Head coach Martin St-Louis believes the Canadiens will soon be ready to move on to the next level
When Martin St-Louis took the helm of the Canadiens on February 9, 2022, he found a team in disarray. Under Dominique Ducharme, the Habs had won just two of their previous 25 games. A year later, the situation is a little rosier, although the pitfalls still remain.
“This season, I didn’t have to start from scratch. I had spent three months with the team last year. I'm happy with our progress as a team. I have a vision of the team I want to build and the culture I want to build, but it won't happen overnight,” said St-Louis, in an interview with Le Journal.< /em>
The 47-year-old Laval resident did not want to say more about this vision, about this culture: “We would have to spend hours making videos together. And we won't,” he said, laughing.
A little patience
However, he assures that the establishment of his concepts is going well. And this, even if with such a young team as the one he has at hand, it takes a little patience.
“Young people are ready to absorb information, but you have to take the time . The parties speak to us. They tell us if we are ready to move on to another aspect, explained St-Louis. If you're trying to work on 10 or 15 things at once, forget it. It will become too difficult. »
And how long will it take to assimilate all its aspects?
“I think we are on the right track, he assured. At the end of the year, I can tell you that we are going to be really close, really, to having touched everything. After that, we can start going into the details. »
The former Lightning forward's response may come as a surprise considering that, as recently as the holiday season, the Canadiens may have hit rock bottom.
We remember the snot of 7 to 2 suffered at the hands of the Panthers and that of 9 to 2 against the Capitals. St-Louis admitted that it was a very difficult time to live through, but that she was formative. Even for him.
” It was hard. It is an experience that I needed to live as a coach. I was wondering if any teams had found a breach in our game. You know, there are so many videos now in the NHL. I had to find where the breach was.
“It's an evolution,” he continued. It's like telephones. There are versions 1.0, 2.0, 3.0. It continues to go up and improve, he mentioned to illustrate his point. Where are we with our phone? Not yet where we want, but we are not at 1.0. »
Open to debate
It remains to be seen whether the evolution is done quickly enough for the taste of veterans. Some nights, some give the impression that they would like to be somewhere else.
“It can happen that there are people who want to leave. If so, Kent [Hughes] will try to accommodate them.
In this regard, in the first weeks of the calendar, St-Louis said that he wanted to bet on “people who will plant trees, but who will never sit in the shade of those trees. »
In other words, he wanted to be able to rely on veterans who would contribute to the development of the team without being able to witness its successes, when the time came.
“I have conversations and debates with the players. It is important to speak with the veterans. I don't claim to know everything. I am not bound.
“I don't mind seeing a player trying to convince me. Sometimes these discussions unlock one thing in your brain and it takes you to another place,” he continued.
And who knows? Maybe speed up the process a bit more?
A different relationship with the media
When he wore the colors of the Lightning and the Rangers, Martin St-Louis was not fond of post-game interviews. Since he swapped his sweater and shoulder pads for a jacket and ties, we have discovered a completely different character.
Coach Martin St-Louis during his press briefing after the inaugural game on October 12.
In a year, you can count on the fingers of one hand the times he lost patience. And there again, we were far from the flights of fancy of some of his predecessors.
“When I was playing, maybe I had just been bawled out afterwards by my coach, I had maybe played a bad game, got an elbow on the chin, a puck on an ankle,” he explained.
A totally different reality now.
“As a coach, I don't have those emotions because I'm not on the ice, no one is yelling at me. I try to move my team forward rationally, not emotionally. Because when you are in the emotion, you lose yourself. You lose your way. “
Nevertheless, having microphones under your nose more often than the Premier of Quebec must not always be convenient.
“Yes, sometimes it's demanding. But I know that when I talk to you, I'm talking to the fans. This is the platform I have and I take it seriously because I know what the CH stands for, ”he said.
Through the media, fans are therefore better able to understand the direction that St-Louis wants to give its team and some of its decisions.
“I wouldn't say that I play 'education. But it allows me to really give them an idea of what our process is and to be honest. I also try to do it without taking myself too seriously. »
Not taking yourself seriously
This last sentence is important. She explains why he does not hesitate to use Chantal Machabée's suggestions when looking for the right translation. Even if it means being the star of a Bye Bye sketch or moving on to Infoman.
This is also the reason why we can sometimes see him crack a smile during his post-match press briefing, even after a loss.
” I like to laugh. Even in difficult times. I think it's important not to take yourself seriously and sometimes to be vulnerable. Anyway, arriving with a stupid look does nothing. If you look angry all the time, when you get angry, people don't take you seriously. »
Not to mention that life is rosier when you have easy happiness.
No question of sinking for Connor Bedard < /strong>
“When you try to influence things by not behaving in the right way, it comes to haunt you sooner or later. »
Rarely in the Montreal market, in the long history of the Canadiens, have the team's fans been so keen to see the team sink to the bottom of the standings as much as possible.
The idea of being able to get the very first pick of the next draft and selecting Connor Bedard makes them salivate more than the hope of seeing the Habs make the playoffs by qualifying through the back door.
Martin St-Louis is at the aware of this desire, but his competitive conscience prevents him from following it.
“Besides, even if you finish last, that doesn't guarantee anything,” he recalls.
Indeed, the lottery put in place to avoid intentional free falls in the standings means that the team that finishes 32nd and last in the circuit has about a 25% chance of getting the first right to speak.
Let's pray to Lady Luck
Not only does this leave a 75% chance of missing out on Bedard, but it would be counterproductive for an organization trying to establish a new culture within its group.
Besides, Kent Hughes puzzled many when he said during his mid-season review that they had reached the stage where “wins are good up to a point and losses are not good until 'At a certain point.
Aware that its general manager had been somewhat criticized, St-Louis had chosen to come to its defense the next day by clarifying its thinking. He did it again in front of the two representatives of the Journal de Montréal.
“They interpreted his remarks. I chose to talk about it. Yes, we want to win. But not at the cost of not developing our young people, he explained. If we're in the game and fighting, we won't start hitting each other on the head after a loss.
To hope to see Bedard end up in Montreal, we will therefore have to count on Lady Luck and, perhaps, on a helping hand from the Panthers, of which the Canadian holds the first choice.