Canadiens fire Ducharme, hire St. Louis as interim coach

Feb 8, 2022, 11:17 PM | Updated: Feb 9, 2022, 3:24 pm

Montreal Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme looks on from behind the bench during an NHL hocke...

Montreal Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme looks on from behind the bench during an NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils in Montreal, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022. The Montreal Canadiens have fired head coach Dominique Ducharme. The 48-year-old was relieved of his duties Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022 after Montreal began its season with a dismal 8-30-7 record for a league-worst 23 points. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)

(Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)

MONTREAL (AP) — The Montreal Canadiens fired coach Dominique Ducharme on Wednesday and made Hall of Famer Martin St. Louis the interim coach of the team with the NHL’s worst record.

Ducharme was dismissed after Montreal began its season with a dismal 8-30-7 record for a league-worst 23 points. The 48-year-old’s last game was a 7-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night, Montreal’s seventh straight defeat. The team has yet to post back-to-back wins this season.

The Canadiens went 23-46-14 in 83 regular-season games under Ducharme and 13-6 in postseason play, making the Stanley Cup Final last season for the first time since winning their 24th and last Stanley Cup in 1993.

“We would like to sincerely thank Dominique for his work and contributions to the Montreal Canadiens organization. At this point in the season, we felt it was in the best interest of the club to make a change,” Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes said in a statement.

St. Louis had 391 goals and 1,033 points in his 16-year career, helping the Tampa Bay Lightning win the 2004 Stanley Cup. He also played for the Calgary Flames and New York Rangers.

The Canadiens opened this season with five straight losses and General Manager Marc Bergevin was fired Nov. 28 with the team struggling at 6-15-2. Montreal has just two wins since.

Last July, Ducharme agreed to a contract extension through the 2023-24 season. He had been interim head coach since he took over from the fired Claude Julien last February.

Ducharme paid the price for Montreal’s awful start to the season after its dramatic run through last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. The Canadiens are a shell of that team. They lost centers Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Philip Danault to free agency and are missing star goaltender Carey Price and captain Shea Weber.

Price voluntarily entered the joint NHL and NHL Players’ Association’s assistance program during training camp and is currently working his way back from off-season knee surgery. Weber, a staunch defenseman who anchored the blue line, is on the long-term injury reserve list with a foot/ankle injury and is not expected to return.

And the young players have slumped. Nick Suzuki, who signed an eight-year contract extension worth $63 million before the season, has 27 points on nine goals and 18 assists through 45 games. Cole Caufield, who impressed tremendously when called up as a rookie last season, has just one goal and seven assists in 30 games.

Thanks to a combination of new systems, inconsistent play, a COVID-19 shutdown, key injuries and a condensed calendar, the team initially struggled with Ducharme at the helm. The Canadiens managed a 15-16-7 record to finish the regular season and were the lowest-ranked team to qualify for last season’s Stanley Cup playoffs before they suddenly came alive, beating the Maple Leafs, Jets and Golden Knights to reach the finals.

Montreal lost the Cup to the defending champion Lightning in five games.

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Canadiens fire Ducharme, hire St. Louis as interim coach