Montreal Canadiens: Martin St. Louis Philosophy Exactly What Habs Need Next Season

Apr 11, 2022; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens head coach Martin St-Louis. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 11, 2022; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens head coach Martin St-Louis. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports /

The Montreal Canadiens have been a bit of a roller coaster ride for fans to follow over the past two years.

The 2019-20 version of the team sold many veterans at the deadline because they were far back of the playoff pack. Then, thanks to an expanded playoff format, they took out a playoff contender in the Pittsburgh Penguins in a postseason series.

The 2020-21 team started tremendously well, faltered for months, treaded water for a long time, and then went on a will, unexpected run to the Stanley Cup Final. The 2021-22 Canadiens tripped and fell on the faces as they stepped on the ice for the first time and never really got up.

What will the 2022-23 team look like? Who can tell at this rate? However, what the team needs is a steadying hand, a realistic approach and a desire for long term development. That would lead to an extended period of success, and not random appearances in postseason with wildly unpredictable results.

A slow, building approach is exactly what Martin St. Louis promised to bring. The Habs bench boss finally shredded his “interim” label and became the team’s permanent head coach yesterday. A three year agreement will give him time to develop the young players on the roster and attempt to build a team that can compete for many more years to come after this contract expires.

The key takeaway from his press conference after the announcement of his extension was his plan to develop players properly, and not rush things to try and win immediately.

I think this is something many Canadiens fans have hoped to hear for years. There is an odd ill-conceived notion out there that Habs fans wouldn’t tolerate a rebuild and the fanbase doesn’t have the patience to see a team through a bad phase.

But isn’t the Montreal fanbase the one that is educated enough to see the value in taking one step back if it means a big leap forward? A bad team that thinks it is good is intolerable. A team that struggles to win games while young players learn valuable lessons for the future is something many Habs fans would see the improvement and value in and enjoy being along for the ride.

That is what we should expect from this team next season. St. Louis promises to see the young players improve and reach their potential, even if it means there are a few hiccups along the way.

The worst thing for a young player is to worry about making that one mistake that will staple them to the bench for the rest of the game and banish them to the press box for the next game. It is hard to play with confidence and poise if a bad puck bounce is punished like a federal crime.

St. Louis won’t do that. This team is going to have a lot of young defensemen joining the lineup next season. Justin Barron, Jordan Harris, Kaiden Guhle, and Mattias Norlinder will all likely play NHL games in 2022-23. Not to mention Alexander Romanov who is looking to prove himself as a top four, if not top pairing guy.

None of these young players will benefit from being scolded and benched for every little mistake. We have seen plenty of head coaches recently who would rule the bench with an iron fist. Does it make a player any better to play the game terrified of making a small mistake? No.

Which is why St. Louis is the perfect coach for the 2022-23 season. The Canadiens will not enter the season with high expectations. They will have a young blue line and likely Nick Suzuki and Shane Wright as key cornerstones of the future down the middle.

Taking it slowly next season so these young players can be far better in future seasons should be the priority for the Canadiens for the next 12 months. That’s what St. Louis promised and that should be sweet jazz music to the ears of Habs fans.

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