Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin had a laundry list of things to take care of this summer. By the first of the month he had accomplished all of them, with one glaring omission. As it stood August first, with his coaching staff the same as it was last year, without help, the power play seemed destined to be as dreadful as it has been the last five or six years.
Bergevin announced Tuesday that he has signed Craig Ramsay to be a ‘coaching consultant”. Ramsay has had his ups and downs in the NHL coaching ranks in recent years, but one thing he seems to have mastered is an ability to put together productive power plays.
The last time the Canadiens had a top-five NHL power play, Doug Jarvis was responsible. I don’t know what it is about defensive style forwards, but somehow they seem to be able to figure the ways and means to effective play with the man advantage. Ramsay is cut from the same cloth as Jarvis. When he played for Buffalo, he and linemate Don Luce were were one of the best shutdown pairs in the league and Ramsay won the Frank Selke Award in 1985, the year after Jarvis took the honour.
Defending against opposition power plays seems to have made Jarvis and Ramsay experts on the subject. Since retirement, every team Ramsay has coached has improved on special teams, and Bergevin is hoping some of his magic can rub off on the Canadiens. Things can hardly be worse that what we’ve seen in the three years of the current regime.
During the the first round of the 2014 playoffs, the St. Louis Blues were having a dreadful time with their power play against Chicago. NHL.com asked Ramsay, who was between jobs at the time, to analyze the problems the Blues were encountering. According to Ramsay,
“They’re relying on a single-concept power play, which is get it to the point and shoot it, or get it from the point to the half-wall and shoot it. So they’re looking at 45- and 50-foot shots and hoping for some miracle shot, but I don’t see them with that guy, that big-time shooter. Chicago has recognized that and they’re just flexing out. They’re not ever afraid. They can take a penalty and they don’t get scared.”
“The low guy never looked to the net, never took it to the net, never tried to pass through the crease, never tried any single thing to make Chicago come down,” Ramsay said. “There is no threat. If in fact you think your power play scores from out high, then you must show them something down low. You must threaten them with a low play to make them respect you and sag. If you can’t get them to sag, then penalty killers just giggle. St.Louis just has fallen in love with one concept, so they have to make a little switch.”
Sound familiar? Switch some Canadiens names for some of the Blues and you can see what some new thinking might do.
“Imagine this: They throw it low to the goal line and [David] Backes walks out, or they throw it low and [Jaden] Schwartz or [Vladimir] Tarasenko walks out with Backes in front. You now have a 2-on-1 with a chance to score, and you’ve created fear in the Chicago Blackhawks.”
You can click on Ramsay’s whole analysis here.
Why the ‘coaching consultant’ rather than fulltime coach?
Outside of the ever-present “French-thing” (Ramsay is from the Toronto area and no member of the Canadiens and St. John’s AHL coaching staff was born outside of Quebec), my guess is Ramsay would rather be a free-lancer which could allow him the flexibility to accept a head coaching job down the road if offered.
From Canadiens Communications
MONTREAL – Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin, announced on Tuesday the appointment of Craig Ramsay as coaching consultant with the Club.
“We are very pleased to welcome Craig Ramsay as coaching consultant. He has an impressive hockey background, having worked as an NHL coach for over 20 years, following a playing career that included over 1,000 games played. On a consulting basis, he will be called upon regularly during the season to share his knowledge with our coaching group. Our players will also benefit from his expertise”, said Bergevin.
Ramsay, 64, has nearly 40 years of experience with seven different National Hockey League organizations. He was an assistant coach for 18 of the past 20 years, totaling over 1,500 games as assistant coach, and over 150 games as head coach in the NHL.
In 2014-15, Ramsay was an assistant coach with the Edmonton Oilers. He also worked as an assistant coach with the Florida Panthers (1993 to 1995 and 2011 to 2014), the Boston Bruins (2007 to 2010), the Tampa Bay Lightning (2001 to 2007), the Philadelphia Flyers (1998 to 2000), the Ottawa Senators (1996 to 1998), and the Buffalo Sabres (1986-87). The Weston, Ontario native was the last head coach in the history of the defunct Atlanta Thrashers, during the 2010-11 season. He also took over as interim head coach in his debuts with the Sabres (21 games in 1986-87), and with the Flyers (53 games from 2000 to 2001). Ramsay etched his name on the Stanley Cup as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning coaching staff in 2004.
Drafted by Buffalo in the second round (19th overall) in the 1971 NHL Entry Draft, Ramsay spent his entire NHL playing career with the Sabres (14 seasons), appearing in 1,070 games and recording 672 points (252-420-672). He also added 48 points in 89 playoff games (17 goals, 31 assists). Ramsay had eight consecutive 20-goal seasons, and was selected to the 1976 NHL All-Star Game. He appeared in 776 consecutive games from 1973 to 1983, the fourth longest consecutive game streak in NHL history. He also won the Frank J. Selke Trophy in 1985, awarded annually to the NHL’s best defensive forward.
Ramsay and his wife Susan have four children; sons Travis, Jad and Brendon and daughter Tristin.