Accountability in Ducharme’s World

Segue Issue 21-04

November 18, 2021

Thursday’s notebook from Sportsnet’s Eric Engels got me thinking.

He wrote about Coach Dominique Ducharme’s presser following the Habs loss in New York on Tuesday. Ducharme was commenting on how the team needs to execute when they have possession. He talked about the strategies they use to recover the puck, but that once they get the puck, they struggle to keep it. Then he quipped that he’d love to have a system for that.

Eric noted that some would view this as Ducharme lacking solutions for the situation in Montreal and went on to express another potential concern. “But I think the bigger concern is how players might see a comment like that, because it’s the kind of comment that can be viewed as creating separation between yourself and the group in being accountable for the problem.”

It was an excellent article, and I’d recommend reading it all.

Accountability is fundamental to good leadership.   

Author Courtney Lynch said this. “Leaders inspire accountability through their ability to accept responsibility before they place blame.” Applied to our current situation, I would say this. If Dom wants his players to be accountable to his system, he’d better be showing them his own willingness to look at himself first.

I am not convinced Ducharme is a guy who naturally looks at how he might contribute to a problem.

Ducharme has been described as a confident guy and a strong communicator. I confess the latter trait has escaped me so far, but certainly his confidence has been obvious. Confidence is a very good thing when accompanied by a little humility and a healthy dose of self-awareness.

Conversely, confident leaders who are not able to look at themselves when a problem arises will eventually lose their team.

I have wondered about Ducharme’s ability to look at himself since another article written by Eric Engels, this one back in September following an interview with Ducharme during the pre-season. You should read that one too.

Ducharme is a straight shooter. What you see is what you get.

That’s how Ducharme was described to Eric by the building manager. By the time the interview was over, I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing because what Dom shot wasn’t all that appealing

I’ve been hiring and managing people since 1999. When I interview candidates, I always insert self-awareness questions that invite the person to tell me how well they know themselves – their strengths, areas of growth, impact on people, what they’re working on. My experience has taught me that it doesn’t matter what qualifications people bring if they don’t come with some self-awareness.

I’m not at all suggesting that Eric was intentionally asking Ducharme self-awareness questions. It was a comprehensive interview that covered a lot. But, certainly, the opportunities were there for Ducharme to demonstrate his self-awareness, and his performance was iffy.

The first red flag came with the player development discussion.

The interview took place right after the offer sheet fiasco, so the context is important. Responsibly, Eric asked about whether Kotkaniemi’s development could have been better handled.

Ducharme first pointed to the possibility that Kotkaniemi joined the team too early. He was an assistant coach at the time, so I guess he was somewhat involved with that decision. Realistically, that was Dom’s reflection on a GM decision.

Then Ducharme talked about the player’s role to evaluate himself. He said a lot of things about what young players need to know about themselves and then said, “We work on that with all our players, and it was the same thing with KK.” In other words, his work was to make someone else look at themselves, and KK was no different than the other young players.

At no point did the coach reflect on one thing he might have done differently.

Ducharme’s answer to the self-reflection question was a bigger red flag.

Eric followed up and asked if there was any self-reflection necessary to ensure Romanov or Suzuki or Caufield don’t ever express concerns about their development in the way Kotkaniemi did after he left.

To be honest, the answer was shocking. “I have worked with many young players at different levels and I won’t change the way I work with players. I think we have some pretty good young players who have become good players in the pros, and I’ll keep doing the same thing.”

I have some bad news for you Dom. Things that stop growing are dead.

He went on to talk some more about the player’s responsibility, and not wanting to hurt a player by putting them in situations that aren’t working. He talked about his patience, and his efforts to make players understand things. But not once did he consider that he may need to grow at all.

A personal growth question was the third red flag, if you’re counting.  

After Dom ended one soliloquy by declaring how players need to see things for themselves and grow up, Eric asked a question about Ducharme’s own personal growth. He referenced off-season events where some coaches get together to exchange ideas and such.

Ducharme indicated his support for learning from other coaches at all levels, but was clear they had no summer, presumably because of the cup run, and that they were busy hiring coaches.

Fair, I suppose, but a zoom call or two about how to run a training camp wouldn’t have gone astray.

Fourth and inches, and Dom couldn’t get it done.

The rest of the interview had some interesting bits about various players and the captaincy, the cup run and team changes. There was a lot of good stuff. Then Eric ended it with one more self-awareness question, whether accidental or not. He asked the coach about personal goals and how he intended to keep growing.

The coach answered that he just wanted to get better, but he didn’t have a goal for himself. I think I would have laughed out loud if I were there. He wants to get better but has no goals. He went on to talk about goals for the team, but not one thing left his lips about anything he was focused on for himself.

Coming back to job interviews…

If I asked a candidate four questions to test their self-awareness, and all they came up with was things others should have done or should do, could not identify one personal goal, and boldly stated their intention to not change a thing… well, I think you know how they’d fare.  

Dom already had a new contract by then. It wasn’t his job interview. But he’d better watch out, because if he wants his players to be accountable to his expectations, he’d better be showing them his own willingness to look at himself first.

Published by Lori Bennett

Hockey is my hobby. I love a respectful hockey chat or debate, but it stops being fun if we're jerks.

2 thoughts on “Accountability in Ducharme’s World

  1. Outstanding Lori. Everyone except the GM and DD himself know that he has lost the room and needs to go. 3 year contract be dammed. Pay him off and bring in a new GM and Coach. Give em the rest of the season to put a system that everyone buys into and then get it done next year. This season is already lost.


    1. Now we will get a chance to see if Ducharme was being closely managed by Bergevin. Will he adjust his approach to a few things under new leadership? If not, I agree. His time will be up.


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