Martin St. Louis, Canadiens Agree to New 3-Year HC Contract After Interim Role

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJune 1, 2022

WINNIPEG, MB - MARCH 01: Interim head coach Martin St-Louis of the Montreal Canadiens looks on from the bench during first period action against the Winnipeg Jets at Canada Life Centre on March 01, 2022 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)
Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images

The Montreal Canadiens announced Wednesday they've promoted Martin St. Louis to full-time head coach and signed him to a three-year contract extension.

St. Louis, a Hall of Fame player who retired in 2015, compiled a 14-19-4 record to finish the 2021-22 season after taking over the staff on an interim basis in February.

"We are happy to officially appoint Martin as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens," general manager Kent Hughes said. "Martin is a proven leader, a great communicator with a deep understanding of and passion for the game of hockey. His arrival brought a renewed energy to our group, and we look forward to him returning behind the bench to continue guiding our team for the foreseeable future."

The Habs entered the campaign with high expectations after reaching the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

A combination of key absences, including just five appearances from goalie Carey Price and none from defenseman Shea Weber, who's expected to retire because of injuries, and general underperformance caused a major drop off for the Canadiens.

Montreal finished with the NHL's worst record at 22-49-11, though the silver lining was winning the draft lottery to obtain the No. 1 overall pick. It'll get to decide between center Shane Wright or winger Juraj Slafkovsky with the top choice.

While it was a mostly forgettable season for the Canadiens, the most promising sign from St. Louis' tenure was the emergence of Cole Caufield.

The 2021 Hobey Baker Award winner as college hockey's top player struggled mightily throughout the season's first half, scoring just one goal in 30 games. After St. Louis took over, the 21-year-old winger tallied 35 points (22 goals and 13 assists) in 37 contests.

Like St. Louis (5'8"), the biggest questions about Caufield (5'7") aren't related to skill or compete level but rather size.

In March, the Habs' new coach explained he encouraged players to enjoy more free-flowing hockey with less emphasis on a system, which tends to benefit talented scorers like Caufield.

"In systems I feel like you box players in to be in a certain spot, and sometimes you don't allow them to make reads because of it," St. Louis said. "A concept is more playing with a little more instinct with ideas of how we want to be as a team. Now, there is structure inside concepts."

Montreal has a chance to bounce back next season if they deal with less season-altering injuries, and there was enough progress under 46-year-old Quebec native to believe he can lead the turnaround as the full-time coach.