HABS Look for Help from A Saint
"There is no doubt that St. Louis had a great career. There is also no doubt that he is coming in with ideas on paper that haven’t been tested as a coach behind the bench in the NHL."

After hitting absolute rock bottom in the NHL standings and an embarrassing 7-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils, the Montreal Canadiens cut ties with Dom Ducharme, the only coach to lead the team to a Stanley Cup final appearance since 1993. That’s not shocking given the win/loss record and response of the players play on the ice, however with 2 ½ years left on a $5.1 contract, things must be bad if you’re willing to pay someone on the sidelines for the remainder of that term and get zero services in return.


No one expected the HABS to recover this season after having one of the highest man-game lost statistics since the Los Angeles Kings in 2003/04. Add to that the loss of star goalie Carey Price, captain She Weber, anchor defenseman Joel Edmundson, a litany of other injuries, and a COVID-19 stricken team and it was a bad recipe all season long. The expectation though, was that he would finish the season. The issue was no longer that the team was losing, but how they were losing. The on-ice effort had completely devolved.  


Ducharme was replaced by a “saint”, but not the one most HABS fans might have thought in St. Patrick (Roy). Instead, they called on former NHL hall of fame player, Martin “Marty” St. Louis as an “interim” coach. Ducharme was the last “interim” coach before signing the 3-year extension after the Stanley Cup run. During his playing time with the Calgary Flames, Tampa Bay Lightning, and New York Rangers St. Louis amassed over 1,000 pts (391 goals, 642 assists) over a span of 1,134 games in 17 pro seasons.


St. Louis has zero games coaching experience.


There is a lot of emotion attached to this change. There is no doubt that St. Louis had a great career. There is also no doubt that he is coming in with ideas on paper that haven’t been tested as a coach behind the bench in the NHL. Arguably, Mario Tremblay might be the last time an emotional move was made by the HABS behind the bench, and some argue the team has never recovered from that experience. St. Louis brings more than Tremblay did in overall hockey smarts. He will command instant respect amoung the players based on his accomplishments, but the question is how long that will be enough? Maybe it doesn’t have to be long. Maybe the move is enough to help save some of the young talent on the team and elevate the game of some veterans to help increase their trade value heading towards the trade deadline.


The argument that no one has anything to lose in this scenario is probably the best explanation because the HABS and St. Louis have no where to go but up and if neither does then they will be in no worse a position. The bonus is that the younger players will benefit from a new voice with NHL pedigree and team morale may get an overall boost, even if it is short lived.


The reality is that while we know a lot about Martin St. Louis the player, we don’t know a lot about Martin St. Louis the coach and so until we see that unfold, we are all looking into the same crystal ball and rolling the same dice, drawing on our own past experiences. The new Canadien’s management will also have to draw on their experience when the season is over and assess if the short body of work is enough to remove the interim tag on this coach, but that is something they will need to do with caution.


The bold prediction I will make is that I don’t imagine we will see St. Louis jump on the bench, pump both fists into the air, and be over emotional when they win.


This is an opinion article by Guido Piraino of  The Monthly Social Podcast. It may also be heard on The Path Radio Mix Online. You can read other opinion articles on the blog page.


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