Martin St. Louis Has The Team Buying In, Imagine This Roster With More Skill

The 2023-24 Canadiens gave the playoff bound Florida Panthers more than they could handle on Tuesday night. A sign that this team means business regardless of their rank in the standings.
Carolina Hurricanes v Montreal Canadiens
Carolina Hurricanes v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages
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The Montreal Canadiens are all-in for their head coach and the respect is well warranted.

Under Dominique Ducharme the Habs were treading water; ungracefully, a disaster was in the making. What Martin St. Louis has been able to do with the team is impressive. It’s not all Marty, the players have bought into what he is selling and the product on the ice is indicative of that.

This season, much like last will finish before the playoffs commence and the Canadiens are likely to draft in the 5-10 range. So it’s not a big difference from last year, but viewing statistics on NHL.com won’t tell you the real story. There have been substantial personal improvements: Arber Xhekaj is one, Juraj Slafkovsky another and Nick Suzuki is having a career year. 

There are still areas that need improvement, but the Canadiens have stood toe-to-toe with teams that they had no business keeping pace. Tuesday night against the Florida Panthers was a prime example. Montreal won 5-3 against a team primed for a deep Stanley Cup run, and the Panthers were visibly frustrated. 

It’s easy to blame a loss on the fact that the team is missing their likely number two centre. Or the fact that the blueline is relatively inexperienced. But that just isn’t the way this team operates, they battle until the final whistle and don’t back down from anybody. 

They also have a general manager who works as hard behind the scenes to shore up the roster. Kent Hughes has made some key trades to bring in solid pieces, and he has drafted some promising prospects. Marc Bergevin indeed started collecting some of the most crucial pieces, but Hughes’ work shouldn’t be taken lightly since he took over.

With another big offseason ahead, there is no telling what sort of spade the former player agent has up his sleeve. But watching the team gives you a glimpse of what they’re lacking. It’s glaringly obvious that a chip or two up front would be a tremendous help, and there’s tremendous depth on the defensive side of the puck. 

Whether that translates to an NHL trade; involving a young defenseman, a prospect or two, a draft pick or whatever else he concocts, you would have to assume that something is going to happen. The return of Kirby Dach will be a huge addition to the lineup, but aside from Alex Newhook, there aren’t many legitimate top-six options. Aside from Macklin Celebrini, there isn’t a prospect that is guaranteed to play in the NHL next year either. 

With that being said, signing a free agent could be an ideal plan. A player that fits the age range of the core, who will be around through the rebuild and when the team hopes to be competitive. There are endless possibilities and Hughes’ poker face is one of the best in the league. 

Regardless of all that, however, with St. Louis calling the shots and earning the respect of the team right away, adding to the roster can only mean a move in one direction. Onwards and upwards, this band of brothers is all for one and one for all. Whoever they add will follow that same mentality and help pull this team from rebuilders to contenders. 

Behind the bench supporting it all and preparing the team for whichever foe stands in the way; will be Marty, Stephane Robidas, Alexandre Burrows and Trevor Letowski. 

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