The NHL continues to get younger and the Montreal Canadiens continued to embrace that with another outside the box hire in new assistant coach Stephane Robidas.
After promoting Martin St. Louis from the Bantam ranks to the NHL and giving him his first NHL coaching gig back in February, the Montreal Canadiens hired Robidas who had been coaching midget hockey Magog Cantonniers in Quebec AAA hockey this past season. Robidas was set to become the assistant head coach of the Sherbrooke Phoenix but jumped at the opportunity to join the team that drafted him in the seventh round (164th overall), of the 1995 NHL Entry Draft. Robidas turned that chance into 15 years and 937 years in the NHL playing for the Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, Anaheim Ducks and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Despite no NHL coaching experience, he, like the Canadiens, believes that NHL experience as a player and also as assistant director of player development and director of player development with the Toronto Maple Leafs between 2015 and 2021, will compensate for the lack of NHL coaching experience.
“I spent a long time in the NHL. It was 20 years. I entered the League in 2000 and it’s 2022,” Robidas pointed out in a Zoom call with the media on Thursday. “There was only one season during that time that I wasn’t associated with the NHL. I saw a lot of things and I had a lot of coaches. I know that the experience will help in my new role with the Canadiens. I played in Montreal and I spent three seasons in the AHL. Not every defenseman is going to have the same path that I did, but it can be an advantage for me. I can put myself in the skin of a young defenseman coming to Montreal who needs to deal with pressure. That doesn’t scare me because I know what to expect and how to handle it.”
What Stephane Robidas and the Montreal Canadiens believe he can handle even better, as St. Louis proved he could already, is the new generation of NHL players and the relationships NHL coaches must foster and maintain with them.
“To me, it’s about building relationships with players, because it’s not only about the players, it’s about the human being, communication, and making them feel comfortable,” the Sherbrooke, Quebec native said. “As a player, to be honest, I didn’t feel comfortable in the NHL until I was like 31 years old. My best years were after that time, and that’s when I felt like I belonged and I felt comfortable, so the mental aspect of the game and how a player feels about himself in a group and in an environment is very important, and I think that’s something I can help with.
I can relate to players and how they feel sometimes, so that’s how I view myself. You have to treat everybody the same way, but they don’t all have the same strengths and they’re all different. Not every player reacts the same way to different styles of teaching, so my job will be to evaluate first, and then build that relationship with those guys, earn their respect, and work with them to help them grow their game.”