The Tampa Bay Lightning are making a serious push towards NHL history and Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes is taking notice.
As Kent Hughes, executive vice president Jeff Gorton and soon-to-be head coach Martin St. Louis continue to revamp the culture and roster for the Montreal Canadiens, Hughes indicated on the Cam and Strick Podcast Tuesday, that the Canadiens will attempt to model their culture like that of the team that is eight wins away from achieving the first three-peat of the salary cap era.
“I think they do a lot of things really well, but I’m not there. …I used to be a lot, but probably culture,” Hughes said. “At some point, there’s that shift that goes on with players, where what becomes most important to them is how often they can win. That’s legacy, and sometimes when you get it – you know, for Steven Stamkos, it came a little bit later in the career – like for a lot of those other players, the [Victor] Hedman’s, they’re younger and they’re still in, well, not that Steven’s not in his prime, he’s still scoring a lot of goals, but I think having the right leadership, the right culture, that’s from the top. From Julien, to Jon Cooper to your players, I don’t think it’s just any one person in an organization.”
While that may be true, Hughes believes the man to do that behind the bench is St. Louis.
“I’ve had a lot of opportunity to kind of talk to him, and understand how he thinks the game, collectively, individually, and just probably just as much as anything, I probably have an appreciation of how players feel,” Hughes said. “I get to hear it all the time over the years, and I think there’s a certain, I don’t care what your style is as a coach or what your style is as a communicator, I think all good coaches are good leaders, but I know Marty’s very bright, very strategic, but I also thought he had a certain level of emotional intelligence that he could handle one player one way and another player another way and still move the group towards the finish line together.”
In that same interview, Hughes confirmed that a deal for St. Louis to shed the interim tag and become head coach will be signed by the end of next week.
“Hopefully at some point this week or next, we get it wrapped up,” the Montreal Canadiens GM said.
Hughes is confident that Martin St. Louis can be the guy to get the Canadiens youngsters and prospects coming to buy into that Lightning culture and turn the Montreal Canadiens into a winning culture again.
“So, it seems to me that there’s an incredible buy-in to winning and you’ve seen it in terms of some of the contracts that players have done and you see it with the way they play,” Hughes said of the Lightning. “Their star players sacrificing and playing defense and blocking shots, and all the things that come with winning Stanley Cups.”
Hughes was then asked about when he arrived and walked into the suddenly downtrodden culture of the Montreal Canadiens last January. How did he plan to come in and build that culture back in the other direction of a dynasty like the Tampa Bay Lightning?
“I think you build it over time; I don’t think it’s something that you press a button and you change,” the Montreal Canadiens GM said. “That was the one thing, we were working hard. …it’s not that the culture was broken, the team went to the Stanley Cup Final the year before, but it was certainly a very difficult situation, probably exasperated by the fact that they had gone to the Stanley Cup Final the year before, where nobody seemed to be having fun. They seemed to be a little bit lost.
So we’re coming in saying – and Marty was kind of the face of that transformation in terms of saying: ‘Hey we may not make the playoffs this year but that doesn’t mean we’re not showing up every day. That doesn’t mean we’re not doing this and we can have fun and work hard at the same time. You just started to see bit-by-bit, we’re in the infancy stages I guess of establishing that type of culture and building a leadership group and everything else to do what Tampa has, and every other great team has done before.”