Stu Cowan: Canadiens go outside box again by hiring Stéphane Robidas

Whereas Martin St. Louis’s hiring as head coach was a shock, it was head-shaking when GM Kent Hughes introduced staff’s new assistant coach.

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It was a shock when Canadiens GM Kent Hughes determined to rent Martin St. Louis as head coach final February to interchange Dominique Ducharme.

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The one teaching expertise St. Louis had was on the youth stage in Connecticut along with his three sons and he made the soar straight from a bantam staff to behind the Canadiens bench.

St. Louis had a Corridor of Fame enjoying profession, so he had on the spot credibility and respect when he first walked into the Canadiens locker room and made an emotional motivational speech. The Canadiens responded to St. Louis and had a 14-19-4 file underneath him after going 8-30-7 with Ducharme behind the bench.

Whereas St. Louis’s hiring was a shock, it was head-shaking Thursday morning when Hughes introduced he had employed Stéphane Robidas as an assistant coach to interchange Luke Richardson, who left to change into head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Robidas was a journeyman defenceman within the NHL for 15 seasons with 5 groups after being chosen by the Canadiens within the seventh spherical (164th general) of the 1995 NHL draft. His solely teaching expertise got here final season when he led the Cantonniers de Magog to the Quebec midget Triple-A championship. Earlier than teaching in Magog, Robidas spent 4 years working in participant improvement with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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Since St. Louis has restricted NHL teaching expertise — and it’s the identical for his two different assistants, Trevor Letowski and Alex Burrows — it will have made sense for Hughes to rent somebody who’s used to working behind an NHL bench. However Hughes and Jeff Gorton, the chief vice-president of hockey operations, have proven since taking on that they aren’t afraid to assume outdoors the field and are on the lookout for trendy coaches reasonably than recycling some outdated ones.

That is the most recent instance and will probably be attention-grabbing to see if it really works.

“Sure, I don’t have expertise behind the bench, however I’ve one other sort of expertise,” Robidas mentioned throughout a video convention. “Teaching is not only construction, programs, these issues. I believe that being a coach can also be the connection facet, speaking with the gamers. I believe the expertise I’ve as a participant, my journey, is one thing that’s going to assist me in my capabilities with the Canadiens.”

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Robidas added that his fundamental precedence can be to work with the younger defencemen.

“There’s a superb core of veterans that may mentor the younger guys properly,” Robidas mentioned. “My position can be to work with them and proceed to develop them.”

Whereas St. Louis, Robidas, Burrows and Letowski don’t deliver a number of NHL teaching expertise behind the bench, all of them took the lengthy street to changing into gamers within the league. St. Louis and Burrows had been by no means drafted, whereas Letowski was a seventh-round choose, like Robidas. Mixed they’ve 3,600 video games of enjoying expertise within the NHL.

Robidas mentioned what impressed Hughes and St. Louis most was his journey to the NHL and his expertise in participant improvement with the Maple Leafs. Robidas added that he’s not an in depth pal of Hughes or St. Louis. Robidas had met Hughes solely as soon as earlier than about 5 years in the past when his son, Justin — the second general choose by the Val d’Or Foreurs on the 2019 QMJHL draft — met with Quartexx Administration, the corporate the GM used to work for as an agent. Robidas performed towards St. Louis within the AHL and the NHL and had solely met him just a few instances, including that their sons had performed towards one another years in the past on the Brick Match in Edmonton.

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“It’s not like now we have an in depth relationship or something like that,” Robidas mentioned about his relationship with St. Louis. “It’s extra like we simply know one another. The hockey world is a small world and being French-Canadian — he’s French-Canadian — we form of simply know one another like that.”

The hiring of Robidas highlights simply how a lot the brand new Canadiens administration staff is placing the emphasis on participant improvement.

“Talking with Marty, our objective is to develop and assist this staff attain its full potential,” Robidas mentioned. “Marty mentioned one thing like: ‘We’re not trying on the outcomes, we’re not specializing in the outcomes. We’re trying on the intentions and the way are we going to play and the way are we going to strategy that?’ With improvement you need to be very affected person and for me that’s form of what I realized in participant improvement and at the same time as a participant. If I look again at my profession, endurance is a key. It’s a must to be affected person. It’s a must to belief the method and should you focus an excessive amount of on the outcomes, typically it’s not good. So you bought to do it the correct approach. Simply be affected person.

“For me, my mandate, I do know precisely,” Robidas added. “I spoke with Marty, Jeff, Kent — and we’ll simply go from there and develop as a training workers and develop as a staff additionally.”

Anticipate some rising pains alongside the best way each on the ice and behind the bench.

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