Stéphane Robidas was named assistant coach with the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.
The 45-year-old joins the staff of head coach Martin St-Louis and will take care of defensemen like Luke Richardson, hired as coach of the Chicago Blackhawks on June 27.
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“I consider that we are very lucky to be able to add a candidate of Stéphane’s caliber to our group of coaches,” said St-Louis. His experience as a player in the National League and the extent of his experience in hockey will prove to be assets for the development of our players. Stéphane corresponds exactly to the profile we were looking for. He is a very good communicator, and I believe that many players will recognize themselves in him because of his great experience. »
Robidas is a former NHL defenseman. Drafted in the seventh round (164th overall) by the Canadiens in 1995, he played 937 games over 15 seasons, amassing 258 points (57 goals, 201 assists) with the Canadiens, Dallas Stars, Blackhawks, Ducks ‘Anaheim and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“Hockey has evolved a lot over the past few years,” said Robidas, who was approached by St-Louis for the job. “I think I fit in there well in terms of puck possession. [La façon dont Martin voit] the practices, the little details of the game and all those things are things that I believe in a lot too. From that side, it is a perfect match for me. »
Robidas will have the mandate to guide a defensive brigade which will be very young. behind the veterans Mike Matheson, Joel Edmundson, David Savard and Chris Widemanthe Canadiens could make room for young fullbacks like Jordan Harris, Justin Barron and Kaiden Guhle, all of whom are 22 or younger.
“There are guys coming in at 19 or 20 who are ready to take on big roles,” Robidas said. There are other players for whom it takes longer and you have to be patient with them. You have to coach the players who are ready and put them in a situation where they can be successful. Each player has strengths, and the important thing is to maximize their strengths. Players were drafted for a reason and they have potential to achieve. It is my job to help them, to guide them and to be a presence to help them reach their full potential. »
The Sherbrooke native is returning to the NHL, having served as assistant manager and then director of player development with the Maple Leafs between 2015 and 2021. In Toronto, he oversaw the organization’s defensemen, a experience that he intends to put to good use.
“I was doing follow-ups,” Robidas said. It is certain that there were already coaches in the American League and in the ECHL (in Newfoundland), so when I went to Toronto or Newfoundland, I worked with those coaches. Otherwise, with the defenders outside the organization, I would follow up with the coaches and each player. I went to see them a few times during the season. […] Before the pandemic, I was able to go see players on site, watch games and even get on the ice with some players when their schedule allowed. The objective was to help them in their development, and then to provide reports to the management of the Maple Leafs as to their evolution, in addition to making projections. »
For the past year, Robidas has served as coach of the Cantonniers de Magog, with whom he won the Midget AAA Hockey League championship in Quebec. The Sherbrooke Phoenix of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) named him assistant coach on June 15, before Robidas decided to join the Canadiens.
Coach Martin St-Louis made the leap from the bantam ranks to the NHL last season and has only 37 games of experience behind an NHL bench. His assistants Alexandre Burrows and Trevor Letowksi do not yet have two years of experience at the highest level, while Robidas has never been behind a bench in the professionals. This situation does not worry the newcomer to the Habs unduly.
“It hasn’t been that long since I stopped playing,” argued Robidas. I retired in 2014-15. I played a little in the new era. I am somewhat aware of new trends. In Toronto, I had the chance to learn a lot during the five years I was there. I had the chance to work with coaches like Mike Babcock, Sheldon Keefe with the Marlies and Lou Lamoriello, who is not a coach, but I was able to learn a bit from him anyway.
“Yes, I don’t have experience behind a bench, but I have a different kind of experience. Leading is not just about the structure and the system of play. Being a coach is also about all the relational side and the communication with the players. My experience as a player will help me in my duties with the Canadiens. »