Dominique Ducharme says he is ready to lead the Montreal Canadiens. No surprise, because his journey to become the Habs’ interim head coach is nearly 17 years in the making.
“I feel prepared,” Ducharme said Wednesday afternoon. “You know, when you’re prepared, you sit down at school, you get your exam – you don’t care what the questions are going to be because you’re ready to answer. You’re pretty nervous when you’re not ready, you didn’t study. I’m confident. I’m confident in the group. I’m confident in the guys I’m working with. I’m ready to go.”
After a standout four years at the University of Vermont, where he skated alongside Martin St. Louis, Ducharme played minor pro for parts of eight seasons before taking up coaching in 2004. He began with his hometown Joliette L’Action in the Quebec Junior Hockey League.
He moved up to the Montreal Juniors in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 2008-09 as an assistant coach, beginning a decade-long run in the province’s top junior circuit, with stops as a head coach in Halifax and Drummondville.
Ducharme led the Mooseheads to the 2013 Memorial Cup and then Team Canada to gold and silver medals and the 2018 and 2017 World Junior Championships.
Along the way, Ducharme has intersected with a who’s-who list of future NHL stars, from Nathan MacKinnon in Halifax to Cale Makar and Thomas Chabot with Team Canada.
What can the Canadiens expect in the 47-year-old Ducharme? We asked some of his current and former players.
JONATHAN DROUIN - Montreal Canadiens winger, played for Ducharme in Halifax for three seasons (2011-14), also in Montreal for these last three seasons as an assistant coach.
“Dom is a smart guy and has a great sense for the game and adjusting to stuff quickly. He’s very good at being able to talk to you and communicate when he has a message he needs to tell you. He has a hard side as well when things are not going right or when you don’t play well, he will let you know and be honest with you.
“Dom will make sure you learn stuff and will help you – watching video or showing you stuff in private – to make sure you get it and everything is clear.”
TIMO MEIER - San Jose Sharks winger, played for Ducharme in Halifax for two and a half seasons (2013-16):
“Dom was the first coach I had when I came over from Switzerland. He showed me as a 16-year-old the player I could be, the style that was ultimately printed on my game. He taught me a lot. I had a tough start my first year in Halifax, but all of the things that he preached to me helped me explode in my second year.
[Note: Meier was drafted ninth overall following that second season.]
“I always thought he was very fair. He puts guys out there who compete and play with high pace. He’s very direct, communicated well. If he wasn’t happy, he would call you into the office and tell you. He’s got a very straight line, he knows what he wants, and I think guys respect that.”
THOMAS CHABOT - Ottawa Senators defenceman, played for Ducharme on Team Canada as an assistant (2016, 6th place) and head coach (2017, silver medal where Chabot was named tournament MVP).
“In the summer leading up to the tournament, Dominique and I went for dinner. He wanted to discuss the plan and what we wanted to accomplish during the tournament. He really was appreciated by all the players. He has a high level of attention to detail. I only spent a short time with him, but it was a great experience.”
NIKOLAJ EHLERS - Winnipeg Jets winger, played for Ducharme in Halifax for two seasons (2013-15).
“He’s a great guy and a great coach, one that you can always talk to if something’s up on or off the ice. He knows how to use his players and motivate them individually.”
JOE VELENO - Detroit Red Wings first-round pick, played for Ducharme for one season in Drummondville (2017-18).
"Great person, great coach. Helped me a tremendous amount on my 200-foot game, developing good habits and paying attention to small details that I'd never thought of before. I built a good relationship with him and so did the team. Everyone had a tremendous amount of respect towards him and he always had a plan that would be successful."
MACKENZIE WEEGAR - Florida Panthers defenceman, played for Ducharme in Halifax for two seasons (2012-14).
"Dom is a great coach. He's a very intense guy, will demand a high compete level every night. He's an honest man, will let you know where you stand – always. I think he'll be a good fit there. I know he's been waiting for this position. I think [Jonathan] Drouin will excel considering the great relationship they have. I'm excited to see what he can do and I'm happy to see him get the position."
Contact Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @frank_seravalli