A train on skates – whose bodywork Martin St-Louis would like to refine, we will come back to this – a terror for opposing defenders, the build of a football player, the head of an actor. Some exclaimed
what a man! for less than that.
However, it is not to talk about the generosity of nature towards him that Radio-Canada Sports meets the CH winger on this early Tuesday morning near the team’s locker room, a few minutes before the departure for Columbus, his foster mother in the NHL.
Anderson has been the center of much discussion in the final hours due to his new coach’s plans. St-Louis wants to see him polish his game. He asks him
to study the Game a bit moreto slow down when the situation calls for it.
He does it with others too, like Brendan Gallagher, demands that play directly into the DNA of a player who could be described as a power winger. An athlete who advances on instinct rather than reflection.
The number 17 of the Habs sees it more as an opportunity. He has no doubts about the long-term benefits. He doesn’t doubt that, any more than much. Josh Anderson doubts little. Which doesn’t mean he doesn’t question himself.
Confidence does not rhyme with arrogance (actually, yes, but you understand) and even less with obtuse spirit.
From childhood, Anderson had no doubts that he would one day be in the NHL. Once the skeptics confounded, why stop in such a good way?
The right way
At 12, the Burlington striker had to choose: it would be hockey or baseball, his father, Gary, told him. From that moment, the 1.91 m (6 ft 3 in) and 103 kg (227 lb) colossus says today, he promised himself to play in the National League one day.
” It has become a lifestyle. It’s the only thing you dream of and you do everything to achieve it. I was certain very young that I would make it and that it would be my life. »
The pitfalls have been numerous and widely documented. Twice shunned in the Ontario Junior League draft, Anderson finally fell into the eye of agent Darren Ferris who came to spy on another midget player. He landed with the London Knights and things picked up speed afterwards.
There’s always someone watching youassured his father, rightly.
His career is the result of unshakable confidence in his abilities and hard work. What Anderson might have doubted, however, is the future of his current team.
Marc Bergevin didn’t have to tout the promise and merits of a short-term rebuild to him when he offered him a seven-year deal in October 2020. The Habs had just extended his association with Gallagher, then a 30-scorer goals, with Jeff Petry, then one of the good offensive defenders on the circuit. Bergevin had also convinced Joel Edmundson and Tyler Toffoli to embark on his project and Anderson was added to all these beautiful people, like the missing piece of a well-begun puzzle.
What followed was a chaotic Stanley Cup final…then an implosion. Important players have disappeared (Shea Weber, Carey Price), others left Montreal at the trade deadline. If some exchanges were predictable, that of Toffoli, for example, who enjoyed two more years under his agreement, had enough to dampen the enthusiasm of his teammates. The philosophy of the new management was becoming clear.
Toffoli had said he wanted to be part of the solution. A few days later, he was packing his bags. Who knows if Anderson could also have gone through it.
” I want to be part of the solution. I did not sign a seven-year contract to be traded in the first two. I don’t think it will be a rebuild honestly. We have a lot of good players here. The league is getting younger and the game faster and faster. I am excited for the next season. »
I had good discussions with Jeff (Gorton), Kent (Hughes) and Marty (St-Louis). There have been changes already and there will probably be more this summer. Free agents and trades. But I like the direction they’re taking and I believe in it […] We are trying to build chemistry for the start of next season. We will have a great culture here and I want to be part of it.Anderson insists.
Seemingly impervious to pressure, the 27-year-old striker seems cut in the rock, yes, but tailor-made for the Montreal market. The son of a Bleu-blanc-rouge fan, the Anderson family lived in Montreal early in their life before moving to Burlington, Ontario.
When asked where he wanted to attend an NHL game, at age 16, young Josh chose the playoffs in Montreal between the Canadiens and the Penguins in 2010. An experience he has spoken about a few times and which deeply marked.
Anderson lived the inside thing in the playoffs last year, even though there were only a few thousand fans.
Outside the arena, it was crazy. Especially during the series against Vegas and the final. We saw thousands and thousands of people, the intervention teams (Killer team, he said in English) and the fireworks flying everywhere. That’s what it’s like to be in a Canadian market and to be part of such a large organization.
Hockey players are generally attached to their habits. Often superstitious.
Convincing a player to adjust his game when his attributes allowed him to reach the NHL and become a 27-goal scorer there is certainly a challenge. The fact that it comes from a recently retired young coach and member of the Hall of Fame, idol of some of his players, certainly helps to pass the pill.
As we said above, St-Louis wants to sprinkle a little subtlety and finesse in the beefy game. Let him think before he acts. A double-edged sword, but Anderson has no doubts. He embraces his boss’s vision.
I ask him to control his speed, to study the Game a bit more. It is a progression for a player. When you ask a guy to think a little more on the ice, sometimes there are hesitations. With Josh, I think maybe he took a small step back, but I think it’s going to help him take a big step forward.said St-Louis on Monday morning.
His step back is not so obvious on the score sheet. Anderson has been running at a scoring pace of around 25 goals since arriving in Montreal.
He scored 9 goals in 34 games this season under Dominique Ducharme and he scored 9 in 26 games with St-Louis, for a total of 18 in 60. Last year, he had hit the target 17 times in 52 games.
There is inconstancy in his game, and long empty passages. But when you do the accounts at the end, the balance is there.
Lessons from St-Louis, Anderson wants to draw new strengths, evolve and, by his own admission, extend his career.
I had never really thought about the game that way. I have always skated hard from one end of the ice to the other using my physical strength. You can never stop learning. He was such a skilled player with incredible vision. When you try to incorporate that into my game, I don’t just skate like the wind, it makes me think a lot more about the ice than ever before.explains Anderson.
And that’s a good thing, do we risk it?
I think it’s a great thinghe assures.
So Anderson listens. We send him video clips after the matches. The winger makes himself comfortable on the plane or on the sofa at home and studies, does his homework, gets the job done, as he always has. He’s watching more than ever, he adds, and understanding more and more where his coach is coming from.
I have to change my game a bit depending on the opponent, the moment in the match, the score. When to be physical, when not to be, how to do my readings, etc.Anderson argues.
All this is still in its infancy, but the assurance with which he utters all his sentences would not encourage us to bet against him.
Whether for the city, the team, thanks to his teammates or his coach, the winger really gives the impression of enjoying Quebec.
And we dare not contradict him too much when he maintains that
to win is my only goal.
Since I arrived here it’s been all about winning a Stanley Cup and how amazing it would be to do it here in Montreal in one of the best cities in the NHL.
Of that he has no doubt either.