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'Dom was my guy,' Bergevin says as Ducharme takes Canadiens' reins – Montreal Gazette

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“I like offence but, to create offence, you need the puck, you need to retrieve it,” Dominique Ducharme says as he assumes control of Habs.

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Dominique Ducharme faces a difficult task as he takes over the head coaching job with the Canadiens, a team that is falling short of its high expectations.

General manager Marc Bergevin pulled the plug on Claude Julien and associate coach Kirk Muller Wednesday, scant hours before the team left Ottawa for Winnipeg, where they will play the Jets on Thursday (8 p.m., TSN2, TSN3, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).

Ducharme has been regarded as the Canadiens’ head coach in waiting since he was hired as an assistant coach in 2018, but his progression was hurried along when the Canadiens went into a 2-4-2 slide after a strong start to the COVID-shortened season.

While Ducharme, 47, carries an interim tag on his title, Bergevin said he was the first choice for the job and it is his to lose.

“Quarantine or no quarantine, Dom was my guy from the time I made my decision,” said Bergevin. “He’s a new model of coach, a young coach who came a long way, had success at the junior level, at the world junior level. I feel this team needed a new voice and he’s a good communicator and, from what I saw, that’s what the players are looking for.”

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Ducharme talked to his players as the head coach for the first time Wednesday night and he’ll have to communicate his ideas while navigating a schedule that basically sees the Canadiens playing every other night.

When asked about his coaching style, Ducharme said the best answers will be on the ice and he trotted out clichés about playing the right way and playing fast before saying: “I like offence but, to create offence, you need the puck, you need to retrieve it. We want to spend less time in our zone. We want to create more turnovers, we want to counter quick. For sure, we want to go on offence, but we need the puck.”

Ducharme must patch up the Habs’ special teams, which rank in the bottom third of the NHL. Alex Burrows moved over from the AHL’s Laval Rocket as an assistant coach and will guide the power play, while Luke Richardson will supervise the penalty kill, which has been wildly inconsistent after starting the season with a flood of short-handed goals.

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Ducharme enjoyed success in the junior ranks, winning a Memorial Cup in 2013 with a Halifax Mooseheads lineup that included Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin. He won gold and silver medals as head coach of Team Canada at the world juniors, but the Canadiens gave him his first professional experience.

“I didn’t take the highway,” said Ducharme. “I took the side road, but I’m proud of that. It made me grow as a coach.”‘

Bergevin said he couldn’t pinpoint when he decided to make a change, but he said the team kept repeating the same mistakes.

“Last season, we had two eight-game losing streaks and I know we had injuries. But this year, knock on wood, we’ve been healthy, and I saw a pattern that I didn’t want to wait much longer.”

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Bergevin said he detected a disconnect between the message Julien was sending to the players and their performance on the ice. The final straw came Tuesday night when the Canadiens lost 5-4 in a shootout to the Senators for their third straight loss.

Ducharme might have had time to implement some changes if Bergevin pulled the trigger last week, when the Canadiens had six days between games, but Montreal was coming off a 2-1 win over the Maple Leafs and the general manager said he was giving Julien and Muller a chance to right the ship. The Canadiens proceeded to lose three games after the break.

Ducharme appeared relaxed as he talked to the media during a video conference Wednesday afternoon and he hearkened back to his student days at the University of Vermont, where he was a key member of a powerhouse hockey team alongside future Stanley Cup winners Eric Perrin, Martin St. Louis and Tim Thomas.

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“When you prepare, you sit down at school, get your exam (and) you don’t care what the questions are going to be, you’re ready to answer” said Ducharme. “You’re pretty nervous when you’re not ready, when you didn’t study. I feel comfortable. I’m confident in the group I’m working with and I’m ready to go.”

phickey@postmedia.com

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  1. Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin watches his team's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs during second period in Montreal on Feb. 10, 2021.

    Stu Cowan: Players forced Canadiens GM’s hand in firing of Julien

  2. Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien looks toward the ice as his team takes on the Ottawa Senators during second period NHL action in Ottawa on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021.

