Joel Bouchard, Bob Murray Talk Coaching Hire, Development ModelJul 12, 2021
By Aaron Cooney, Joe Spurrier and AJ Manderichio/SanDiegoGulls.com
The Anaheim Ducks named Joel Bouchard as head coach of the San Diego Gulls on Friday, making the Montreal, Quebec native the third head coach in the team's American Hockey League (AHL) history.
Ducks Executive Vice President and General Manager Bob Murray and Bouchard met with the media this afternoon on Zoom to chat about the decision to bring the coach to San Diego, how he fits Anaheim's goal of development, and more.
Below is a transcript of his media availability, edited lightly for clarity:
On hiring Bouchard:
Bob Murray: I can’t tell you how excited we are to announce Joel as the next head coach of San Diego. He fits perfectly with what we’ve been searching for here the last little while. We’re all about development right now and Joel has done that in the Quebec League (QMJHL), Team Canada (World Junior Championship) and Laval (Rockets). He’s done an outstanding job in all of these places and you kind of known in this business when people’s contracts may be expiring, and you keep an eye on everything. When this opportunity became available and with what happened in Montreal this year, it was good fortune for the Anaheim Ducks, for Joel to become available. We were very excited to jump on it as quickly as we could when he became available July 1st. Again, this is all about development and Joel is outstanding at that.
Joel Bouchard: It was not in the plans for me, I’ve been in Quebec for years and I was very lucky to be with the Montreal Canadians and I’d like to thank Geoff Molson and Marc Bergevin for giving me a chance in the pros after being in Juniors for a few years with my own hockey club. It was a great experience at Laval honestly, we really worked well with the players, the staff and the community, but like Bob said, when July 1st came, I didn’t see it coming. I didn’t see it as an option to be honest. I was ready to listen to what was available in Montreal, to try to move up in some way, getting more experience and keep going with development. I really liked my talk with Bob (Murray) and Martin Madden and everyone with the Ducks staff. We really connected right away. I knew that was going to make my decision difficult at the end because you always have to look at all the angles, but it was a good fit. I like challenges, I like to reinvent myself – I’m not the kind of guy to back out from a challenge and I felt like that was a hell of a challenge.
On parting ways with Kevin Dineen:
Murray: Kevin did a good job for us, and focus has definitely gone more towards development and Kevin did a good job with that hockey team, but this is about Joel. This is more about where we’re going and timeline. As I talked to Kevin and his staff, I said, ‘look, I’m looking into a couple of things and I’m going to have to wait for a couple of things that may happen, and it’s what I feel like we have to do as an organization’. Again, this is all about Joel, Kevin did a good job. This is all about the development and we got lucky here, we got lucky with what happened in Montreal this year. We’re very fortunate.
On inspirations from other coaches:
Bouchard: I’ll tell you what, every coach that you have, even if the experience wasn’t great, it’s still a great experience. That’s one of the reasons why coming to the Ducks is such a great challenge – you have to live experiences. Everything I’ve lived through with coaches was great, but Barry Trotz with the Nashville Predators was definitely a guy, you know, we started a franchise and he started as the coach, and I started as a player there. I really felt like he had a good grasp on the NHL and how to treat players and how to connect with players. Obviously, he did really well after that for his career. On the flip side, I was lucky after I retired to be with Jacques Demers who won the Stanley Cup with the Montreal Canadiens in 1993. I did television broadcast with him for three years and I know he wasn’t coaching me at the time, or I didn’t think he was coaching me, but I was just getting myself into coaching and Juniors. He spent a lot of time during the broadcasts telling me stories – all the mistakes he made and when he made a good move. I think that was so good to have that open discussion with him. He didn’t know at the time how much he was helping me, but I always think about Jacques. He’s my friend, and I have a lot of respect for what he did and how he manages his players. I can see the relationships he built with his players over the years when they’ve come to the Bell Centre – Jacques had a big influence.
On the ever-changing lineup of the AHL:
Bouchard: That’s not bad, I think we had 92 [players move from the AHL to the NHL] with Laval so I’m used to that. It’s the reality and I think Bob said it right. The American League is about a winning environment, that’s really what I believe in. It’s creating a process. You can control what you can control. You can never coach in the American League like you can coach in the NHL – this is not true. You’re coaching with different reality, but it’s a fun challenge. That’s why I think being with Laval was so great for me because we started at one point and finish really high. As a coaching staff, I feel like we accomplished something with the Montreal Canadiens. I like the challenge with the Gulls and the Anaheim organization. You’re right with the turnover, you can have your lineup all set up and two guys get called up on gameday and you have to rethink your powerplay, but it’s more than that. When I came with Habs (Montreal Canadiens), I always said, ‘we’re about winning the Stanley Cup’. It’s a process that starts with the minors and keeps going to the NHL. It’s the mindset and the process of having a winning attitude, and you can have a winning attitude through adversity or like you said, roll over in lineup. It’s the reality of the AHL. There’s no league like it with everything that can happen, but that’s where it starts for me.
