Martin St. Louis has a mind for the game of hockey that is unique to him; mental tools he developed to overcome his physical challenges to become a Hall of Fame player.
For many elite players, the transition to coaching can be difficult because they are unable to comprehend that not all players have the same skill level; the same ability to dominate with their talent. But with St. Louis, it’s different, because he willed his way to be great, he thought his way to the Hall of Fame, and so he is not focusing on skills or talent as a coach.
He is focusing on the brain. And whenever St. Louis talks about how he wants the Canadiens to play, that becomes evident.
“I think what helps us the most to be successful, in possession, in space, is that balance that we get on the ice,” St. Louis said last week. “What I mean by that is the way we are spread on the ice, we’re not on top of each other. There’s angles of attack, there’s how you get there, how you balance this out, there’s so many things and it’s not always the same. Where’s the other team? Where do we put pucks in their zone? Why do we put pucks there?
“There’s so many things, it’s hard to pick one. Coming out of the zone there’s so many little details based on the kind of pressure you see, and I would say that the game speaks to us, and I think once we see examples we’re able to really talk about the details of certain examples. They’re going to present themselves again, it’s never going to look exactly like that, but it’s going to be similar, so can you recognize the cues of that?”
That, in a nutshell, is what happens when St. Louis goes over video with the Canadiens — it is looking at those examples so players can understand how to attack certain situations. That is not necessarily different from any other coach, but the way St. Louis does it is very different. We spoke to 10 Canadiens players in an effort to understand what a St. Louis video session is like, why it’s unique and why it’s effective.
So, let’s step inside the video room with the Canadiens.