    Jack Todd: Canadiens’ sweet start ends in bitter outcome for Julien

  3. Head coach Claude Julien blows a whistle over his mask during Montreal Canadiens practice at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Jan. 27, 2021.

    What the Puck: Canadiens goalie Price shares blame for Julien’s firing

  4. Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien, right, speaks with associate coach Kirk Muller practice at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Wednesday November 27, 2019.  (John Mahoney} / MONTREAL GAZETTE)  ORG XMIT: POS1911271253161652

    Montreal Canadiens fire Claude Julien and Kirk Muller

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Drouin must return to mentality that’s led to success this season – Sportsnet.ca

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It was something Dominique Ducharme said after his Montreal Canadiens played an abysmal game against the Ottawa Senators last week, something that only truly resonated after they lost 3-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday — a game that emboldened the struggle Jonathan Drouin’s currently enduring.

“Ninety per cent of the mistakes we made were mental, and the rest of it was above our shoulders.” the coach said after the 6-3 loss to Ottawa last Saturday, somewhat channelling New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra with this bit of wit and wisdom.

It was hard not to think of those words watching Drouin play the way he did on Wednesday. For much of this season, the talented left winger has played a primary role in Montreal’s success. He’s led them with 19 assists, been tenacious on the forecheck, physically engaged all over the ice, cerebral as always in his execution and, as he’s said on several occasions, relatively unconcerned by whether or not his name has been featured on the scoresheet.

But it seemed clear, after watching Drouin dump a breakaway into Jack Campbell’s chest with one of 32 shots the Maple Leafs goaltender turned aside to set a franchise record with his 10th consecutive win, he had diverted from that. And that affected the way he played the rest of the game.

It was Drouin’s fifth in a row without a point, his 18th without a goal, and he’d have to be a robot not to be suffering the mental wear of not seeing the puck go in more than twice since the season started, the torment of seeing only three per cent of his shots hit the back of the net through 36 games after 10 per cent of them resulted in goals through the first 348 games of his career.

“It is weighing on me where, when I have a chance and miss the goal, I might be trying to score too much,” Drouin said. “It’s something I obviously think about — every player would — and I’ve just gotta put it past me and just keep shooting pucks.”

Ideally, the 26-year-old wouldn’t be thinking about any of this. These are thoughts that weigh a player down and right now the Canadiens are in tough without Brendan Gallagher for the rest of the season and Drouin needs to be light and free to help account for that loss. And in order for him to do that, he needs to focus on what he does best.

Because the reality is that even though Drouin can score more, scoring isn’t what he needs to do in order to be at his best and really help this team.

“When his feet are moving and he’s making plays, Drou’s a pass-first guy,” explained Jake Allen, who made 29 saves in Carey Price’s absence. “When his feet are moving, his head’s always in it. When his feet are moving, he’s controlling the play, controlling the puck. He’s a guy who really can control the play for a whole line. You want the puck on that guy’s stick and let the other guys do the dirty work and he’ll find them.”

But when Drouin’s feet aren’t moving, there just isn’t enough of that other stuff happening.

When Drouin’s feet weren’t moving, he lost a battle for the puck in the offensive zone and allowed the NHL’s leading goal scorer to start the rush that resulted in the winning play of Wednesday’s game.

Auston Matthews to Mitch Marner, back to Matthews, off Allen and slammed into Montreal’s net by Zach Hyman with 9:39 remaining in the third period, with Drouin watching from just inside his own blue line.

“You give a 3-on-2 to the Matthews line and it’s the kind of play they’re going to make you pay on,” said Ducharme.

Was Drouin still thinking about that shot he didn’t bury in the second period?

It’s understandable if he was, but those are the kind of thoughts he needs to shake right now.

“He wants to do well, and I’m sure it’s getting a little bit in his head,” said Ducharme. “I think the best remedy for him is to be scoring that goal or making that big play, and I think he’s going to be energized by that and less thinking, more acting.

