Montreal Canadiens: Martin St. Louis Needs To Have Arber Xhekaj's Back

Jul 7, 2022; Montreal, Quebec, CANADA; Montreal Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis
Jul 7, 2022; Montreal, Quebec, CANADA; Montreal Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis / Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The Montreal Canadiens are a rebuilding team that needs to invest in its young assets.

The team is going to go through some tough times for the rest of this season and they will have to endure through some tough times. It will be important for the coaching staff and management to be patient with their young skaters as they develop and learn the ropes at the pro level.

One young player that has a unique set of skills is Arber Xhekaj. The big, physical defender is among the best fighters in the game of hockey, but also has some untapped offensive potential as well. He showed that off by scoring 11 points in 17 AHL games during a recent stint in the minors.

Xhekaj is a 22 year old behemoth at 6'4" and 240 pounds and his skating does not suffer at all due to his size. He gets around the ice with ease, plays well defensively and is a huge pain, literally and figuratively, for the opposition to play against on a nightly basis.

He always steps up for a teammate when it is time to do so. It would have been nice to see his head coach do that same for him.

After the Canadiens beat the New York Islanders 4-3, Martin St. Louis was asked about Xhekaj's two minor penalties in the game. The coach bluntly stated that he did not like it at all. Meanwhile, one of his penalties was when he accidentally touched an Islanders on the chin with his stick as he tried to land a body check and an interference penalty after Mat Barzal dropped rather easily.

It would have been easy for St. Louis to stand up for Xhekaj, who was just called back up earlier this week, and saw he saw some positives from the young player. After all, according to, Xhekaj had the best expected goals % of any Canadiens blue liner which essentially means he was on for the best ratio of scoring chances for and against of Habs defensemen.

Instead of pointing out something positive about Xhekaj, St. Louis just coldly stated he didn't like the minor penalties. As big and tough as Xhekaj is, he seems to have had his confidence shaken a bit at the NHL level. He looked better with the Laval Rocket and we would have hoped he could translate that back to the NHL.

Having Xhekaj second guess his decisions on the ice isn't going to help him become more confident out there. He is the first guy to stand up for his teammates and it would have been nice to see his coach do the same for the young player.