Laval Rocket and Jean-François Houle Agree To Multi-Year Contract Extension

Houle missed the playoffs in 2024, but his work with the Canadiens' prospects earned him a multi-year extension.
Jean-Francois Houle coaching with Laval Rocket
Jean-Francois Houle coaching with Laval Rocket / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

The Laval Rocket didn't have a coach under contract for the 2024-25 season, but the club announced today that they agreed to terms on a multi-year contract extension with head coach Jean-François Houle. Some don't agree with the move, as the Rocket hasn't made the playoffs since he led them to the third round in 2021-22. However, the Canadiens see a coach in Houle who can develop young players and get them to the next level. It's nice to have a winning team at the AHL level to build fan support and create a winning culture, but in the long run, the minors are about doing what's best for your NHL team. The Canadiens feel that re-hiring Houle is what's best.

Assistant coach Kelly Buchberger left the team to coach in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. However, they also renewed the services of assistant coach Martin Laperrière, goalie coach Marco Marciano, and video coach Charles Juneau. The search will now begin to find an assistant to replace Buchberger. Maybe a former Hab fan-favorite who recently won a World Championship and is looking to jumpstart his coaching career? Don't get your hopes up on that, but the possibility of Tomas Plekanec rejoining the Canadiens organization is fun to imagine.

Who is Jean-François Houle?

Jean-François Houle was a former Habs draft pick in 1993. He played 72 AHL games for the Fredericton Canadiens and Cincinnati Mighty Ducks but spent most of his time in the ECHL. He began coaching in 2003, returning to his former school as an assistant coach with Clarkson University.

The experience at Clarkson allowed him to become head coach with the Lewiston MAINEiacs of the QMJHL. He spent two seasons in Lewiston before leading the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada for another three seasons. Houle jumped to the ECHL in 2014, coaching the Bakersfield Condors for seven seasons through their move from the ECHL to the AHL.

The Laval Rocket hired Houle for the 2021-22 season, where he led them to the Calder Cup semifinals in his first season. He has a 105-86-25 record through his first three seasons but failed to make the playoffs the last two seasons after being eliminated in the qualification round in 2022-23 and falling short this past season.

Despite the shortcomings of the past two seasons, Laval general manager John Sedgwick has plenty of confidence in Houle's abilities to lead the team.

"Jean-François Houle has done an excellent job as the head coach of the Laval Rocket since being hired in 2021. He and his staff have demonstrated the ability to balance team performance with player development, establishing both a competitive culture and an ideal environment for the growth and maturation of our young players. "

John Sedgwick

If Houle continues getting his players in Laval promoted to the NHL, the questions about his extension will go away. However, it's unclear how long the Canadiens will tolerate their AHL affiliate failing to make the playoffs. In the long run, it's about development, but part of development is getting your young players ingrained in what it takes to play hockey in the playoffs.