On San Diego:
Bouchard: I know it’s a beautiful city, we’re pretty excited. It’s going to be a new challenge and there’s obviously a lot of moving parts for us here, but we’re excited to move down to San Diego, meet the fans and the new players. That’s what it’s all about – creating a friendship and sticking with the process.
On satisfaction with the San Diego Gulls:
Murray: It was a dream of Brian Burke’s and mine – to get this specific division and to get, those days of us having our players, when we first came here in ’05, our players being in Portland, Maine. That was difficult. Just to travel alone killed us. It’s been a dream come true to have San Diego. We pride ourselves in putting a decent product on the ice every year. I promise Joel will continue to do that. You look at Joel’s record, it’s great to develop, but when you win when you develop, winning is a habit just like losing is a habit. We’ll continue to do that, but we’re very happy down there and we’re looking forward to getting back down there and having fans again. We have a great fanbase down there. It’s been wonderful in San Diego, we’re very happy.
On the Pacific Division:
Bouchard: Like I always said, even during COVID, there’s a lot of question about who we were going to play. Especially in the American League – ice and board, and an opponent, that’s our job. I’ve said it before, whoever is coming at us, if we have to play Belleville 33 times and we can get our players on the ice, we’ll be happy. Last year was challenging for everybody and I think right now, we’re looking ahead to coming back to reality, but when you’re a competitor, I really like to be with the players. I’m not suffering when I’m on the ice and on the bus spending time with them. To learn with the video and with the coaching staff, we create an environment. All of a sudden, a rivalry happens and that’s what we’re all about. I’m excited to play a new division but more excited to learn about our players. I don’t focus too much on the other organizations to be honest. I feel like there’s so much energy you can put in in a day and it’s all about us. What can we do to be better? What can we do to find an edge? Obviously, we always respect the opponent and what they do to try and learn. We’re pretty selfish, we like to look at ourselves and see what we can do and see what they throw at us.
On Joel’s ability to develop players:
Murray: It’s not only Laval, it’s the teams he had in Montreal in junior playing in Blainville. I think he developed his junior players very well too to take the next step to play in the American (Hockey) League. You look at his players, his players are all over the leagues. All you have to do Eric is just look at the Montreal Canadiens. Younger players when they come up how they played. And they contributed. That says it all. They came from Laval over the last few years to Montreal and they contributed immediately. And that’s what development is. It’s getting them ready for the next step and that’s what we saw with Joel…They were contributing, they all contribute.
On his coaching aspirations:
Bouchard: Worst enemy’s always the mirror every morning and my aspiration is to be the best Joel Bouchard I can be. My job is to, how can we get our player to be the better version of himself. If everybody is a little bit better every day, then we’re all going to get better. And it starts with me. I really believe in process, I believe in doing things the right way, working together, and (being) as good as I can be. That’s my job to push myself. So really after that everything take care of itself. The priority’s on the player, it’s not on me. Like I always say, it’s never going to be about me. I don’t play anymore. It’s about the player holding the stick. It’s them that are the one that we have to work with. And sometimes we have to be demanding a little bit on the task in hand. But at the end of the day it’s always a partnership with the player, and it’s never about the coach for me. Never will. We’re just lucky we’re in it for the right when we coach, Eric. It’s just a matter of making it altogether and clicking, and we’re all progressing as a group. We have fun with the process. That’s how I see it.
On his one-on-one coaching philosophy:
Bouchard: Well my job, it’s my job to make sure if you play for us, Eric, it’s how can you be Eric 2.0. That’s my job. You are Eric right now, how can we work together so you’re a better version of yourself. I think that’s what life is all about. And if you look at the NHL, hockey’s all about finding solution. The player will be bigger, they’ll be stronger, they’ll be faster, they’ll have more talent, more experience, so our job with the young player, and even with the older player that are ready to get called up, is to make sure that they have all the tools and are ready to perform. Cause when they’re going to drive down to Anaheim it ain’t going to be easier, Eric. Anybody that tells you the AHL is easier than the NHL is wrong. The NHL’s the best league in the world with the best player. So this is what it’s all about. It’s that partnership one on one with a structure, obviously, and a style of play, but how can we push our players to be the best version of themself day in day out, shift in shift out. So when that call come, their box are checked and they’re ready to go. That’s my responsibility. That’s our players responsibility to make sure that they’re ready to play in an NHL level game when they are playing in the AHL.
