With the eleventh hour of the summer months upon the hockey world and teams gearing up for another season, three prominent players on the management side jumped to the pro game.
Firstly, Victoriaville Tigres GM Jérôme Mesonero left the team to join the Colorado Avalanche scouting staff. That makes three former Q team employees Patrick Roy has poached from the league, including André Tourigny and Mario Duhamel, a pair of assistants with the Avalanche.
This week, Eric Veilleux, the reigning QMJHL coach of the year, took an assistant coaching job in Norfolk with the Admirals of the American Hockey League, leaving the Baie-Comeau Drakkar without a bench boss.
Then J-F Houle signed on as head coach with the Bakersfield Condors of the ECHL, leaving the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada without a leader.
Interestingly enough, both Veilleux and Houle had Hockey Canada commitments. Veilleux was appointed to the under-18s as part of Jody Hull’s staff, and Houle was scheduled as one of the three head coaches at the under-17 challenge with Sheldon Keefe and Dan Lambert.
The Tigres have already announced their plans, re-hiring fired coach Yanick Jean as GM in an interesting take of a promotion. New boss, same as the old boss. Jean was fired in March after a first-round exit, but was re-hired after the Tigres realized he still knows the players and the league well enough to run the team.
Bruce Richardson is the rookie bench boss who replaced Jean in Victoriaville, and now faces some new pressure with the old coach now ahead of him on the managerial depth chart.
That leaves the Drakkar and the Armada with no head coach and about two weeks to get one.
In the case of Baie-Comeau, GM Steve Ahern has retained Claude Bouchard as an assistant, so it’s possible he’ll be promoted. Also in the stable is assistant GM Denis Franceour, a notable veteran coach in the Q.
Ahern acknowledged it’s not the best time to be looking.
“When we hired [Veilleux], we knew he wanted to go to the pro game,” Ahern said. “The opportunity came up.
“We know it’s not the best time, but we don’t choose that. There’s some excellent candidates available now. The QMJHL is a great place for coaches.”
With Blainville-Boisbriand, GM Joël Bouchard has said he’s not worried.
“There’s no panic,” he said. “We’ve known in the last couple of weeks there was a chance he would leave. I know the club and we all aren’t worried. We’re happy for him.”
Bouchard was an assistant under Houle as well as the GM, and he could just step in and coach the team. Bouchard added that “all options are in play”.
Most teams open camp in the second week of August, while QMJHL pre-season action begins Aug. 15. That date has Victoriaville and Baie-Comeau on the road. The Armada begin exhibition season on the road the next night.
The games count starting Sept. 10, with a soft open of one game, while the rest of the league opens their season Sept. 12.