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New Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme looks calm, cool and confident – Montreal Gazette

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GM Marc Bergevin describes the 47-year-old Joliette native as a “new model of coach” who is a good communicator.

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Dominique Ducharme looked a bit nervous when he sat down for his first video conference Wednesday afternoon in Winnipeg as the Canadiens’ new head coach.

That’s totally understandable.

But it wasn’t very long into the 35-minute session that the 47-year-old Joliette native started to look calm, cool and confident answering questions from the media.

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

Ducharme takes over from Claude Julien, who was fired Wednesday morning after the Canadiens went 2-4-2 in their last eight games, dropping to fourth place in the North Division with a 9-5-4 record. Associate coach Kirk Muller was also fired.

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Ducharme has basically been the Canadiens’ head-coach-in-waiting since being hired as an assistant coach before the start of the 2018-19 season.

“If I had written a script, maybe it would have been different today,” he said. “But I’m losing two colleagues and two great people. Claude is a great man and I got to know Kirk. To see them leave, obviously, it’s a mixed feeling. Yes, I’m proud to be here. It was a long road for me. I didn’t take the highway … I went on the side roads. But I’m proud of that and I think it made me grow as a coach and today I feel ready for it.”

Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin informed Ducharme he was the new head coach Wednesday morning in Ottawa, after the Canadiens lost 5-4 to the Senators in a shootout Tuesday night. The Canadiens flew to Winnipeg later in the day and will play the Jets Thursday night (8 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).

Ducharme won’t even get a full practice before taking over behind the bench. The Canadiens will have a morning skate Thursday.

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“I want a team that plays the right way and plays fast, that’s for sure,” Ducharme said. “I like offence. For sure, I like offence. But to create offence you need to have the puck, so 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, we want to have solutions when we have the puck. For sure, we want to be going on offence, but we need the puck.

“One thing is creating an offence is not only with the puck carrier,” he added. “Right now we need a lot more support, we need a lot more cohesion on that side, working together and having options. We’ll work at giving the guy with the puck a lot more options.”

Bergevin described Ducharme as a “new model of coach” who is a good communicator. The GM wanted to make it clear that doesn’t mean Julien wasn’t a good communicator, adding sometimes it can be the same message just delivered in a different way with a different voice that is needed. Bergevin said the Canadiens were looking like a team that was lost and missing a sense of direction, adding that happens in pro sports when the same coach has been delivering the message for a long time and it stops getting through. Julien was in his fourth season as head coach.

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Bergevin is “100 per cent confident” Ducharme is the right man to get the players back on the same page, change the team’s vibe and turn things around. While Ducharme was named interim head coach, Bergevin said the job is his to lose now and a decision will be made on his future at the end of the season.

Ducharme is also confident he can get the job done.

“If you prepare for the game and you think tonight we’re going to win, maybe you forget something,” he said. “How are we going to win? Focus on the process. I think we need to go back to those little things and make sure we’re doing them right. For sure, there’s going to be some little adjustments. But I’m confident that we have a good team here. We’ll have success.”

Ducharme was asked what his specific responsibilities were as one of Julien’s assistant coaches up to this point.

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“A lot had to do with the pre-scout, watching the other team,” he said. “Obviously, I had a lot of things to watch for five-on-five. Claude has always been open to my comments. I learned a lot. Talking about the power play with Kirk, with Luke (Richardson) about the PK, so I touched a lot of things and gained experience that way. I think that was great for me.”

Ducharme was going to meet with the players for the first time as head coach Wednesday night.

What was his message going to be?

“I’ll keep that for them,” he said. “I think they deserve that. They care a lot. It was a big day for me, it was a big day for Kirk, for Claude. They’re human and they care. So I’ll talk to them tonight.”

scowan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/StuCowan1

  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. New Canadiens assistant coach Dominique Ducharme meets with the media at the team’s Brossard practice facility on April 27, 2018.

    Stu Cowan: Dominique Ducharme a head-coach-in-waiting with Canadiens

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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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