On why he joined the Ducks organization:
Bouchard: It wasn’t the plan to be honest to come to the Ducks. You would have told me that two weeks ago I would have laughed a little bit. My plan was to stay with the Habs. I was very happy with the Montreal Canadiens. They didn’t kick me out. We had a discussion about a position maybe as an assistant coach with Dominique (Ducharme) or going back to Laval. I just really like the connection and the challenge with the Ducks. It came out of left field. You’re right, we had a great ride with the Habs. I’m very proud of our young player and old player and Marc (Bergevin) has done a good job with the team this year to build it up. It wasn’t part of the plan, trust me. Sometimes when approaching a new challenge that excites you in life you have to jump on it. It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was something that was exciting to me. So you’re right, there’s been some challenge…everywhere. The organization with the Montreal Canadien, with the Ducks, with every other organization, and every time there’s a challenge I kind of raise my arm and ready to take it.
On the biggest challenge with this position:
Bouchard: Well challenge are fun. And I think that first of all even if the reality is a new coach that come in and haven’t built any relationship with player or staff, this is right away what needs to be done. So that’s obviously part of the challenge. What I like is a lot of young guys that been drafted by this organization, lot of potential. And it’s exciting to work with young guys and good veteran and building something that’s special…where players are proud, the trainers proud, the coaches are proud, the fans are proud, and you kind of build this and there’s a bit of a movement there where everybody wants to be part of it. This is the reality. Sports is bigger than us. We all want to be part of something bigger than us. And we felt it with the Montreal Canadien this year in Montreal. And I felt let’s go to California and try to build something special.
On his relationship with Anaheim Ducks head coach Dallas Eakins:
Bouchard: Well obviously I know him as a player. We play, we were the same age and against each other. We already talk a couple times. As coaches we always keep in touch. I remember we had some discussion a couple of years (ago) about players and he wanted to have information. It’s funny enough that he texted me the other day and I saw text from two, three years ago when he was asking me about players and situations. Obviously, we don’t always connect as coaches, but every time we did he was a great guy, he’s got a great personality, always fun to talk to. Him being on the west coast, me being on the east coast obviously when he was in the AHL we didn’t cross paths, but it was fun to talk to him a couple days ago.
On how he learned to develop a balance between developing prospects and winning with Laval:
Bouchard: That's the challenge of a coach. This is always the balance we need to find and have. Sometimes we feel we're right there as coaches. It's the same thing in the NHL and any sport. You never stop developing in any league you are in the world. You always keep that mindset of winning. It's always that balance you have to have. This is what coaching is all about - always has been, always will be. In any sport, you have to balance this concept because your team needs to grow. That's the reality. Where your team and your group is in October, they need to be better come January and February. Then comes May and June, and now it really matters to have all that development. Sometimes that's hard, obviously you lose some games and that's part of development, but you have that winning mindset and you feel comfortable you can head deep into the season and you have that winning attitude and concept where you can start the game and know you'll be fine because you stretched your box all year long.
On how to help a prospect contribute quickly at the NHL level and avoid stumbling blocks:
Bouchard: It's the partnership I'm going to have to make with the player to make him realize his style of play has to be NHL (ready). Everybody can draft good players that can play in the AHL and be successful in the AHL, but I feel it's our job as a coaching staff to guide the player and give him the tools to play in the NHL and have success. All you need to do when you get to the NHL is one thing - gain the trust of your coaching staff. This is what it is. You get called up, the coach needs to know right away I can put this guy on the ice, he can contribute and have a positive impact. After that, grow even more, because you'll be even more comfortable. The way you play needs to make everybody comfortable - behind the bench, on the bench and on the ice. It goes with habits, it goes with details. It takes time. Everybody wants everything quick. We order Amazon and go, 'Great, it's coming the next day.' Hockey is not like that. Some players get it a lot quicker; some don't. The main goal is for them to have an NHL game in the AHL so they can play, and it's demanding.
On the process of building out his staff:
Bouchard: Everything is going quick, I'm not going to lie to you. I have a lot on my plate here. Thank God it's only July 12 and the season starts a little later. We're going to do things the right way. Bob and Martin Madden and all the staff in Anaheim have a lot of work to do in the next few days and weeks with the draft and everything. We'll just go one day at a time, and today was the day to talk about coming to San Diego. We'll have a lot of stuff to do and we'll let you know as we go along.
On how surprising it was to have a coach like Joel Bouchard available on July 1:
Murray: It was a surprise. We've been watching this over the last year or so as we thought about development and coaches we were looking at. We were aware that his contract was expiring on June 30, and what Montreal was going to do. We were very aware of that, as with a couple of other guys, but Joel was our number one guy. We called him the next day, as soon as we knew, and wondered what had happened, if he got anything. Montreal had talked to him already, and I had talked to Berg (Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin). You know, I played with Marc, he was a defense partner of mine. He knew my intentions going ahead of that. There was no games being played there. (Joel) was coming available; he was a guy we were going after big time.