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Martin St-Louis, Arber Xhekaj, hockey IQ and sports ratings

“A topic, a short story, a text, Max!”

That’s what my boss would say… if I had one. But since I’ve always had a bit of a rebellious streak in me – and since there are a number of small subjects worth tackling this lunchtime – I went with more of a potpourri of information and opinions treated Truman-style.

1. Martin St-Louis was an excellent hockey player, one of the best Quebecers to lace up his skates in the 21st century. He was always one step ahead of his opponents on the ice, and exploiting his very high hockey intelligence led to a fabulous career… even though he was small and never drafted.

St-Louis is also an outstanding communicator and teacher. Not for nothing did Cole Caufield say the other day that he saw St-Louis more as a teacher or professor, rather than a (traditional) coach.

But… because there’s a but to these ultra-flattering remarks about the Canadiens’ head coach: Martin St-Louis’ qualities and track record make him one of the best coaches to talk to the team’s gifted players… those who see the game with a high degree of hockey IQ

But is St-Louis, when he talks about small concepts to be inserted into each player’s game according to their reading of the game, the right coach to talk to more normal players? We have maybe 4 or 5 gifted players: Suzuki, Caufield, Matheson, Guhle…

Lane Hutson and Martin St-Louis will probably get along just fine in 2024…

But do Josh Anderson, Arber Xhekaj, Brendan Gallagher, Michael Pezzetta, Joel Armia, Tanner Pearson, Jake Evans and Christian Dvorak have the ability to read the game, anticipate what’s coming and make the best decision on the fly? Shouldn’t they be taught simpler patterns of play to apply to different situations on the ice?

I wonder.

Wayne Gretzky wasn’t successful behind the Coyotes bench because he didn’t coach players who saw the game as well as he did. The best doctors on the field don’t always make the best teachers at UDM or McGill, you know…

2. Since we’re talking about Martin St-Louis, strong, physical players are clearly not his favourites: Xhekaj is in Laval, Pezzetta is in the stands, Anderson is having all kinds of difficulties…

A GM often tends to go for players who resemble him – remember Marc Bergevin and his 1,001 deep defensemen – and a coach generally has more affinity with players who play a style of play that resembles what he was like as a player before.

It’s a human reflex.

But we have to be able to appreciate what we’re not either.

Should Martin St-Louis make sure he has an assistant who has played a more “normal” style of play and has always loved toughness, just to balance things out?

Alex Burrows fits the bill… but is he expressing himself fully? Does he follow Martin St-Louis’ plan without challenging him?

3. Samuel Montembeault deserved to get tonight’s start against the Kings… and he will. Well done!

Monty allows an average of one less goal per game than his goaltending teammates when he’s in front of the net, and the CH players probably hope to have the best goaltender possible behind them when they take to the ice. Especially against a team as well drilled as the Kings!

We all remember the lacklustre game in Los Angeles, right? Except maybe Renaud, but hey…

Except that Montembeault’s situation has suddenly changed. He wanted more starts, he wanted to be trusted, he just signed a contract that makes him the organization’s #1 goaltender: now it’s up to him to deliver the goods.

Of course, he won’t be able to beat the mighty Kings on his own tonight, but it’s imperative that he has a good game. He’s just put a lot of pressure on his shoulders, and a 5- or 6-goal game against him would set everyone back and bring back the old concept of the ménage à trois, just hours after breaking it.

But Montembeault must seize his chance.

4. OK, Arber Xhekaj had just come back from a two- or three-week absence due to an upper-body injury…

OK, he’s had a poor start to the season and he’s looking for himself at the moment…

OK, he didn’t feel like being in Laval last night, in a strictly defensive role (and it looked like it)…

But he can’t afford to put in as poor a performance as he did last night. He finished his night’s work with zeros everywhere… except in the +/- (minus-2) column .

He needs to show that he’s stronger and better than everyone else right now, not that he’s having trouble keeping up even down there.

In his defense, Xhekaj hasn’t joined an AHL powerhouse. The Rocket has lost its last eight games and last won on November 15. That was more than three weeks ago (almost a month).

The goalies aren’t getting the job done in Laval. I wonder what they’re waiting for to put Jake Allen in the waivers

5. A little news about our Montreal sports radio station: the results of the Numeris fall surveys (13 weeks from August to November inclusive) are in, and overall, BPM Sports is doing a little worse than at the same time last year. The sports station is the least listened to by adults in the Greater Montreal area, on a par with traffic radio.

However, it was confirmed to me this morning that the afternoon shows are scoring much higher than the morning shows: Laraque – Gonzalez and Le Retour des Sportifs will each reach more than 6% of men aged 25 to 54 who listen to the radio during their broadcast schedule.

The morning show has been revamped since the departure of Paul Houde, and polls show an increase in the last few weeks surveyed. There’s hope inside the box.

Between the branches, I’m told that Katherine Huet may not be back after the holidays, that Tennis Canada has decided to change radio partners, and that they’re working hard to bring the Alouettes to 91.9 FM Montreal.

Oh yes… I’ve also heard whispers that we’re seriously thinking of tackling the podcasting and digital production market on Laurier Street West. A new (vertical) brand could be born, and big news could be announced in the next few days. Stay tuned.

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