There are resignations that hurt the heart, that leave scars. There are other layoffs that are more predictable and reflect philosophical shifts within an organization.
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Joël Bouchard experimented with the second scenario involving the San Diego Gulls. With the arrival of Pat Verbeek as general manager of the Anaheim Ducks, he could expect a different direction.
Bouchard was hired by Bob Murray in July and had lost the man who had offered him his opportunity within the Ducks organization. Murray, who joined an alcoholism program, resigned from his post in November.
“Sometimes when you get fired you just want to stay in your hole and don’t feel like talking to anyone,” Bouchard said in a phone interview with the Journal de Montréal. I don’t find myself in that mood. We knew it was coming, it wasn’t a surprise. »
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When the plan changes
In his always colorful language, Bouchard insisted on an important term. There is no bitterness between him, Verbeek and the Ducks.
“It was actually a nice release,” he explained. It was very heartfelt. After my release I had a 20 minute talk with Pat (Verbeek). He was sorry to let us go, Maxime Talbot, Daniel Jacob and me. But we were hired by Bob (Murray). We had a very specific plan with the old guard. It’s okay, it’s part of life. Plans changed with the arrival of a new CEO. »
“For me, the best way to sum up my departure is that it was a combination of circumstances. »
Even Todd Marchant, who held the position of general manager of the San Diego Gulls, could not escape the wave of layoffs. He lost his job two days before the start of the best-of-three series against Ontario Reign.
“Todd is also a very good hockey boss, a very competent guy,” Bouchard recalled. He had worked for the Ducks organization for a long time. But once again Pat (Verbeek) wants to build his team with his own men in his image. »
The Gulls ultimately lost that series to their California rivals in two games.
Bouchard was the head coach of the Laval Rocket from 2018-2019 to 2020-2021, spending just one season at San Diego. The Gulls clinched the last available playoff berth in the Pacific Division, 28-33-7.
“It wasn’t easy, we had a pretty thin line-up,” said the 48-year-old. I’ve been playing as a defender on offense this season and we often lacked good crosses. We overcame a very bad start to finish on a high note. For the final game of the playoffs, I was missing a defenseman and we played Owen Zellweger (a 2021 2nd-round pick) who had just been eliminated with his junior team (Silvertips of Everett).
At the contract level, Bouchard has two seasons left in his deal with the Ducks organization.
“I’m not too much in research mode, things always go one way for me,” he replied. I take my time for myself and my world. But I’ve learned a lot from this year’s cases. I liked my experience with Max (Talbot) and Dan (Jacob). I don’t have a specific short-term plan. »
In San Diego, Bouchard didn’t have high hopes on hand. Jacob Perreault, a first-round pick (27th) in 2020, and Benoît-Olivier Groulx are two key prospects for the Ducks
“Groulx had a chance to play in the NHL this season, he learned a lot,” noted Bouchard. For Jacob, he was 19 for most of the season. He was a very young player but he found ways to improve. He often played in my first line. »