Coaching is not an easy job, especially in the NHL, and especially when taking over a team mid-season for your first NHL head coaching job. That’s the challenge Montreal Canadiens interim head coach Dominique Ducharme took on.
As a coach, you have a ton of things to manage. You need to implement your system, you need to choose your lineup, and you need to make sure the players come out and execute.
Laval Rocket head coach Joël Bouchard often says that the coaches don’t hold the sticks. He often says this to give credit to players, but it works the other way too. In the end, if the players are not performing there doesn’t seem to be much a coach can do.
After Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to the Calgary Flames, Nick Suzuki, Jeff Petry, and Brett Kulak talked to the media. All of them said familiar things we’ve heard over the past few weeks. They need to have a better start, and they need to work better as a unit. Petry was more direct saying that players weren’t all on the same page, but there seems to be a disconnect between the things the players say need to improve and them implementing it.
There will be growing pains when a new system is implemented, and it seems when the Canadiens aren’t on the same page, every player tries to get them out of it themselves rather than working together. It’s not unique to the Canadiens. It should be said, however, that the Flames underwent a coaching change more recently than Montreal.
Ducharme pointed his finger at his players. He said he needs more from a lot of them, and he needs them to play to their potential. He was also asked about the team’s urgency and whether the Flames were more desperate.
“When there are 16 games left to play, you need to have that feeling,” Ducharme said. “[Wednesday], they were definitely more desperate than we were.”
A lot was made about Ducharme’s ability to communicate when he took over, and by all accounts the players are embracing that part of his coaching. However, he is not a bystander for the team’s inconsistent play that already cost three coaches their job.
What happens in the next 16 games, and potentially beyond, will depend on whether Ducharme can find a way to extract the team’s potential. After all, a coach can only point at their players’ errors for so long before people start looking at the coach for not fixing them.