After what can be called a truly challenging season, the Montreal Canadiens announced on Tuesday that Sylvain Lefebvre has been relieved of his duties as head coach of the American Hockey League’s Laval Rocket.
Laval (24-42-7-3) finished the 2017-18 regular season last in the North Division this season and was winless over its final 12 regular-season games (0-10-1-1).
At this time, the status of assistant coaches Donald Dufresne, Nick Carriere and Marco Marciano appear to be unknown, however, it is said that once a new head coach has been hired, the club will determine the security of those positions.
A short time following the firing, Habs general manager Marc Bergevin released a statement with regards to the decision to let Lefebvre go and in doing so, he said, “I would like to sincerely thank Sylvain for his loyalty, his hard work and his contribution to the Montreal Canadiens’ organization over the past six seasons with Hamilton, St. John’s and Laval. Challenges are extremely demanding as a head coach in the AHL, and Sylvain and his group had to overcome several difficult situations over the years.”
Further more, he went on to say, “The decision to remove Sylvain from his coaching duties was a difficult one because I have a lot of respect for him and I consider him to be an excellent coach. I took the time to discuss the situation with Larry Carrière, and concluded that our development team needed a new direction in the head coaching position.”
Carrière was not the first to bring this opinion to the table as Canadiens analyst Andrew Zadarnowski recently shared a similar thought when speaking with host Matthew Ross on TSN Radio 690 Montreal back on Saturday March 24th.
Speaking of opinion in talking about the transformation of the Rocket organization, Geoff Molson, the owner of the Canadiens, had promised change throughout the organization after a difficult year for both Laval and Montreal.
What exactly does he mean by difficult? The Rocket played so poorly in their first season at Place Bell to the point of which they finished last in the league this year.
Further more, in their inaugural season, the Rocket went 24-42-7-3, finishing with 58 points in 76 games. As for the 50-year-old’s six-year tenure within the Canadiens minor league system, Lefebvre put together a record of 188-210-37-2 while getting a victory in 41% of the games he coached. In his one post-season appearance in 2017, the Rocket lost their five-game series to the Syracuse Crunch by a final score of 3-1.
Speaking of postseason hockey, Stu Cowan of the Montreal Gazette notes that this season marks the fifth time in six seasons that Lefebvre’s AHL team has missed playoff action.
Lefebvre was initially brought in by Marc Bergevin ahead of the 2012-13 season as the organization was looking for a fresh start, or in other words, reset which occurred with a change of staffing in Hamilton where he guided the Bulldogs behind the bench for his first three seasons. Following that, the Habs moved their affiliate to St. John’s, Newfoundland where he would be the bench boss for another two before most recently landing in Laval for what would end up being his final year in the league as part of the Rocket for the 2017-18 campaign.
Taking a look now at some of his career statistics as a coach, Lefebvre walks away having coached a total of 456 games over six years in the American Hockey League.
As a player, Lefebvre spent six seasons in the Canadiens’ organization, including three seasons in Montreal from 1989 to 1992. Over this time, he would go on to take part in 200 regular season games.
According to Stephane Leroux of RDS, potential candidates to succeed Lefebvre include that of Joel Bouchard, Dominique Ducharme, Éric veilleux, André Tourigny and Philippe Boucher.
As per a report from Francois Gagnon of RDS, it is highly believed that Ducharme will likely inherit the job of head coach while he also notes that there is hope for Joel Bouchard to take in the general direction of club/school and get involved in the development of young athletes if he does not claim the position.
This situation of course would only make sense to play out if Bouchard were to leave the QMJHL’s Blainville-Boisbriand Armada where he is currently both team president as well as general manager.
Further more on Ducharme, he has been the leading force behind Team Canada at the World Junior Championships since having been named for the position back in 2016 and as noted by Eric Engels of Sportsnet.ca, he would make for a rather solid fit for the given not only his experience but his bilingual roots as well.
Ducharme, a native of Joliette, Quebec, was named head coach of the CHL’s Halifax Mooseheads back in 2011 when he became the 11th head coach in franchise history. During this time, he led the team to 144 wins in his first three seasons on the job which included a Memorial Cup Championship in 2012- 2013.
With the Habs set to immediately commence the hiring process, there is one more name that stands out as Michael Farber of TSN and CJAD 800 points towards a possible first call to check on the availability of Pascal Vincent. Vincent was named 2018 AHL coach of year while leading the charge with the with Manitoba Moose. He also has previous experience as an NHL assistant.
Richard Labbe of LaPresse.ca spoke with the 45-year-old QMJHL executive on Tuesday afternoon and in a quote with regards to the now on-going speculation, he said, “I’m ready for the pros” which is excellent news for the Canadiens front office, meaning, it may just be a matter of time before an agreement is put into place.
In the meantime, Ducharme, a former NHL winger, is the current coach and GM of the Drummondville Voltigeurs where he has been since resigning from the Mooseheads amid personal reasons back in April of 2016.
Dominique Ducharme most recently led Team Canada to a silver medal at the 2018 World Junior Championships which played out at both KeyBank Arena and New Era Field in Buffalo, New York.
In 2017, he led Canada to a gold medal victory in both Toronto and Montreal and so with him riding on what some may call a “success story high”, joining the Rocket may just be the fold to bring the storybook together as a whole as he could very well be the key piece needed in order to get things going and supposedly in the right direction.
With the Canadiens having constantly lost players to injury since October, the connection between the two sides never seemed to have stopped as Nikita Scherbak was just one of many to make the trip back and forth as a fill-in for those who were not healthy enough to play. Michael McCarron and Charlie Lindgren also found themselves in this mix, ultimately holding back their team and costing them the strong debut they were hoping to go in with.
Speaking of Lindgren in other news, the 24-year-old goaltender confirmed at the end-of-season media availability for the Laval Rocket that he will represent Team USA at the upcoming World Hockey Championships in May.
This would be the first time that he would ever do so as the Lakeville, Minnesota native had never previously been selected to represent his country, therefore, giving him his first taste of international experience.
As the famous storyline goes, head coach Claude Julien could be seeing a very different roster come the 2018-19 season with the potential for a rebuild likely to take place throughout the offseason. The standout factor at play here would be that in the event of which all players remain in perfect health, Laval could have the chance to perform at a higher level of play under a stronger caliber of management which could be the final piece of the puzzle to get Ducharme to his dream of eventually working at the big stage.