Dominique Ducharme is no longer an interim coach

Dominique Ducharme is no longer an interim coach
Dominique Ducharme is no longer an interim coach

L’Action de Joliette had just had an excellent season in Quebec, but this sympathetic team from Lanaudière had, it was said, no chance against the hosts of the competition, the big team of the Lumber Kings of Pembroke.

In the first game of the tournament, Pembroke beat us 8-1. Their power play literally destroyed us., remembers Robert Ouellet (the father of Xavier, of the Canadian), who was at that time one of the assistant coaches of the Action.

Against all odds, the small team from Joliette then had a bumpy ride. The action had notably won its last two games of the preliminary phase in overtime, each time by scores of 7-6, against Hawkesbury and Woodstock. In the grand finale, luck, which often does things beautifully, had wanted Joliette to cross swords again with Pembroke’s invincible machine.

We had made video and we had made adjustments to counter their numerical advantage , says Robert Ouellet.

To the total and general amazement of fans, the Action de Joliette had won 4-2 at the expense of the flamboyant Lumber Kings of Pembroke. But beware, here’s the highlight: the supposedly invincible Ontario Junior A hockey team was owned by a certain … Sheldon Keefe (!!!), who also acted as an assistant coach behind the bench.

After this defeat deemed inadmissible, Keefe fired his head coach and decided to take charge of the Lumber Kings himself for the 2006-2007 season.

It can therefore be argued that, by the gang, it was a highly improbable victory for Dominique Ducharme that gave birth to Sheldon Keefe’s career as head coach.

And Monday night, some 15 years later, it was another stunning Ducharme victory that became the biggest and most indelible stain on the Toronto Maple Leafs head coach’s record.

Going to bed after the game, Keefe probably sought to figure out what had just happened. He probably had a hard time sleeping. And Dominique Ducharme too, but not for the same reasons.

* * *

After the fourth game of the series, Ducharme was vilified by supporters of the CH and by many observers, who demanded his dismissal military hands.

Today, it would be a huge understatement to say that the situation has changed. In the past 96 hours, Ducharme certainly hasn’t lost his job. We can even bet that the only thing he’s lost is the awkward adjective temp worker who had been attached to his title of head coach since last February.

By eliminating the Maple Leafs in seven games after falling behind 1-3 in the series, Ducharme and his gang have just caused one of the biggest turnovers and one of the biggest surprises in CH’s long history. . And probably NHL history.

Under these circumstances, it is difficult to see how Geoff Molson could fire Marc Bergevin. And it is even more difficult to see how the CEO of the Canadian could dare to dismiss a young coach that he himself had placed in an extremely difficult situation and who ended up, against all odds, by pulling a huge rabbit out of his hat.

* * *

Oldest CH fans say the team’s most impressive performance ever in a neglected role came in 1971. If so, the just-concluded series against the Leafs qualifies without doubt for second place.

What an incredible display of resilience and determination!

In 1971, the Canadian had hallucinated the hockey world by disposing of the terrifying Boston Bruins machine in seven games.

In the regular season, the Bruins had won 15 more wins than the CH and finished with 24 priority points in the standings. What’s more, the Bruins fielded the top four NHL scorers: Phil Esposito (76-76-152), Bobby Orr (139 points and +124 defensive record), Johnny Bucyk (51-65-116) and Ken Hodge. (43-62-105).

The Montreal attack was nothing like it. It was led by Jean Béliveau (25-51-76), who was 39 years old and was about to retire. To the Bruins’ superstars, the CH had only its resilience and depth to oppose.

The Bostonians weren’t expecting to face a young goalie named Ken Dryden, however.

Despite a decline of 2-3 in the series, and despite the regular bombing of the Bruins, Dryden had miraculously transported his team to the seventh game, inside the old Garden. And in that moment of truth, another acrobatic performance from the rookie goaltender had driven the final stake into the hearts of the Bruins. CH had finally closed the books with a 4-2 victory.

* * *

Because of the chasm between the Bruins and the CH, it is said that this 1971 series will forever remain the most breathtaking surprise in the history of the Canadiens. For the same reason, decades from now, the young fans of 2021 may be telling their grandchildren about the deep humiliation the Canadiens just inflicted on the Leafs.

The Toronto team weren’t just ousted in the first round for a fifth straight year and for each of the six occasions they’ve made the playoffs in the past 17 years. Crumbling again and again under pressure, the Leafs have just sabotaged a season at the end of which, for a rare time since 1967, their fans could dream of the Stanley Cup.

In a schedule of just 56 games, the Maple Leafs had won 11 more and carved out an 18-point lead over CH in the standings. All things considered, that positioned Toronto exactly for the 1971 Bruins.

On a full schedule of 82 games, Toronto would have amassed 16 wins and 26 points more than CH.

To fight Auston Matthews (the league’s top scorer) and Mitch Marner (the NHL’s fourth-leading scorer), the CH had little to offer except a collective effort and one of the best goalies in hockey. . As in 1971, the two clubs did not appear in the same league.

There is an old saying, however, that losers always find a way to lose. And the Maple Leafs, whose DNA is not stung in this matter, offered us an eloquent demonstration.

* * *

In Game 5, the Maple Leafs only had to play a decent game to send the Montrealers on vacation. But they showed up to the game two periods behind.

By pulling on this thin thread, the Canadian ended up unraveling the entire Leafs jersey.

In the end, Matthews only scored one goal out of the countless scoring chances he had during the series. And Marner was cleared. The two Leafs superstar therefore failed in the seventh game in a row in which they had the opportunity to eliminate a team.

For her part, Carey Price walked the waters from start to finish, and particularly in the last three games of the series.

After the collapse of the fourth game, Price also displayed his leadership and set the tone for the recovery of his own by vouching for the offensive qualities of his teammates.

Finally, the depth of the CH, which no one had witnessed until last Thursday, finally saved the day. This historic tumbling of the Leafs bears the signatures of young Suzuki, Kotkaniemi, Evans and Caufield as well as veterans Weber, Perry and Staal.

For all kinds of obvious reasons, but also this one, the spring of 2021 will be remembered for a long time.

 
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