Dominique Ducharme was only leading his fourth training session as interim head coach of the Montreal Canadiens on Monday, but he said he was ahead of schedule when he was promoted last week.
Even if the Canadian lost his first two games under his command, the Quebec coach said he was happy with the progress of his troop.
"I thought it would take more time to establish certain things," he said in videoconference Monday. The guys are showing that they have the good of the team at heart. They are committed to applying the adjustments in our game.
“I already knew we had a good group. I am even more convinced today that this group will be successful. "
Ducharme had explained last week that he didn't really have a game system, but rather rules to follow and frameworks in which players could express themselves.
Players questioned Monday on the adjustments made by Ducharme still reported several changes in the Canadian's playing systems.
Defenseman Joel Edmundson said the structure is less rigid in zonal defense and players can follow a rival if they move up to the blue line in man-to-man defense.
“You have to read the game and adjust while signaling it to your teammates,” said Edmundson. Since the start of the season, we haven't spoken much on the ice. Dominique stresses the importance of communicating well in the heat of the moment. I think in the last game we talked a lot more. "
For his part, Jonathan Drouin mentioned that the wingers had to go lower in their zone and cut the play towards the enclave, which has often hurt the Habs so far this season.
Drouin was also questioned whether Ducharme gave his players more freedom on offense than his predecessor, Claude Julien.
“Like all coaches, (Julien) wants you to fulfill your responsibilities on defense, but he didn't prevent us from expressing ourselves on offense,” Drouin insisted.
“With Dominique, there are also things you can or cannot do. There are things to respect before you can be creative, ”he added.
Drouin also believes that the adjustments Ducharme made in the transition game will help the team to attack with speed, in addition to providing better support to defenders during pullbacks.
The same philosophy
Drouin had known Ducharme with the Halifax Mooseheads in the Major Junior Hockey League between 2011 and 2014.
One point that has not changed in Ducharme's philosophy, he noted, is his insistence on creating two-on-one situations all over the ice.
“You don't want to be one-on-one, except maybe in some places in the offensive zone where it's okay,” explained Drouin. If you're backed by a teammate and you lose the puck, you've got someone to help you get it back. It makes the game easier. Even in the defensive zone, if your teammate takes possession of the disc, you are there as a pass option.
“We always want to have a supporting teammate everywhere on the ice. It offers gaming options. It'll help our game if we can apply that mentality. "
For his part, Ducharme explained another aspect of his coaching philosophy on Monday after Drouin revealed that he would sometimes give different instructions to his lines according to the strengths of his players.
“As a team, we have a way of thinking, for example, offensively. And inside of that, each line has different tools that they can use to generate attack, ”said Ducharme.
“In short: we have a philosophy, what we want to create. From this, each individual or trio is encouraged to express themselves thanks to their strengths, ”he added.
With the Canadiens' busy schedule, Ducharme explained that he would try to reduce the time on the ice, but ensure that the pace is high during practice. He also said he will focus on special teams during practice on match mornings.
“We are trying to make progress in all aspects of the game, but we will be dealing with issues one at a time,” he concluded.