According to what he told the media just a few weeks ago, Martin St-Louis wasn’t planning on changing his coaching staff but it seems like he will have to after all. As the Chicago Blackhawks have reportedly made Canadiens’ former assistant-coach Luke Richardson their new head coach, St-Louis will have to start looking at resumes to decide who will be coaching his defensive core.
Richardson joined the Canadiens in July 2018 and he has since been the defense coach. He did an outstanding job replacing head coach Dominique Ducharme, who was sidelined with COVID last season.
Crucial decision coming
The decision for a replacement for the position is not one to be taken lightly. With the last trade deadline sending Ben Chiarot and Brett Kulak packing, and with the apparent soon to be departure of Jeff Petry, the Canadiens are in the midst of a serious overhaul of their defensive core.
Further, the organization counts a number of high quality prospects who are getting ready to start their NHL career. In addition to 22 year-old Alexander Romanov, who continues his development at the NHL level, the Canadiens have a long list of young defensemen who will be pushing for a NHL spot in the next couple of years:
- Kaiden Guhle
- Jordan Harris
- Justin Barron
- Otto Leskinen
- Gianni Fairbrother
- Arber Xhekaj,
- Mattias Norlinder
- Logan Mailloux
- William Trudeau
- Jayden Struble
So the new assistant-coach will have to possess many qualities that perhaps, Richardson didn’t necessarily need to have. For one thing, the trio of St-Louis, Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton want to create a more mobile, puck-moving type of defense than the bruising style the Canadiens had during their playoffs’ run just a year ago. And as mentioned above, they have started that process.
Here are a few of the qualities that could be required for the position:
☞ Fast-tempo style:
As mentioned, the organization wants the team to play a more skilled, fast pace game. This means that from the defense stand point, the puck must move out of the zone quickly. This can be achieved with good, crisp passes and/or by skating the puck out of the zone when needed. The style of coach will have to blend in well with what St-Louis wants for the forward group, obviously.
☞ Good communicator:
As you can see, the defense could get very young in a hurry. Today’s kids need and often respond better to coaches with good communication skills. They will not only need to know why they are or are not in the line-up, but will have to develop an affinity, a complicity with the defense coach.
☞ Good with kids, development skills:
This goes without saying. Complementary to the communications’ skills, the new coach will have to live with “rookie mistakes”, and how to use those mistakes as a teaching tool for them to continue developing and progressing in their young career. With youth comes mistakes. You can’t have a guy who will toy with the kids’ confidence and natural abilities. Most will agree that benching them after a mistake is not the way to go.
☞ Special teams:
The Canadiens’ special teams has been awful for many years and if there is one area that has not improved since the arrival of St-Louis, it’s the man advantage and while playing short-handed. The power play and penalty kill needs new ideas so adding a new assistant-coach with a fresh outlook, with a track record of success, will be very important for the team to have any kind of success.
There is a sense of excitement about Martin St-Louis as a head coach and the names should be pouring in to fill that position. So there shouldn’t be a shortage of excellent candidates to fill the hole left by Richardson in the organization. The Canadiens need to get the right person for the job, as it will determine a lot about the future of the team’s defensive core.