What Can Craig Ramsay Do for the Montreal Canadiens?

Hiring coaching consultants seems to be the “it” thing right now in the NHL as the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Toronto Maple Leafs respectively hired Jacques Martin and Jacques Lemaire. And now the Montreal Canadiens have joined the club by hiring Craig Ramsay as a consultant to the coaching staff. Head coach Michel Therrien and staff have taken heat despite a winning record and GM Marc Bergevin has shown steadfast loyalty to Therrien. Could Ramsay make a difference in Montreal?

Montreal Canadiens Need a New Voice

As a player, Ramsay played in over 1000 NHL games and has more than 1600 games behind the bench in his coaching career. His experience will be a huge asset as the team will be looking the next step towards being a contender. However, the extent of Ramsay’s influence will ultimately come down to whether or not Therrien is willing accept his input.

Therrien is a stubborn coach to say the least. He will continue to put players in positions unsuited for them and gives more leeway towards veterans in comparison to the youngsters. He juggles his lines too often and sticks to the belief that the Habs are a grinding team despite the team being built mainly on speed and skill. With poor possession stats and a horrendous power play, the Habs desperately need improvement in those areas before they can even think about contending.

Ramsay can only help Montreal’s power play as the current strategy of cycle the puck until PK Subban gets open to shoot is too predictable as most goalies can get ready for the shot. Subban has an excellent shot but NHL goalies can stop every puck they can see. As gritty and pesty as Brendan Gallagher is front of the net, it isn’t enough. He has the skill to put in rebounds but most goalies can see around or above him. Perhaps parking the 6′ 3″ Zack Kassian in front of the net on the power play could be an idea worth trying.

Possession and Development

In terms of possession, the Habs need to get rid of the dump and chase method. The Chicago Blackhawks and the Los Angeles Kings, the winners of the past four Stanley Cups, win because they hang onto the puck. Their styles are different as Chicago is faster and more skilled while the Kings are more defensively sound and more physical but the message is the same. The other team can’t score when you have the puck.

If any team can afford to play a looser style, it’s Montreal. They have the best goalie in the world and he has their back. The Habs have all the confidence in the world in Price and after the way he carried them all season along, the least they can do is score more goals to make his job easier. Price shouldn’t be apologetic after games when the team loses 1-0 or 2-1 and the Habs are badly out shot.

Ramsay also has a lot of experience working with young players, something Montreal has a lot of. Alex Galchenyuk is going into his fourth year and the Habs badly need him to become an offensive force. Zack Kassian and Devante Smith-Pelly have the skills to do some damage in the league but they have yet to unlock their potential. Jarred Tinordi is in danger of busting and lacks confidence when playing at the NHL level. Ramsay could play a big role in helping the youngsters find some confidence and developing their games further.

Ondrej Palat
Alex Galchenyuk (Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports)

Listen Up

It will be interesting to see how much of an influence Ramsay will have on this coming season. Clearly Bergevin felt another voice was needed on the coaching staff and surely he must see the current problems the team has on the ice. Ramsay’s experience and ideas can be an excellent addition to the team. Let’s see if Therrien and co. are willing to listen.