The Montreal Canadiens have gone a bit off the board to replace Dominique Ducharme, who was fired earlier today. Instead of going with someone that already has coaching experience at the NHL level, the team has instead hired Hockey Hall of Fame player Martin St. Louis as interim head coach. General manager Kent Hughes has released the following statement:
We are very happy to welcome Martin to the Canadiens organization. Not only are we adding an excellent hockey man, but with Martin we are bringing in a proven winner and a man whose competitive qualities are recognized by all who have crossed his path.
St. Louis, 46, has no formal experience as a coach in the NHL, though he did serve as a powerplay consultant for the Columbus Blue Jackets for part of the 2018-19 season.
Still, there’s no one doubting his hockey knowledge. St. Louis played 1,134 regular season games over a long NHL career, scoring 1,033 points. He added another 107 playoff contests, winning the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004. Olympic gold. World Cup gold. Art Ross and Hart trophies. There’s very little that St. Louis failed to accomplish as a player, despite going undrafted as an undersized forward in a league that was still focused on size.
There are also many obvious connections with the new Montreal front office. Not only did St. Louis play for Jeff Gorton when he was still in the front office of the New York Rangers, but their kids also played youth hockey together. St. Louis’ son Ryan now plays at Northeastern with Jack and Riley Hughes, sons of the Montreal GM. Hughes was also the agent for Vincent Lecavalier, a longtime teammate of St. Louis in Tampa Bay. Lecavalier has also been linked to the Canadiens organization in recent days, though the role he would take on is not clear.
Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reports that St. Louis is only signed through the end of this season and the two sides will talk about the future at the end of that short tenure. With the Canadiens completely floundering and at the bottom of the standings, it’s hard to expect St. Louis to really turn around the program. If he can get at least some sort of change out of the group, however, perhaps he’ll make the jump right from peewee head coach to NHL head coach on a full-time basis.