New Coach, New Team
The Montreal Canadiens look like a completely different team under new head coach, Martin St. Louis
New Coach, New Team
What’s Happening: On Feb. 9, the Montreal Canadiens were the worst team in the NHL with a record of 8-30-7. Eight wins in 45 games is simply not good, especially for a team that had sky-high aspirations after coming off a Stanley Cup final appearance the previous season. Needless to say, things needed a change and the Habs made a coaching change on Feb. 9.
New bench boss and former Tampa Bay Lightning legend, Martin St. Louis, was tapped to become the new head coach of the Canadiens. Things didn’t get any better during the first three games under the watchful eye of St. Louis as the Habs dropped those first three games, albeit two of those losses came in overtime. Since then, the Habs have rattled off three wins in a row with their most recent one being their most impressive, a 5-2 victory over the mighty Maple Leafs.
How It Happened: Even in the first three games of St. Louis’ coaching of the Habs, there were signs that some confidence was developing. The biggest reason for the turnaround is that St. Louis has the Habs believing in themselves again. He has them playing fast and up-tempo hockey, which is creating tons of chances for their team. Perhaps, nobody is benefiting more from the coaching change and the change in pace of play than Cole Caufield.
Under previous head coach, Dominic Ducharme, Caufield had a woeful 3 goals and 5 assists in 30 games. Things were so bad for Caufield that at one point earlier in the season, he was demoted to their AHL affiliate. But under St. Louis, Caufield has already doubled his points output, scoring 5 goals in those 6 games. St. Louis clearly has Caufield believing in himself again.
Moving Forward: Clearly, the playoffs are well out of the picture for the Habs. But for their team, regaining that confidence and stoking the belief that they are a more competitive team than their record shows is what they have left to play for in the remainder of this season.
What’s funny and ironic for the Habs is that Ducharme was hired just only a year ago to take over for then head coach Claude Julien with the Habs performing much better after the coaching change. It’s tough to say why the Habs haven’t performed close to good at all this year, but the absences of Carey Price and Shea Weber likely have played a big part. When you couple that with the lackluster performances of Caufield, Josh Anderson, Jeff Petry, and Nick Suzuki, and some below-average goaltending from Jake Allen, it’s easy to see why the issues have compounded in Montreal this season.
Under St. Louis, if the Habs can put up some respectable numbers down the stretch, it’ll only help to revive a fanbase that is clearly in shock at the terrible season. Going forward, look for St. Louis to further stabilize the team while also nurturing key young pieces in their development. He’s done a fantastic job already with Caufield, but look for him to continue to play a key role in the development of Suzuki, Jake Evans, and Alexander Romanov.
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