Canadiens Think Outside The Box To Hire Martin St. Louis

(Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
(Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /

On the surface it appeared as though Montreal Canadiens Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Kent Hughes took a big risk with their hire of the inexperienced Martin St. Louis as head coach of the last place Habs.

Thinking outside the box, they made their choice based on their knowledge of the person, not his NHL coaching experience, and it’s quickly paying off dividends.

As an undersized forward, Martin St. Louis was never drafted. That didn’t stop him from playing 16 seasons in the NHL and amassing 1033 points (391G, 642A) in 1134 games, in what would turn into a Hall Of Fame career in the NHL. He won 2 Art Ross Trophies, 1 Hart, 1 Ted Lindsay Award and was a 6 time NHL All Star. He won the Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2003-04 and an Olympic Gold medal representing Canada in 2014.

Though St. Louis does not have any prior NHL, AHL or Junior coaching experience, you could argue anyone bearing such honours on their resume must certainly warrant consideration to guide a floundering team in a new direction, and yes he is bilingual.

Since Martin St. Louis stepped behind the bench in Montreal, the team has looked different. They’ve played a more inspired, and cohesive brand of hockey. Their record of 1-3 doesn’t tell the entire story during that time. There have been no lopsided losses and there has seemingly been a spark that has ignited the players desire to compete and win battles.

St. Louis can often be seen in games leaning in and talking to his players when they come to the bench. They must be words of encouragement and good advice, because players are responding positively. Practices have also looked completely different as St. Louis ingrains his philosophy emphasizing read and react, rather than strict systems.

Case in point; Cole Caufield. Suddenly and magically gone is the player we saw floundering through the first half of the season. His confidence, swagger, and with it, the goals have returned.

Caufield, is now playing in front of his boyhood idol, and has suddenly skated back into the spotlight with more important on-ice minutes, getting playing time with Nick Suzuki, who he had so much chemistry with during last year’s playoffs. Caufield has scored 4 goals, including a game tying goal followed by a game winner in overtime (plus one more which was called back due to a prior offside on the play).

The turnaround in Caufield’s play alone since St. Louis’ arrival speaks volumes about why a coaching change was needed in Montreal.

Many had predicted the 2021 Hobey Baker award winner to contend for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in the NHL this year. However, the young sniper was having such difficulty finding his game under former coach Domonique Ducharme, he was sent to Laval to play in the minors for a time and had registered just 1 goal in 30 NHL games.

Under St. Louis’ guidance he is showing, as an undersized forward, yes he does possess an elite level NHL game. Thankfully the new management group of the Montreal Canadiens were not content to allow allow another highly touted Montreal Canadiens prospect to falter and not find a way to succeed in the NHL.

As the 2021-22 Montreal Canadiens sit at the bottom of the league looking up, the focus throughout the 2nd half of the season and beyond, is on developing their young talent. Jeff Gorton and Kent Hughes surprised the entire hockey community with their choice of Martin St. Louis as interim coach of the Habs, but they knew he possessed the qualities they wanted in a coach.

Martin St.Louis’ ability to think the game and react to it, coupled with his intense desire to succeed, proved the doubters wrong many times in his career as a player.  His mother often told him as a child “You show them, Marty.” Martin St. Louis’ life has prepared him for his next challenge to ‘show them,’ and that mindset is already filtering through to the players.

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