Back in the fold
MONTREAL – Dan Lacroix helped the New York Rangers send the Canadiens packing eight weeks ago. Now, he’ll be doing everything in his power to see that nothing stands in the Habs' way.
On Wednesday, the 45-year-old Montreal native joined the Canadiens as an assistant coach, filling the vacancy on Michel Therrien’s coaching staff after Gerard Gallant was hired as the Florida Panthers’ new bench boss back on June 21.
Lacroix, who has worked as an assistant coach in the NHL for seven of the past eight seasons, including the 2013-14 campaign with the Stanley Cup finalist Rangers, is excited to begin the next chapter of his already extensive coaching career in a city he’s delighted to call his new hockey home.
“I’m very proud. It’s a great opportunity to work for an organization that I grew up admiring and respecting. I had a brief stint with the team [back in 2009-10 with the Hamilton Bulldogs]. I’ve got a lot of good memories from that experience,” offered Lacroix, who spoke to members of the media via a conference call from the Eastern Townships on Wednesday afternoon. “I’m very happy to be able to come back to work with the team. I’m a little bit closer to home. It’s a little bit like a dream.”
Noting that he thoroughly enjoyed working with the likes of Rangers general manager Glen Sather and head coach Alain Vigneault in the Big Apple last season, Lacroix was adamant that the decision to leave New York with several years remaining on his contract took into account a multitude of important factors.
“When I signed with New York, Alain and I talked about the position, about me being the third assistant and I’d be working from the press box. He knew that I was looking for a job behind the bench. We talked about me moving behind the bench if an opportunity presented itself,” confided Lacroix, who previously worked as an assistant coach with the New York Islanders (2006-09) and the Tampa Bay Lightning (2010-13). “This is a good opportunity for me to get behind the bench again. I was always looking to improve my situation. I wanted to work behind the bench and get a little bit closer to the action. That’s the role that I prefer.
“Personally, there were also family considerations involved,” added Lacroix, who began his coaching career with the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats as an assistant coach back in 2002-03 after his lengthy playing career – which included 188 regular season games in the NHL between 1993 and 2000 – came to an end in 2001-02. “It’s a step closer to home, closer to my family. I’ve got a lot of family in Ottawa. I’ve got a lot of family near Montreal. I needed the support of my wife, Manon, and my kids, Daphne and Cedric, and I had that.”
Familial support aside, what should make Lacroix’s transition to Montreal even easier is the fact that he’s already familiar with several members of the Canadiens’ coaching staff, including J.J. Daigneault, Clement Jodoin and Stephane Waite. He also coached the likes of P.K. Subban, David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty at the AHL level, helping to guide the Bulldogs to a berth in the Conference Finals five years ago.
“To have a chance to join a team like this and a staff like this is great,” offered Lacroix, who stressed the importance of establishing good lines of communication with Canadiens players once he meets with his troops in several weeks’ time. “It’s just a step up. It’s an opportunity to work for a great organization and an opportunity to work with great people. It’s an opportunity to get back behind the bench, get closer to the action and have a bigger role on a day-to-day basis.”
Needless to say, he can’t wait to get started.
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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