Canadiens give Dominique Ducharme 3-year deal as head coach

NHL Hockey

MONTREAL (AP)Dominique Ducharme was hired as the head coach of the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday after leading the club on a playoff run all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.

The Habs announced that Ducharme has agreed to a three-year contract extension through the 2023-24 season, removing the ”interim” qualifier that’s been attached to his title since he took over from the fired Claude Julien on Feb. 24.

”I always believe that when you do good things, good things happen to you,” Ducharme, 48, said in a news conference Tuesday following the team’s announcement.

”I have that belief that if we do things right – if we live the right way, if we commit like we should commit – at one point, you’ll get rewarded.”

Montreal managed a 15-16-7 record under Ducharme to finish the regular season and was the lowest-ranked team to qualify for the playoffs. The Canadiens couldn’t get any traction under the interim coach because of a combination of new systems, inconsistent play, a COVID-19 shutdown, key injuries and a condensed calendar.

Then the Canadiens got rolling in the postseason.

They came from 3-1 down to beat the favored Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, then swept Winnipeg in the North Division final.

They then knocked off the Vegas Golden Knights in six games in the semifinal before losing in five to defending champion Tampa Bay in the Cup Final.

Ducharme watched much of the last two rounds from isolation at home after contracting COVID-19 in June, but returned to the bench in the Cup Final.

”Even though we had some hard times and it was not easy, I still remain confident in the group,” he said Tuesday.

Ducharme joined the Canadiens’ coaching staff on April 27, 2018. The Quebec native spent 10 seasons coaching in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

He led the Halifax Mooseheads to QMJHL and Memorial Cup titles in 2012-13, earning the Canadian Hockey League’s Brian Kilrea Coach of the Year Award in the process.

He coached Canada to a gold medal at the 2018 world junior championship, and a silver the previous year.

More AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

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