St. Louis on coaching style, growing Guhle and using Slafkovsky

Montreal Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis isn’t looking to overtrain his youngsters, but rather to allow them to grow organically, which could lead to unpopular deployment decisions.

In a market like Montreal, the temptation to push a youngster into the limelight as soon as he shows a flash of genius has been hard to ignore, even with this new management team that preaches patience from the get-go.

With the general manager Kent Hughes being transparent that the club is focused on development and is unlikely to compete for a playoff spot, expectations for the team may be low, but expectations for growth are now much higher.

A change of strategy

An easy example would be Juraj Slafkovsky, who averaged ten minutes of ice time or less in each of his first four NHL games. Many have expressed concern over the club’s most promising player being deployed sparingly given the lack of expectations this year, but it’s undeniable to anyone watching that he’s improved in every game he’s played. .

Many think he should be placed in offensive situations and playing the best minutes right away, given that winning isn’t the priority this season, but, if you ask St. Louis, he would say that’s not the case. is not an ideal way to teach. .

It’s a shift in approach that hasn’t been seen before, as performance pressure in this market has created a trend of over-pricing that St. Louis is looking to shed.

The Montreal Canadiens head coach gave an example of the philosophy he seeks to bring to the organization, when he described the steps that have been taken to increase Kaiden Guhléresponsibilities over the last four games.

“Stuff like that you let happen organically. His 5-on-5 game gives us a lot of confidence in him and we know he has an offensive game as well,” St. Louis said of easing Guhle into more responsibility. “The way he plays 5-on-5 and watches the power play for three games; you learn a lot just by watching and making up your mind, instead of just throwing it away right away.

Learn by watching

‘Learning a lot by watching’ has often been code for ‘punishment’ in the past, with young players being benched or dropped from the lineup for making the simplest of mistakes. However, in the case of St. Louis, it seems to be more of a learning opportunity than a power move. The fact that Guhle, who clearly belongs at the point of a power play in the NHL, watching a few games to master the strategy of the Montreal Canadiens, allowed him to start the 2nd wave with more ease than just throwing it there- low from the start. and forcing him to understand.

It’s an interesting perspective that helps contextualize most of the other decisions St. Louis has made with its roster since taking over as head coach in February.

We can quickly look back at how Jordan Harris was dropped from the roster at the end of last season, as the Montreal Canadiens rotated their many defensemen in and out of the roster. Martin Saint Louis defended his decision by saying that Harris would learn more from watching the game from above than from being placed in an unfavorable position on the ice. Judging by the way Harris has played since the start of the season, it certainly hasn’t hurt his development.

So when it comes to using Slafkovsky, it has a lot more to do with giving him the time and space to learn, without overwhelming him, than just giving him 2-3 more minutes per game. . St. Louis has always sought to improve even-strength play before giving its young players time on the power play.

“We speak daily with Slaf and we try to help him. I liked his game. I think he played a tough game and he moved his feet,” St. Louis said of Slafkovsky’s improving game. “Obviously, with the special teams, he doesn’t see much on the ice, but his game at 5 against 5, I was pretty happy.

Steady increase in responsibilities

Whether Juraj Slafkovsky continues to stabilize his game at even strength, it wouldn’t be strange to see him get some power-play time over the next two games, as the Montreal Canadiens have only scored one power-play goal since the start of the season.

He will not only have earned his place, but will now be better equipped to perform better on the power play, now that he has improved the fundamentals of his even strength game.

It will be a process unlike anything fans have seen in Montreal; but you’d be hard pressed to argue that the early results of St. Louis’ coaching philosophy haven’t yet been positive.

We all learn by watching.