The abundance of forwards has forced the Montreal Canadiens to start rotating veterans out of the lineup, and head coach Martin St-Louis offered some advice based on his experience.
Since the start of the season, St-Louis has had to contend with 14 or more forwards on his roster; meaning he’s had to scratch at least two almost every game.
Ten games into the season, St-Louis isn’t overly pleased with having to let his guys sit in the stands, especially his veterans, but feels it’s being done the right way.
“They’re always difficult decisions, but they’re good talks. I don’t expect the players to be happy with the decisions we take,” said St-Louis regarding the talks he had with veterans during this recent rotation. “It’s the hand we’ve been dealt and we have to play it.”
As a player who had to overcome so many obstacles in his career, St-Louis has the benefit of that lived experience to help him better understand what his players are going through.
“I can relate. Sometimes you feel like it’s slipping away. Especially throughout your career, there’s such a short window. Your mind has to be stronger than your feelings because it’s easy to lose yourself in your feelings,” recounted St-Louis of his experience. “I understand that guys might feel a certain way right away, and they should be. If they’re not, then I’d be worried. You have to have your initial moment of disappointment, and that’s fine, but then your mind has to come in and fight those feelings and take care of the responsibility of getting back in the lineup. And also have a big enough impact that makes it hard for the coach to take you out again.”
For the Canadiens’ bench boss, rotating veterans in and out of his lineup is not something he enjoys, but he would much rather have more than not enough.
Those are difficult times for veterans when they miss games, but you need veterans,” said St-Louis. “I’d rather have some veterans that miss a few games than not have any at all.”
St-Louis understands how frustrating the situation can be, but having veterans around to help the youngsters along is an essential part of the rebuilding process for the Canadiens.
Lest we forget, Jonathan Drouin once bought Nick Suzuki‘s family tickets to the current captain’s first home game because he hadn’t yet earned an NHL paycheck. Those little gestures have a long-lasting effect on players and help build rapport and character.
It may be something the Montreal Canadiens will have to live with for a little while longer, but Martin St-Louis is probably one of the best-placed coaches in the NHL to understand these players’ plight and provide them with the best opportunity to get their game back on track.