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Ducharme Credits Rebuild Mentality For Caufield Resurgence



Montreal Canadiens

Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield started last season on the top-line, ending up in the minors within a month, and returning to score just one goal in 30 games under former Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme. The rookie winger and preseason Calder Trophy candidate then exploded for 22 goals and 35 points in 37 games under new head coach Martin St. Louis. In a recent interview, Ducharme didn’t give any credit to St. Louis and instead credited the rebuild mentality the Canadiens went into after his firing as the reason Caufield snapped out of his prolonged slump he suffered through under Ducharme’s coaching.

“I think it was a question of confidence,” Ducharme told host Tony Marinaro on the latest Sick Podcast. “We were seen as the team that was in the Stanley Cup Final that was not playing well and not winning. …and for many reasons, but that’s a little bit of the spiral that we were in. So making that change (firing Ducharme), I think the organization sent a message that they were going to rebuild and then I think pressure went off everyone and they just played. That pressure was different.”

As far as Ducharme is concerned, not just Caufield’s but the entire team’s dismal start and struggles under his watch was directly attributed to the short summer the Montreal Canadiens had after finishing the 2021-22 season with a loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final on July 7.

“So. …but the summer was short, summer was short for everyone,” Ducharme pointed out. “When we finished playing on July 7, we were in a really intense, tight bubble here. From New Year’s until July 7, players couldn’t go anywhere; wives couldn’t go anywhere; so mentally it was a challenge. So when it was finished, guys took a week to get together or go with their wives and have fun and have a social life.

When they got back home, that’s mid-July and then they do the same because they couldn’t see their friends or family. So now, you end up until the end of July and you have one month to prepare for training camp. That’s not normal. When you get an athlete out of his training to prepare for a season like this – you go the gym 20 times for an 82-games season – physically that’s a challenge.”

The biggest challenge to Ducharme was a mental one and according to him, he knew right away that his players just weren’t where they needed to be mentally to start the season.

“Mentally, I felt our guys – and Cole was one of them – I felt our guys were roasted,” Ducharme said. “When they showed up for camp they were fried already. I thought they understood what I was talking about and I could see, it was hard for them to do it. To start the machine again; to restart. So Cole is one of those guys and he put pressure on himself. He wanted to get in right away, score 40, get the Calder, but he doesn’t have the start that he wants.”

To help ease their minds and get the team back in sync, Ducharme kept the lines that were on the ice when the Montreal Canadiens skated off the ice after being eliminated by the Tampa Bay Lightning in July. As Ducharme pointed out, it took Cole Caufield a while to adjust to the changes and just find his game but it wasn’t for lack of effort or miscommunication between player and coach.

“So, I knew we would face some challenges with the short summer and I tried to keep the lines as close as we finish with but it was not working,” Ducharme said. “So at one point we make some changes and try to bounce guys around to get a little bit of a spark somewhere. So when you have a tough start, it’s tough to recover and I think with the pressure, on himself that he puts, Cole is a competitive guy, he wanted to make a difference, had a tough start, went to Laval, came back, got injured, got COVID, and I felt towards the end, that he was close to coming back, being himself.”

He was missing chances; he was trying to pick that corner so tight. So we would talk and i would tell him hit the net more and one goal was going to go in and then it’s gotta keep going. So you look back and he had no training camp, he injured himself in the Red and White game in warmup, just falling by himself and hurting his shoulder. That’s part of the short summer and when you’re not mentally sharp, those kind of things happen.”



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I credit better coaching.

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