“It is a fine line. Those kind of thoughts is not something that you want to happen. But when you receive that puck and you see the opening and stuff, (the slump) comes back to (your mind). That’s why the mental part of the game is something that’s very tricky. It’s not his will to be thinking that way. Every player who’s going through a time like that will have that thought and scoring that goal will take him to a different level. At those kind of times you need to make it even simpler and being even more inside going at the net and finding a garbage (goal) right there and you put it in and sometimes you go on a little run. It might be that kind of goal that he needs to get that monkey off his back.”

It’s the kind of goal Corey Perry scored twice to give the Canadiens a chance in this game.

But Drouin isn’t Perry, who rightly pointed out after the game he’s made a career of scoring goals that way. And even if Drouin can borrow from what Perry does next time he has a chance like the one Brett Kulak set him up with for that breakaway, there are other ways he can positively impact the game.

You can appreciate that Drouin said he’s putting pressure on himself to score more and help make up for the goals the team will be missing with Gallagher sidelined, but that might not get him to where he needs to be mentally to contribute as much as he already has this season.

What would, though, is a sharp turn towards the mentality he described just days ago. The one that’s enabled him to be a much more consistent player this season than he has in seasons past.

“When I was younger, I’d stay on one game or stay on one play for too long and wouldn’t be able to let it go for a bit or a couple of days,” Drouin said. “But I think for me now it’s can I look at myself in the mirror after a game and did I give my good effort? Was I a part of this game? Was I doing something right in a lot of areas?

“That’s what I do now. I think points are there, goals are there, assists are there, but it’s just about playing that real game and playing to help your team win.”

Drouin’s done a lot of that this season and has a chance to get right back to it when the Winnipeg Jets visit the Bell Centre Thursday.

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Scioscia to lead U.S. baseball bid for spot at Tokyo Olympics

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(Reuters) – Mike Scioscia, who won World Series both as a player and manager, was named manager of the U.S. men’s national baseball team on Tuesday, as they seek a spot at the Tokyo Olympics.

After 19 seasons as manager of the Anaheim Angels, guiding them to their only World Series win in 2002, Scioscia will make his international coaching debut in June when the United States hosts the Baseball Americas Qualifier in Florida.

For the tournament the U.S. will be grouped with the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Nicaragua in Pool A while Canada, Colombia, Cuba, and Venezuela will make up Pool B.

The top two teams from each pool will advance to the Super Round, where the country with the best overall record will earn a spot in the Tokyo Olympic tournament.

Second and third-place finishers will advance to a final qualifier, joining Australia, China, Taiwan, and the Netherlands.

“Mike’s tenure with the Angels’ franchise was nothing short of spectacular, creating and celebrating a culture of success with six division titles, an American League pennant, and its first-ever World Series title,” said USA Baseball Executive Director/CEO Paul Seiler in a statement. “More impactfully, his leadership, integrity, and character are unparalleled in our game, making him the perfect fit for the USA Baseball family.”

The Olympic tournament will take place from July 28-Aug. 7 in Fukushima City and Yokohama.

Hosts Japan, Israel, South Korea, and Mexico have already secured a berth in the six-team field.

 

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Toby Davis)

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Masters 2021: Tiger Woods says he'll miss Champions Dinner, running up DJ's bill – Golf Channel

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AUGUSTA, Ga. – Dustin Johnson will host his first Champions Dinner on Tuesday night in the Augusta National clubhouse, and he’ll be joined by several past Masters champions.

One former winner who won’t be there is five-time champ Tiger Woods, who is still home in South Florida recovering from a serious car accident in February near Los Angeles. Justin Thomas, who is still working toward his invite to the prestigious dinner, said Woods texted him Friday night and was “bummed” to not be at the Masters this year.

Woods then tweeted Tuesday afternoon that he’ll miss one of his favorite nights of the year.

“I’ll miss running up @DJohnsonPGA’s bill at the Champions Dinner tonight,” Woods said. “It’s still one of my favorite nights of the year.”

Johnson responded to Woods’ tweet, saying: “Will miss having you here. This week isn’t the same without you.”

The PGA Tour announced that the club would leave a seat open for Woods at the dinner, though the tweet has since been taken down.

Johnson will serve a menu including filet mignon, sea bass and peach cobbler.

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