With his contract with Montreal now complete, Joel Bouchard became a free agent this month and has found his new home. The now-former Laval head coach has been hired by Anaheim to take over as the bench boss for their AHL team in San Diego.
Bouchard was behind the bench for the last three years with the Rocket and the team performed much better than it did under his predecessor, Sylvain Lefebvre (who was recently named an assistant coach with Columbus after being an assistant in San Diego). The team won the Canadian Division this season with a 23-9-4 record despite being hit hard at times by injuries and recalls. By the end of the season, they were basically down to a minimum-sized roster.
The fact that Bouchard is leaving the Canadiens is curious though not unexpected when he was no longer working with the Black Aces midway through the playoffs. There is definitely a path to an NHL job with Anaheim with Dallas Eakins not faring particularly well in his first couple of years with the Ducks while Montreal may not have an opening for a while assuming Dominique Ducharme is promoted to the full-time head coaching position.
I also think back to the 2019-20 season where there was an exodus of veterans following a benching with Phil Varone and Riley Barber being traded to Pittsburgh and Matthew Peca going to Ottawa. That’s something that raised eyebrows at the time and it certainly appeared that something happened behind the scenes. Speculatively, that could have been a factor as well.
In the meantime, the Habs will begin searching for a new head coach for Laval. Daniel Jacob was brought to Laval when Bouchard was hired and at first glance, it seems likely that he’ll head to the Gulls as well. Between that and many personnel changes on the playing roster, the Rocket will look a whole lot different when the AHL season gets underway in October.