32 Teams In 32 Days: Montreal Canadiens
It would be great if Martin St. Louis turned out to be a great coach....
In Today’s 32 Team outlook we examine the Montreal Canadiens and why it would be a good thing for the NHL if Martin St. Louis worked out as their new head coach.
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In 2021 the Montreal Canadiens went on a stunning run to the Stanley Cup Final. It required a perfect storm of events to get them there — a reshuffled divisional alignment in a shortened season, a unique one-year playoff format, Carey Price channeling his MVP-form and single-handedly carrying the team — but they made it under interim coach Dominique Ducharme.
Even with that playoff run nobody should have had any delusions that success was going to repeat itself the next season, especially after a significant portion of the roster was gutted in free agency. Philip Danault and Tomas Tatar were lost in free agency, Jesperi Kotkaniemi was offer-sheeted by the Carolina Hurricanes, and then Brendan Gallagher, Shea Weber and Carey Price (some of the most important pieces of their Stanley Cup Final run) were lost to injuries for most or all of the season.
Add in some early season regression from young stars Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield, and everything fell apart on the Canadiens.
More trades were made (Tyler Toffoli and Arturri Lehkonen were dealt) and eventually the Canadiens made potentially the most significant move of them all: They fired Ducharme mid-season and replaced him with Hockey Hall of Fame player Martin St. Louis.
This was an absolutely wild move because it came not long after the Canadiens said Ducharme would coach the remainder of the season, while St. Louis was hired with almost zero coaching experience of any kind. His only NHL experience in any sort of coaching capacity was one season as a special teams consultant with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He had previously been offered an AHL head coaching job in the New York Rangers organization, but turned it down.
This most was so out of left field because NHL teams typically dive into the recycling bin when hiring a new coach. More often than not it tends to be somebody that has coached — and ultimately been fired — by another team that gets the new job, or they simply promote an assistant already behind the bench or the head coach of their minor league team. The same coaches get hired, the same ideas and voices get recycled through the system, and everything remains the same.
The Canadiens went against all of that and quite literally hired somebody that has never done it before. In a league that does not typically like to think outside of the box or against the grain, this is about as close as you are going to get to a team doing something bold with a coaching hire.
Will it work? And what impact could that have on future coaching searches?
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