Nobody can accuse Montreal Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis of not knowing what he’s getting into. In fact, if you didn’t know very well, you’d think winning was the furthest from the Hockey Hall of Famer’s mind.
After all, although play improved after his appointment, the team finished last in the 32-team National Hockey League. However, he does not use that as an excuse. In fact, he’s using it as a challenge.
“[The three-year contract] “It gives me the time and opportunity to build something,” he said on Wednesday. “It won’t happen in one day. We have wind in our sails based on what we did to finish last season. We are not starting from scratch and we will take it step by step and keep moving forward.”
Most of the squad have improved after taking charge off the bench, and even he admitted he’s happy to see the players enjoy coming to the ice rink despite a tough season.
“I will continue to build the culture and the way we want to play and give young players confidence; give them the opportunity and a platform to continue to develop.” “Winning is important, but do you build something that allows you to succeed year after year? And sometimes it takes time to build that. If the plan is always to win the next game, you might win more matches, but it is short-term. You have to build a culture that makes playoffs year after year. And it’s going to hit the ceiling on each of them individually. If we do that year after year, the players will be in an environment where they will win when it counts.”
Despite talking about focusing on the future, he made sure to stress that there are still expectations that need to be met.
“We can’t go on thinking losing is a good thing, but we can’t think winning is the ultimate goal of where we are as an organization. It’s a balance and the goal is to exceed expectations. If we keep doing that, we’ll move in the right direction.”
The pressure to win often confuses even the most progressive-minded coach, but St. Louis knows what the organization wants, and it knows how an organization can go from being a struggling to a competitor. He sees success in progress, a mindset that has the future in mind. It may not be the easiest line of reasoning for you to have when you are ultimately judged on gains and losses, but St. Louis sees growth needed as incremental.
“I don’t like to lose, but do I want to win in the short term versus not developing the guys who will help you win for years? No, I don’t want to risk that.” I want the youngsters, the prospects, and the players here now to reach their full potential. Sometimes you need to put these guys on the ice and make them feel confident on the ice. In the short term, wouldn’t that help you win the most games? I don’t know. But I’m not going into the season and I just think I have to win every game at the expense of not developing the youth. I did not do that. If I develop the players the way I think I can, winning will be a side effect of that.”
Knowing what he’s up to is only half the battle. Players like Cole Caufield have shown remarkable improvement under St. Louis, and there are likely to be more young players joining the NHL team in short order, including a potential first overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft.
Of course, there is more than just young players to develop. There will be veterans who will play important roles, but St. Louis feels well positioned to connect with them as well. Former players who had a great career often have a tough time with players who weren’t as naturally talented as they were, but St. Louis is not your average Hall of Fame player.
“I don’t think I’ve proven myself as a good coach yet,” he said. “I feel when I got into the league. I knew I had the potential to be a good player, but it took me a while to prove to people that I can be a good player. As a coach I feel the same. I have the experience and qualities that make me a good coach, but my actions and the way I succeed will speak volumes.” about itself.
“I believe in my own experience as a player, being an AHL call-up, a scratch in the NHL, fourth line, third line, power play, penalty kick. I’ve been through many situations that I think it’s very helpful to experience in this league. I understand what everyone feels in this league. My list because I felt everything they felt based on where they were in the depth chart. I’ve been exposed to different coaches, different situations and I’ve always been a student in the game and I feel like I’ve absorbed a lot of that and now I’m trying to teach that. I think I have the potential to be a good coach and now I have to Prove it and I look forward to it.”
When he was appointed as interim head coach in February, he was the perfect coach to get the team back to basics and have fun again. Armed with this mindset, he might be the perfect coach for an organization change. If he and the team reach their potential together, the results will speak for themselves.