The transformation of the Canadiens’ defense over the past year has been neither more nor less than spectacular.
Posted at 11:35 a.m.
Updated at 2:52 p.m.
We remember that on this date in 2021, the star of Romanov paled visibly. That leaves Joel Edmundson of the current squad, who played a leading role at the end of the previous season and during the playoffs. We could also mention the name of Jeff Petry, but he is injured, and we do not know if he will play again this season or if he will play again one day for the Canadian.
Many are those who have left, as many are those who have arrived. Some have even appeared and disappeared in the meantime – greetings here to Sami Niku.
However, there is one thing that has never changed, and which is an element of pride for Luke Richardson, responsible for defense within the coaching staff of the Canadiens: the “culture” of this group.
The famous top 4 of spring 2021 – Shea Weber, Ben Chiarot, Edmundson and Petry – has of course made a lot of noise. But beyond the performances on the ice, the esprit de corps that animated the CH defenders at this time was spectacular. That even included Richardson, by the way. “I think I speak for all defenders by saying that: we would break down a wall for him, because we know he would do it for us,” Chiarot said in June.
Ten months and multiple changes later, the perception, from the outside anyway, remains the same. Obviously, that’s no illusion, even though the defense has gotten a lot younger since then.
“It’s a sign of a good team,” Richardson said Wednesday during a chat with members of the media.
“We implemented things last year, and I think the guys enjoyed what they went through. It’s not going away, it’s here for good. There is a strong culture here: we are not happy with this season and we will do everything to come back. It might take some time, but we’ll be back. »
These days, the All-Montreal has only Jordan Harris and Justin Barron, freshly arrived in the team. Both embody, more or less in spite of themselves, the idea of change for supporters who badly need hope.
The cultural ambassadors Richardson is talking about are therefore Joel Edmundson and David Savard, by far the most experienced skaters in the current state of the defense. Alexander Romanov is only in his second season in the NHL, and Corey Schueneman, despite his 26 years, is playing his first.
The assistant coach couldn’t be happier with the way ‘Eddy’ and ‘Savvy’ welcome and mentor newcomers.
“They play a huge role,” Richardson said. They calm things down, on the ice and in the locker room. […] They have fun with the kids and they make them feel like colleagues, not recruits. It helps guys find their bearings. By extension, “it helps the whole team,” he added.
The two veterans give a big helping hand to the coaches, again recognized Richardson. “When young people come back to the bench, during a match, they can spend time with them; not to coach them, but to give them little tips, talk to them. To be good teammates, in short. It’s huge for us. »
Justin Barron, who scored his first NHL goal on Tuesday night, also welcomed the advice given to him by the two deans.
Recent visits to Sunrise, Raleigh and Tampa against three of the league’s top teams were no easy challenges for inexperienced defenders. “It was a good thing to have older guys, both on the bench and in training,” admitted the young man.
Both Barron and Jordan Harris are also very good students, said Richardson. The two are “absorbing a lot of information” and seem excited for the opportunity to showcase themselves among the best.
“In junior, in college and even in the American League, you can sometimes be less intense and still get away with it, he recalled. In the NHL, you can’t take anything lightly. Especially a defender, you don’t want to get caught. »
But, he insists, Barron and Harris “are good kids “who, moreover, “do not want to play only in defense”. “They skate so well, we want to use their skills and energy on offense. When you defend well and intelligently, even if you’re not the biggest player, you can generate a lot offensively. »
Tuesday, after the game against the Senators, head coach Martin St-Louis praised the “calmness” of Luke Richardson in his approach with young people, which allows them to “feel confident” and to be ” receptive to constructive criticism.
To use a familiar expression, Barron, Harris, even Schueneman and Romanov, are all there to learn. Everything suggests that they are in good hands.
Luke Richardson on…
“When he was called up for the first time, during the holidays, it was very difficult for the team, but he showed that he could seize his chance. On the next callback, his name was at the top of the list. »
“He is mature and he skates effortlessly, which is a good thing in this league, and even more so in the style of play advocated by Martin St-Louis. »
“It’s a nice surprise. He’s calm with the puck and he has a good shot, that’s why he’s on the power play. He has good instincts. »
The progression of Alexander Romanov
“He skates well, makes subtle little plays, can shoot, play physically; he has all the attributes of a solid defender. […] Before, he got rid of the puck quickly, whereas now he uses the space in front of him well to carry the disc. It’s not just a big defender looking for the big hit. »
Romanov’s absence in overtime
“He has a lot of energy, but his style of play is exhausting. When he’s tired, he gets rid of the puck more, and you can’t do that in overtime. Already, we shorten his presence at the end of the third period. He is progressing well, the chances will come. »
“He always impressed me when he played in Columbus, and even last year in Tampa. He’s not the fastest guy, but he’s unpredictable for the opponent. Sometimes all it takes is a little feint with his head and shoulder. That’s a good nickname for him, Savvy [en français : rusé, sensé]. He brings character to the locker room and has good authority with the referees. Young people learn from this. »
“He fitted in perfectly last year, given the way we were playing. He solidified our defense. He is also a great professional. During his recovery, when he came to train with us, we saw him talking to everyone, pushing young people. [L’entraîneur adjoint] Trevor Letowski, who didn’t know him, was impressed to see the difference a single player could make on a single training session. With all that has happened and the changes in personnel, he has taken the lead. We even see him support the attack. He had been waiting for his chance to play a leading role for a long time; he grabs it and gets the most out of it. The team and the young people benefit from it, and so does he. »