The Montreal Canadiens may be slowing down lately under Martin St. Louis due to the weight of everything that’s gone down his season, but all this adversity will serve them well down the line, and better prepare them for next season.
The Montreal Canadiens have had a very tough season this year, and it’s starting to catch up to them in the last stretch of the 2021-2022 schedule. Be it a slew of injuries to core players, the high number of Covid infections, condensed scheduling in the second half of the season, management and coaching changes and the trades of major veterans, the Montreal Canadiens have been through it all this season. The experience of such a tough season, which has seen a record amount of games lost to injury for the Montreal Canadiens, will better serve them moving forward. For the Canadiens, the result is not the primary goal; they’re instead looking to change the way they think and play on the ice to better prepare for next season.
“I think this team is mentally tired,” St. Louis said after the Montreal Canadiens’ 5-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. “They had a tough season. And then coaches change, and I’m asking them a lot and implementing so many things. So there’s a lot going on for them in terms of handling all that mentally and stuff, and we looked a little tired mentally tonight. We’ll probably get a day off tomorrow and just get ready for the two games this weekend.”
A Season From Hell
On top of all the events this year, the Montreal Canadiens were served some further bad luck this season due to Covid-19 lockdowns in Quebec, causing a slew of postponements in the NHL schedule; the Canadiens’ only saving grace was that the NHL decided against going to the 2022 Beijing Olympics, or the damage could have been worse. Martin St. Louis’ arrival seemed to have jump-started the Canadiens when he first arrived, as they went 6-4 in their first ten games under their new head coach. Recently, however, the weight of the season has started to show, as is normal given what the Canadiens have gone through, with the club posting a 3-6-1 record over their last ten games.
The influx of excitement surrounding the team is noteworthy. Despite the mounting losses, the excitement regarding the future of the organization is much higher now than it was in January, and most of that credit comes from the great work of St. Louis. Veteran defenceman Joel Edmundson, whose leadership and calm presence on the blueline was missed terribly during the first half of the season, praised St. Louis’s effect on the team and how the culture has changed for the better.
“I think we’re still very excited Marty’s here, and we still have that spark,” said Edmundson of St. Louis’ presence. “We love coming to the rink every day. He’s definitely teaching us every day. We go to the rink, and we’re learning something new. In losses like this, we try to find some things that we can get better at and learn from it. So try to take a negative and turn it into a positive but, at the same time, you want to put a full 60 in and get a win.
St. Louis Preparing For Next Season
St. Louis is making a point to instill good habits and new ways of thinking on his roster, as they look to build on a solid end-of-season performance and take that momentum with them into the summer to prepare for Training Camp in September. Being out of a playoff spot, St. Louis has voiced his desire to use this precious time to get ahead of the curve and prepare his players for what comes next.
“If I’m here next season, I won’t feel like I’m starting from scratch,” said St. Louis after Monday night’s loss to the Winnipeg Jets. “I think this is a good opportunity to implement the concept, the culture I’m trying to bring, collectively, individually. The progression of the players. I’m not coaching everyone the same. I don’t know what will happen, but I understand when I talk to some of the players, it might make them think a little bit, and, when you think, there may be a little more hesitation in the game. But once it becomes clear through repetition, through video, through the conversation, they’re in a better place.”
With Martin St. Louis seemingly confirming his intention to return as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens next season, it’s important to note that this is a good time for the management team, coaching staff and players to evaluate what works and what doesn’t on the ice. It will give them the information needed to make roster decisions, provide training plans and for the players to know what to improve on as they look to change their fortunes next season.