One could say the time has come, again, for Benoît Groulx. Six seasons ago, the Gatineau Olympiques bench boss was tapped to lead Canada at the world junior championship before stepping aside after jumping to an AHL post with the Buffalo Sabres organization.
Pat Quinn, of course, was summoned to lead that 2009 team, and the rest is recent Canadian hockey history. Now Groulx, who has certainly paid his dues after multiple stints as an assistant coach, is getting the chance. Between Groulx, the Guelph Storm's Scott Walker and Victoria Royals' Dave Lowry, the staff offers a contrast of one of the Quebec League's best bench coaches, Walker who presided over a high-scoring OHL championship team and a defensive-minded coach with Walker. Plus there is Groulx's way with doing whatever it takes to try to throw off an opponent, although it remains to be seen whether that can translate to a short tournament such as the WJC.
The Olympiques had a run of three QMJHL championships between 2003 and '08. They haven't reached that level since Groulx returned, but did come within two games of a championship in 2010-11 and have typically punched at or above their weight during the playoffs. Groulx is at a point where he can almost treat the regular season as experimental before shifting into playoff gear; for instance, in 2013 a young Olympiques team finished 13th overall in the 18-team QMJHL, but promptly bounced fourth-seeded Rimouski in the first round.
With the world junior being played in Montreal for the first time, it likely was incumbent on Hockey Canada to have a QMJHL coach at the helm of the U20 men's team for the first time since Mario Durocher in 2004. By no means is that the primary objective; it's just an ancillary one. Groulx's withdrawal in '09 resulted in a rather long gap in choosing a coach from the league that has produced three of the past four Memorial Cup-winning teams. One would expect that success to trickle up to the national junior team in due time.
Canada's preparation for the WJC will include an exhibition tournament vs. Russia and Czech Republic in Quebec in early August.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.
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