because of the hope it brings. Anything is possible.
I am looking forward to seeing how Ducharme settles into the role. Head coach of the Montreal Canadiens is a hard job to jump into, but so is coaching the Canadian World Junior team at home... Which is something he did as well. He coached the 2017 team to a silver medal in Montreal, and then won gold the next year.
I don’t think he’ll wait long to put his stamp on the team. It won’t happen overnight (literally) but the team has two games in Winnipeg before coming back home. By the time the Canadiens host the Senators on March 2, I would expect it to be a different looking team than the one that played the two previous games.
I am curious what the players will say after a few days with Ducharme in charge. This is a guy the players know well. He’s been on the staff for a few years. That may make it easier for him to implement some of his adjustments. He also knows the players well, which is an easier transition than if he was a complete outsider.
Marc Bergevin talked a lot about communication. It’s something that stands out when I watch Joël Bouchard. Bouchard and Ducharme have worked a lot together, from the Montreal Junior, to the Canadian World Junior team. The two are also very similar. I recently re-read this story from when both were hired, and you can see the similarities.
I think there will be some changes that will happen quickly, but I also think some of the benefits to Ducharme taking over will be felt longer-term as well. That’s what Marc Bergevin is counting on and there’s a reason why he was chosen for this role, and all the other roles before this one where he had success.
The NHL is a different ball game, sure, but I always saw Ducharme as a future NHL coach, and I am looking forward to seeing what he does with the opportunity.