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SLBAM: it’s easier for a former player to become a coach now

What’s up gang. A short week this week for the end of the NHL season. I was supposed to appear on The Sick Podcast and give you a magical moment once again, but I had an obligation that didn’t allow me to be there in time, unfortunately.

The end of the CH season, injuries, questions and so on.

A lot of water has been spilled over the past few days, but listening to the interviews with the other NHL teams, it’s a good thing we didn’t get any comments from players like the Calgary Flames. The majority of free agents, or those with one season left, didn’t mention any interest in staying. Imagine if they were in Montreal.

A little news from overseas, as I’ve been asked this question a few times since the start of the week.

I still have a lot of connection in the KHL as you know. I helped my former team (Nizhny Novgorod) during the season and I’m currently helping our team in the MHL (we’re 2-0 in the final).

I still have a lot of contacts in terms of players and coaches I talk to on a regular basis, not to mention that my former coach is currently there for professional reasons… All this to say that an expansion team in the KHL doesn’t work the same way as in the NHL. A new team in the KHL simply fends for itself. There is no draft in the KHL. Plus a development system by region (I’ve talked about this before).

Teams are left to their own devices to form a team. Lada was in the KHL until 2017-2018. So Lada would have to sign some good free agents, both in Europe and North America, if they wanted to be competitive.

Otherwise, to get players and if they have money in the bank, it’s possible to lease a player in the league. So, for example, contact SKA and rent player X for the season. Yes, yes, a player rental. Quite different from the NHL.

Can’t wait to see what happens next.

I’m taking the time to respond this week, as I wanted to see how the season would end for several teams. I also put the fine in the NBA for sitting players. It’s common in the NBA to see this, but not in the NHL, aside from the last game of the season for playoff teams to allow certain player to have additional rest.

Imagine if we came to this conclusion in the NHL with injuries. Do I like tanking? No, not at all. On the other hand, indirectly, when you’re in the bottom 6-8, you want to make sure you get the best possible pick, but you also want to win.

You also have to look at Arizona, for example, which has a lot of ups and downs after each trade deadline: it’s hard to win. Not for nothing did the Coyotes decide to drop Guenther to the WHL. Tourigny also talked about it on BPM Sports.

Exit meetings in every sport around the world are usually the day after the last game, if possible, if not the 2nd day after. No athlete wants to wait until they have their “4%” and no athlete wants to wait until they have their season review, next season’s goals and what needs to be done in the off-season.

The sooner this is done, the sooner the player can move on.

The same principle applies to coaches. If we look at the Montreal Canadiens, they played their last game of the season on Thursday, April 13. The game ended at 9:38 pm. The end-of-year meetings took place the next morning, Friday April 14 at 10 a.m.

The organization wanted to make sure it got everything done as quickly as possible so it could move on to the next stage, which was to get off the hook and start working on things for next season.

When it comes to evaluating players, you always have a number of questions you can ask them. Some organizations use open-ended questions, others use marks from 1 to 10. Questions can be as simple as “how did you like your experience this season?” to “how did you feel you contributed without the puck this season?” to “what do you need to work on to earn your spot next year?” and on and on.

Every team and coaching staff has its own questions. The universal thing, though, and I’m really talking about a coach to a player, not a GM to a player: we’re all going to spell out what we liked, didn’t like and what he needs to work on and off the ice for next year, and give him the tools he needs right away.

At the NHL level, there are rules in place that you can’t train with team personnel for X amount of time during the off-season. But at least they have a plan when the game is over.

For the coaches, normally the head coach gives a summary of the season. What he noted was good, not so good, things to improve and what should be emphasized next year.

Also, he involves the field hockey staff a lot in knowing if he noticed things and often, we talk about solid discussions that help the field hockey staff progress.

That’s often when you see if people are capable and want to progress or not.

The coaches will also already establish a plan for the off-season. For example, what I’ve done in the past with the teams I’ve worked with: each coach would take a round of the playoffs and we’d cut it out in its entirety, and then we’d do a presentation on what we liked, what we’d like to bring in, and teaching videos. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Otherwise, the points that can come out are often blatant, but sometimes not. In the sense that if you had the worst numerical advantage in the league, it’s quite possible that the coach will talk to the person in charge. Conversely, if you’ve had the best, it’s quite possible that we’ll talk about it too, but from the perspective of how to stay on top.

We also look back at the season’s losses and why we lost them. Was it a player error, a system error, a decision behind the bench, and how can we correct it? The coaches take a lot on their shoulders at this meeting, because we all want to win, we all want to improve, but we also all want to keep our jobs.

For my part, something I’ve been doing for over 10 years, following a tip from a former trainer: I now have three little questions in my cell phone (previously in a notepad) that I answer when my day is over. What I really liked about my day, what I didn’t like about my day and what I’d change about my day.

I don’t do it every day, as I’ve found it can get repetitive, but a good 4-5x a week (we sometimes have two days off a week, so I’ve just done the whole week).

Obviously, it’s all hockey-related. With the answers, I make a compilation and I can easily find out if there are things that catch on and work on them. I can also see what I’d like to change (that isn’t negative) and start working towards that.

So I self-analyze regularly, and as a coach I’m always looking to improve, and I’ve found this little piece of work very effective with me.

It all depends on at what level and in what situation.

Take Martin St-Louis this season and last year. At one point, bench management seemed difficult (the CH has the team with the most bench penalties this season, by the way). The lack of experience for a certain situation behind a bench can seem, especially for coaches who come in with 0 competitive field hockey experience behind a bench.

Conversely, where former players have a real impact (something I didn’t really understand when I started out over 15 years ago) is how easy it is for them not only to connect with players, because they’ve played the game, but they’re able to handle the stars, because for many, they were a star or, if not, they played with a star and saw how it worked.

So they’re able to get close to them, to understand them, to help them, but also to help them understand the team concept and what they can and can’t do. In the NHL, there are a lot of coaches who stay and we always see the same names coming back.

That’s something that’s hard for a coach coming from college or junior to get when he arrives in the NHL. The same goes for the AHL: it takes time.

That’s why former pros sometimes have an advantage that can be annoying for many coaches who want to graduate.

The final point that is a strength of former pros is their experience on the ice.

They’ve played the game, they’ve got the experience, so they’re able to answer any questions, and they’re also able to teach coaches tricks. The best players are intelligent and can see the game on the ice, who’s matched up against whom?

Let’s not be surprised to see a lot of former players make a new career as coaches and be successful.


As always, I have no choice but to say thank you, because without you, I wouldn’t be able to write on the site, and you’re fantastic. I’ll see you next week with new questions and old ones I couldn’t answer.

Follow me on social networks @Mitch_Giguere.

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