Ah, the topic of player-development. It’s been a sore subject for too many years in Montreal, or so it seems. Trevor Timmins with an overblown reputation of being unable to draft, and Marc Bergevin said to be unable to develop those young players. Fans and media are like a weather vane, pointing to one or another based on their mood that day.
But now that old management is gone, Jeff Gorton is bringing a feeling of hope, even announcing changes in scouting and player development. Sound familiar? They all say that. Bergevin also said that when, in 2018, he announced his reset. To be fair to previous management, the Draft and development appear to have been much better since then, as we’re starting to see some of those young players joining the big club, little by little. The Canadiens’ prospects in Junior, College and Europe seem to be having more success as well.
Tourigny shines some light
“Play the young guys!” How often have we heard this? It seems to be the go-to phrase from fans and reporters around the team. But in an interview on TVA Sports L’après-match LNH, Arizona Coyotes head coach André Tourigny addressed the topic. And he used a very interesting analogy, in hope that everyone understands.
“People think that development, it’s playing the young guys, but that’s not what development is.”
You see, Tourigny is in a good position to talk about youth development. He coached junior hockey and, like Dominique Ducharme, was also the bench boss for Team Canada Junior. He is now coaching a team having yet another rebuild with young players in Arizona.
“Let me give you an example: if you have a 12 year-old kid who wants to be a doctor. Send him straight to university, he’ll learn, he’ll make mistakes and will be a doctor eventually. But that’s not how it works. You first have to go to high school, university for a few years, do your internship and then, you become a doctor. Each thing at its time. If you try to take shortcuts, you don’t help the development. It’s the same thing in hockey.”
Throwing a young player to the wolves too soon, to put them in too big of roles, is a trap to avoid at all cost, according to Tourigny.
“People say: ‘play the young guys’. Okay, make him fail every day. That’s good for his confidence! That develops a player”, he says sarcastically. “Come on, that’s not how it works!”
Tourigny believes that you must follow the steps, in spite of the outside pressure, even if the young player himself might think that it’s unnecessary.
“In order to perform well and succeed, the young player must be at a level where he can execute. It might be in the American Hockey League (AHL) or in Junior hockey. There is nothing more false than to believe that playing at a higher level will allow for a better development. It has to be at a level where he can succeed well. Otherwise, it will fail and he will get demotivated.”
So, is the message clear? Of course, you’ll have those who will believe that they know more about it than Tourigny or other experienced coaches who share his beliefs in player development. But remember folks… those people also think that they are better than professional General Managers, better than the team President and better than the coaching staff. Yet, there they are, in their basement typing away, or working for media outlets… in all due respect.
Here’s hoping that Gorton and his new team shows patience with the kids coming up. The Canadiens have drafted something like 45 players since the reset of 2018. And as it stands today, they have 11 more picks at for the next Draft in Montreal this coming summer, with likely more to come when they trade away some veterans. The future is bright, as long as we, as fans, use a bit more patience. Yes, that word again. Understand that you can’t build through youth and be impatient. Those don’t mix well.