Last-place Montreal Canadiens fire coach Dominique Ducharme after loss, name Martin St. Louis interim

The Montreal Canadiens fired coach Dominique Ducharme, the team announced Wednesday, naming Hall of Fame forward Martin St. Louis interim coach.

"We would like to sincerely thank Dominique for his work and contributions to the Montreal Canadiens organization," general manager Kent Hughes said. "At this point in the season, we felt it was in the best interest of the club to make a change."

Ducharme became coach in Montreal on July 31, 2021, signing a three-year deal that removed his own interim label. After joining the Canadiens in 2018 as an assistant, Ducharme had been promoted to replace fired coach Claude Julien in February 2021 before securing a longer-term pact.

While he was interim coach, Ducharme led the Canadiens to an unlikely Stanley Cup Final appearance last season in the NHL's pandemic-shortened campaign before losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Montreal has been a shadow of itself since then, though, sitting dead last in the NHL this year with an 8-30-7 record.

While he did not play for Montreal, St. Louis, 46, is a native of Laval, Canada who carved out a memorable pro career as an undrafted right wing after playing at the University of Vermont. He finished with 391 goals and 1,033 points in his 16-year career, and led the Tampa Bay Lightning to the 2004 Stanley Cup, the franchise's first title. He also played for the Calgary Flames and New York Rangers.

Ducharme's firing comes after perhaps the Canadiens' worst loss of the season Tuesday, a 7-1 drubbing against New Jersey, another team sitting in last place in its division. The 48-year-old leaves Montreal with an overall 23-46-12 mark.

This is the second major shift for the Canadiens this season. The first was general manager Marc Bergevin being relieved of his duties in November and Jeff Gorton being hired as executive vice president of hockey operations. Then last month, the Canadiens introduced Hughes as their new general manager. It is Hughes' first such position in hockey, after spending most of his career as a player agent.

When St. Louis finished his playing career, he did so with the Rangers, a franchise that also employed Gorton on its staff, so there is a strong working relationship between the two. Gorton eventually rose to the position of general manager in New York, before his dismissal last year.

The status of Montreal assistant coaches Alex Burrows, Éric Gravel, Mario Leblanc, Trevor Letowski, Éric Raymond and Luke Richardson remains unchanged.