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Montreal Canadiens AHL Affiliate Missing One Crucial Element



jEAN FRANCOIS HOULE montreal canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens announced head coach Jean-Francois Houle will continue to coach their AHL affiliate, the Laval Rocket.

Houle signed a three-year contract extension with the team, giving him enough runway to work through some of the inevitable complications in the AHL.

Simply put, the only consistent factor in the AHL is that player availability will be incredibly inconsistent due to injuries, call-ups, and trades, among other factors.

That has certainly been the case for Houle, as well as his predecessors. Every AHL team deals with last-minute changes, but the Canadiens have undoubtedly pillaged their affiliate for talent at a higher rate than their NHL counterparts.

MUST READ: Evaluating Whether Jean-Francois Houle Is The Right Coach For The Laval Rocket

With that in mind, the lack of success last season is understandable. But now that Houle has a contract that provides some semblance of stability and job security, there will be heightened expectations when it comes to the results in Laval.

To do that, he will need a little help from the Canadiens.

Leadership Needed

The Rocket have long depended on mercenaries to fill their ranks. Players who are a little older than most prospects and have very little chance of making the NHL.

But now that the team actually has legitimate prospects in place, there’s a little less room for players who don’t project to be part of the team’s long-term rebuild strategy.

Consequently, the Rocket lost the two players who provided the most leadership since the team arrived in Laval: Alex Belzile and Xavier Ouellet.  Belzile moved on to the New York Rangers organization, where he acts as the alternate captain for the Hartford Wolfpack. He also led the team in scoring this season, with 19 goals and 31 assists in 61 games. As for Ouellet, he now plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins organization, where he also serves as the team’s alternate captain in the AHL.

Houle was quick to point to the dearth of leadership on Wednesday.

He wants the team to add a little size to the mix, but more importantly, he wants to find veterans who are aware of their role on the team and can help with the development of younger players. And while there are certainly plenty of hockey players who would love to have an opportunity to serve as part of the team’s leadership group, finding players who understand they’re there to help other players leap-frog them in the depth chart is a little more difficult.

Not only do they need a player who will lead both on and off the ice, but they also need to acquire someone who understands that the team’s younger prospects are the future of the franchise.

Essentially, the Montreal Canadiens need to find another humble leader like Belzile to help guide the influx of talent heading Laval’s way.

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There is only one Alex Belzile so it will be extremely difficult to find someone to fill the big shoes of Alex. But I think they can find a serviceable replacement. Perhaps they can acquire a former first round draft pick of the Calgary Flames Ozzy Wiesblatt, or one of Ozzy Wiesblatt ‘s hockey playing brothers Ocean, Orca, and Oasiz. The parents of the four siblings were born deaf, so they learned sign language first as small children and then later learned to speak English. They also have a sister named Oceana.