The Montreal Canadiens head coach wasn’t shy about telling reporters what he was going to prioritize going into next season, reiterating prospect development and the building of a winning culture as his top priorities.
Fresh off the signing of his three-year contract to stay on as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens, Martin St. Louis admitted that the team wasn’t at a level where every game is a must-win, as it is currently for the Tampa Bay Lightning or the New York Rangers. He instead presented a more patient and methodical approach based on going through the right steps to build a consistent contender down the road. In his eyes, any short-term gain that could sacrifice the club’s long-term success was completely off the table.
“Do I want to win at the price of not developing the young guys? No,” said St. Louis when discussing his priorities for next season. “Sometimes, you got to put those guys on the ice and show them confidence. I’m not going into the season thinking I have to win every game at the price of young kids.”
St. Louis remained focused on building a sustainable winning culture, but also cautioned that he wouldn’t tolerate a loser’s mentality either; seeking a balance between on-ice success and on-ice development as he continues to help the club’s youngsters reach new heights.
“It’s about not thinking that losing is okay, but also not about winning at all costs,” said St. Louis when discussing the balance between winning and development.
For far too long, the Montreal Canadiens have skipped key steps in player development to patch the holes of the club in the present, at the expense of the young player’s future. With this shift in ideology, St. Louis will be looking to put players in roles they’re ready for and will continue to show them confidence in difficult moments. In his mindset, proper development was much more of a priority for him, and his three-year contract offers him the time to build up an organization through the growth of its young core pieces.
Montreal Canadiens Will Be A Good Place To Land For The 1st Overall Pick
St. Louis also commented on the importance of his approach when it comes to the upcoming draft, as the Montreal Canadiens hold the first overall pick for the 2022 NHL Draft. Be it Shane Wright, Juraj Slafkovsky or Logan Cooley, St. Louis believes he’s going to create an environment that will allow any player the Montreal Canadiens select to come in and thrive. He believes that the team’s young core, the roster opportunities and the developmental focus of his staff will help the impending 1st overall pick to reach their potential and develop in tandem with the rest of the club’s young pillars.
“For a top pick like that, where there’s other young players here and good ice time, it’s a good situation,” said St. Louis on how he would manage an incoming 1st overall pick, having played with former 1st-overall picks Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos. “To come in and develop with our young core; I think that’s great, It’s a good situation for whoever we take at No 1.”
St. Louis cautioned how important his focus on player development and team culture would be to the future success of this franchise, as they walk into the 2022 NHL Draft with three picks in the top-33 and a plethora of prospects about to turn pro. In building an environment where the team’s talented youngsters can grow together in an environment conducive to growth and improvement, he believes it’ll be even more important to the club than simply picking high year after year.
“Picking high is nice, but picking well and developing well is important,” said St. Louis on the importance of proper development over drafting as high as possible. “It’s part of the steps you need to take to build something sustainable.”
St. Louis’ vision was a breath of fresh air for the Montreal Canadiens faithful, as he has a plan in place to maximize the output of the better young pieces on the club like Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki and more. It really seems to indicate that the Canadiens are officially embracing a youth movement within their organization and will value patience over the result, at least in the short term.