MONTREAL – While he might have a few things to brush up on about his new NHL home, Jacques Martin will be doing a lot more teaching than learning as the Habs new head coach, and that’s just the way Bob Gainey wants it.
“It was a priority for me to find a head coach that had a lot of experience in all situations,” explained Gainey. “Jacques has proven himself in all capacities as a coach and he understands this environment. I like his professionalism. He’s a coach at heart, a teacher who is here to work as team and bring people together.”
With 14 seasons under his belt as an NHL coach, Martin boasts a track record that speaks for itself. So much so, that Gainey reached out to the 56-year-old even though he still had several years remaining on his contract with the Panthers as their general manager.
“I placed a call to the Panthers about the opportunity to begin discussions with Jacques and they agreed. I would like to thank Alan Cohen for giving us that chance,” said the Habs’ GM. “That’s how it all started and we came to an agreement on Sunday night.”
Back behind the bench where he feels the most at home, Martin couldn’t help but leap at the chance to coach the storied Canadiens.
“The tradition. The history. The passion. The expectations. That’s why I’m here,” admitted Martin. “I couldn’t pass up the chance to coach this team and work with a proven winner like Bob. He’s won Stanley Cups as a player and in management and I couldn’t be happier to be here.
“When Bob first approached me, I was both surprised and flattered considering what he’s accomplished at all levels,” continued Martin. “I’ve worked with Pierre Gauthier in Ottawa as well as Trevor Timmins. Let me just say that this organization is rich in people and to me, that’s a very important ingredient.”
Moving now from the comforts of the Panthers’ loge in the pressbox to back behind an NHL bench, Martin knows where he belongs.
“It all comes down to the challenge and being close to the action again,” added Martin who was also quick to add that his experience as GM in Florida would serve him well. “I have a new understanding of the GM-coach relationship. But coaching has always been my first love.”
Hardly ready to be typecast as strictly a defensive coach, Martin bristled at the suggestion that offensive-minded star like Alex Kovalev may not flourish in his system.
“I’ve always been a strong believer of allowing my players to explore their creativity,” said Martin. “When I think back to the talented players I’ve coached like Marian Hossa, Martin Havlat and Daniel Alfredsson, I’ve never held my players back. It all boils down to hard work. We’re seeing that right now in the Finals the way Sidney Crosby and Henrik Zetterberg are going at it and trying to stop each other. You have to let your stars be artists all while making sure they respect the rules of the team.”
From a distance, Gainey has had the chance to see what a Jacques Martin-coached team can do and those memories are not all pleasant ones.
“I remember it was a tough style to play against. His teams always seemed to be in our end of the rink which was good for them and bad for us,” recalled Gainey with a smirk. “It was never fun to face him and that has always stuck with me.”Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.comSee also:Jacques Martin to coach Habs Habs all-time coaching listRollie moves on