Sunday, March 3, 2024

What the Puck: Martin St. Louis evokes, however is he an ideal coach?

St. Louis is a breath of contemporary air after a string of conservative, defence-first coaches, however he’s not but being judged on wins and losses.

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It’s too early to name Martin St. Louis an ideal Nationwide Hockey League coach. We’ll solely be capable to make that judgment as soon as Canadiens administration begins caring about successful video games.

Proper now, government vice-president of hockey operations Jeff Gorton and basic supervisor Kent Hughes have made it clear that the group is specializing in growing the youngsters, not wins and losses. They’re the primary Canadiens managers to go absolutely into rebuild mode and so they know this younger group isn’t able to compete with the massive boys.

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So in contrast to the overwhelming majority of NHL coaches, St. Louis doesn’t have to fret about successful. That’s why his shedding file as head coach of the Habs doesn’t outline his tenure behind the bench. Since being named interim coach on Feb. 9, 2022, the group has a 59-77-15 file. Even essentially the most math-challenged amongst us should notice that 59 wins and 92 losses is fairly darn horrible.

Earlier than you begin throwing tomatoes at me, please perceive I’m not saying St. Louis is a foul coach. The rosters he has needed to work with have hardly been NHL materials. The group is, to be beneficiant, a piece in progress. Backside line is the core of the group is made up of a bunch of budding gamers who’re removed from hitting their prime. Add the nutty quantity of accidents since St. Louis took over and it makes it even more durable to offer him a good grade.

My level is we don’t know if he’s coach or a not-so-good coach. That may appear apparent, but it surely’s a conclusion that escapes a big swath of the fan base and the media corps. They love St. Louis and his inspirational model.

And so do I. He’s a breath of contemporary air after a string of coaches all reduce from the identical fabric. Nearly each one earlier than him was a conservative, defence-first bench boss who approached post-game press conferences like a go to to the dentist. As compared, St. Louis is a veritable sports activities guru with quotable snippets popping out with extra frequency than Connor Bedard targets. St. Louis is a good communicator. Not one of the twenty first century Habs coaches had been.

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I used to marvel at Dominique Ducharme’s press conferences. I usually couldn’t perceive what he was making an attempt to clarify and I figured if I didn’t perceive, there was no manner the gamers may perceive what he wished from them. That’s principally what longtime Habs tools supervisor Pierre Gervais mentioned in his guide Pierre Gervais: au coeur du vestiaire (co-written with La Presse journalist Mathias Brunet).

Then there have been the Michel Therrien years (two units of them). His press conferences had been all sound and fury. My most lasting reminiscence of Therrien is the video of him yelling his head off at P.Okay. Subban for making too many errors.

Most of us had a surge of hope when St. Louis took over as a result of he appeared like the primary Habs coach this century (with the doable exception of Man Carbonneau) to be advocating a extra thrilling offensive model of hockey. He’s, in spite of everything, one of many nice forwards in latest NHL historical past.

Then he appeared to assist Cole Caufield flip right into a scoring star final season. He seemed to be the sniper all of us thought he was, scoring 26 targets in 46 video games earlier than happening with a shoulder harm. All of us figured St. Louis was simply the man to encourage Caufield, a welcome tonic after Ducharme had him languishing within the shadows. (Bear in mind when he wasn’t even within the lineup when the Habs began their monumental playoff run in 2021?)

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However younger Mr. Caufield has stalled this 12 months. He has solely eight targets after 32 video games and there’s clearly one thing very improper along with his sport. So for the second, the MSL magic has worn off.

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The opposite odd factor is that St. Louis’s Canadiens have large problem scoring targets. Once more, a lot of that’s the expertise on the ice. There’s just one pure objective scorer on the group, the aforementioned Caufield, and he’s not placing the puck within the internet. Even the most effective coach on the planet isn’t going to make Jake Evans a sniper.

Right here’s the actual query — what’s the id of St. Louis’s Canadiens? What system is he teaching? I do know he likes ideas greater than methods, however each group performs a sure manner. I’m undecided what the reply is, but it surely’s undoubtedly not the wide-open offensive model we thought it could be.

The perfect factor he’s dropped at the group is his potential to carry the gamers collectively as a tightly-knit gang. There’s an ideal pleasure to this group. There’s an ideal group spirit, once more one thing we haven’t seen a lot of this century with a number of notable exceptions (2010, 2014, 2021). He evokes.

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And he evokes these guys to by no means quit. We used to show the TV off when it was 1-0. Now they’re in each sport to the final second. Take a look at Thursday night time’s sport in Minnesota. Down 3-2, Juraj Slafkovsky, the group’s finest ahead in latest weeks, scored at 16:57 of the third. Yeah they misplaced in extra time to the Wild, however they fought to the final second.

That’s a serious achievement for St. Louis. He’s made the group enjoyable to observe once more. However the actual check for the Corridor of Fame participant goes to return when his bosses inform him he has to make the playoffs. Now that’s going to be attention-grabbing to observe!

bkelly@postmedia.com

twitter.com/brendanshowbiz

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