The Montreal Canadiens’ AHL partner is missing a crucial element


The Montreal Canadiens announced that head coach Jean-Francois Houle will continue to coach their AHL affiliate, the Laval Rocket.

Houle signed a three-year contract extension with the team that gives him enough wiggle room to navigate some of the inevitable complications in the AHL.

Simply put, the only constant factor in the AHL is that player availability will be incredibly inconsistent due to injuries, call-ups, transfers, and other factors.

That was certainly the case with Houle and his predecessors. Every AHL team has to expect last-minute changes, but the Canadiens have undoubtedly poached more talent from their affiliate team than their NHL counterparts.

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With that in mind, the lack of success last season is understandable. But with Houle now on a contract that offers him a degree of stability and job security, expectations for results in Laval will be higher.

To do this, he needs a little help from the Canadiens.

Leadership required

For a long time, the Rockets have had to rely on mercenaries to fill their ranks – players who are a little older than most young players and have very little chance of making it to the NHL.

However, now that the team actually has real young talent, there is a bit less room for players who are unlikely to be part of the team's long-term rebuilding strategy.

As a result, the Rockets lost the two players who had provided the most leadership since the team arrived in Laval: Alex Belzile and Xavier Ouellet. Belzile moved to the New York Rangers, where he serves as an alternate captain for the Hartford Wolfpack. He was also the team's leading scorer this season with 19 goals and 31 assists in 61 games. Ouellet now plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he also serves as the team's alternate captain in the AHL.

Houle was quick to point out the lack of leadership on Wednesday.

He wants the team to grow a little bigger, but more importantly he wants to find experienced players who understand their role on the team and can help develop younger players. And while there are certainly many hockey players who would love the opportunity to be part of the team's leadership group, it's a little harder to find players who understand that they're there to help other players overtake them in the rankings.

Not only do they need a player who shows leadership qualities both on and off the ice, but they also need someone who understands that the team's younger talent is the future of the franchise.

Essentially, the Montreal Canadiens need to find another humble leader like Belzile to guide the influx of talent coming to Laval.