MONTREAL, QC. — On Saturday night, the Montreal Canadiens concluded their 2011-12 season by winning their final game at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs by the score of 4-1, a small consolation prize for what has overall been a terrible season.
Many questions remain as the team heads into the offseason, such as who will be hired as the next General Manager, who they will appoint as their next coaching staff, how they will handle contract negotiations with players such as Carey Price and P.K. Subban, and how they will reshape and mould the team, into the Stanley Cup winner Geoff Molson promised the fans of the Bleu Blanc Rouge.
Having worn the pads in my younger days, and being the fan of Carey Price that I am, he has sort of in a way been my safety net this season. I say this because no matter how bad the team appeared to be doing, I constantly felt that I could fall back on the fact Carey Price was still playing well. It wasn’t a perfect season, it wasn’t like last season that’s for sure, but it would be unfair to expect the same, on a team that parachuted down the standings to the very bottom of the Eastern Conference.
Of course we’re all bothered by how his season ended, and nobody likes to hear that he’s been diagnosed with a mild concussion, but all we can do is hope that he recovers quickly, that he’s ready to start the next season and that we never hear of it again. Oh and what’s to say about this possible offseason surgery on his right ankle? Make it stop!
That aside, and going back to this season, his numbers were quite remarkable on a team that ended up finishing at the very bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, and 28th overall in the league standings. His goals against average (GAA) of 2.43 was good enough for 19th overall in the league, however when broken down, only four starting goaltenders in the Eastern Conference fall ahead of him. If we move to his save percentage (Sv%), he finished the season with a 0.916% average, ranking him 21st overall in the league, and once again, just like in the GAA category, only four starting goaltenders in the Eastern Conference have a better average than he does. Good, right? Euh, maybe not. Apparently, that’s not good enough for everyone.
It happens quite often that I will disagree with the opinion of another writer, daily really, sometimes hourly. It’s only natural that as we share our different opinions and points of view, that disagreements will happen, so I don’t normally go out of my way to name those I disagree with. This time I have to. I woke up yesterday morning (It was the afternoon really, I went to bed late) to a turmoil on twitter, over what a certain writer wrote about Carey Price. Yes, you know exactly who it is, Jack Todd strikes again.
Here’s an excerpt from his text when speaking of things he feels the next Montreal Canadiens’ general manager needs to do:
“No sacred cows – and that includes Carey Price: It’s hard to find anyone around here who hasn’t drunk the Kool-Aid where Price is concerned – and yet any dispassionate observer would have to conclude that so far in his career, Price has lived up to the hype only once in five seasons. That was during the 2010-11 season, when he was very good, although still well behind Tim Thomas for the season.
Sure, Price looks good in a cowboy outfit. So did Casey Tibbs. Sure, he wins the Molson Cup trophy by default every month, even during a season when he was nowhere near this team’s best player. But when you finish 28th in the league, you’re a bad team. When a goalie starts 65 games for you and wins 26, he’s part of the problem.
Let’s can the talk about how the fault was all with Price’s teammates. First of all, Price was playing behind one of the best penalty-killing units in the NHL – which does wonders for a goalie’s stats. Second, the Los Angeles Kings scored 194 goals this season, the St. Louis Blues 210, the Canadiens 212. Two of these teams are in the playoffs thanks to their goaltending. The third is not.
Maybe Price is the real deal. He was last season. He’s big, he positions himself well, he keeps his team in games – but too often, he doesn’t win those games. Before the new GM coughs up a contract for a bazillion years for this guy, he has to ask himself the question: does Carey Price have the fire to grab a game in his teeth the way Patrick Roy used to do and simply refuse to lose? This season, at least, the answer was “no.””
Holy unholy Kool-Aid cow-talk Jack! Have you still not gotten over the fact Jaroslav Halak was traded to the St. Louis Blues? It appears not.
Let’s take this one little bit at a time, all while drinking a tall glass of Kool-Aid. OH YEAH. Seriously Jack, what’s wrong with drinking Carey Price Kool-Aid, is it wrong for fans to have hope that this goaltender is the real deal and will be for years to come? Forget hope, what about those of us who see that he not only has size and positions himself well, but that he anticipates the play brilliantly, at times appearing to be one step ahead of the shooters; that he has tremendously improved his rebound control, preventing opponents from obtaining consecutive shots on goal.
Would it be better if everyone unjustiably bashed him and criticized him as you do? We saw how that worked out in his first few years.
Mr. Todd also says Carey Price has only really had one good season in his five seasons so far as a pro. Well wait here for a second. First of all, are we saying that in his first season, finishing with 24 wins and only 12 losses in 41 games, with a Sv% of 0.920% and three shutouts was a bad season? The standards have been raised and I didn’t get the memo!
If you add last season and this season, where nobody will convince me Price had anything other than a good season, well that’s three out of five so far for a goaltender that was arguably rushed too quickly into the league.
His main argument seems to be that if your goaltender only wins you 26 games during the season, they have to undoubtedly be part of the problem. He goes on to back this up with absolutely nothing.
Instead of backing his argument, he actually does a better job at attempting to joke about Price’s cowboy attire, and makes it quite evident that he’s a little sad for his favourite players who didn’t win the Molson Cup as often as he feels they should have.
It’s true that Price did only win 26 games this season and that comes with finishing at the bottom of the standings, however if we examine his season, it’s difficult to put the blame on him for the outcome that it was.
39 losses went to the record of Price this season. Out of those 39 losses, only 13 times did he give up 4 or more goals, and never more than 5 in any of those losses. That means that for 26 of his losses this season, he only gave up 3 goals or less, and didn’t get the goal support necessary from his teammates to come out with a win. It should also be noted that not once was he pulled from a game this season, which is a testament to the level of consistency he was able to show throughout the season. It’s also important to note that in more than half of those 39 losses, Carey Price had to face 30 or more shots.
But who cares right, Jack?
Now to his point about how Carey Price only really looks good because he plays behind a team that’s good on the penalty kill. Maybe this actually does make a little sense, does it? Let’s examine. The Montreal Canadiens finished the season with a combined penalty killing percentage of 88.6%, good enough for second in the league behind only the New Jersey Devils. Is the penalty kill really only the work of the four players in front of Carey Price, as Mr. Todd is indicating?
With 521:26 minutes of penalty time this season, the Montreal Canadiens are the team that had to kill off the most penalty time, and that being said, they only gave up 347 shots during that time, to put them 7th in the league, meaning only 6 other teams gave up less shots. That would support the claim that Carey Price receives great support on the penalty kill, however anyone who watches the Canadiens’ play, also understands the contribution of Carey Price to the penalty kill, which is quite similar to Martin Brodeur’s contribution in New Jersey. What they bring is that puck-playing ability that prevents teams from ringing the puck around the boards and setting up the power-play. More often than not, Price cuts off these dump-ins, and either sets up his defenceman for the breakout, or at times will clear the puck out of the zone himself. This is not to diminish the work on the penalty kill that other players bring, such as Tomas Plekanec and Josh Gorges to name a couple, but it’s a fact that often gets overshadowed.
He then goes on to appear to want to make a point about how the Los Angeles Kings and St Louis Blues are both in the playoffs, teams that have similar goals for as the Habs do, and says that they are in the playoffs thanks to their goaltending.
I have to agree with the Kings, as Jonathan Quick is my hands down Vezina trophy winner if I had a vote to cast, and is the reason the Kings are in the playoffs, but the St Louis Blues, Jack? Here’s a team that finished first in what is arguably the toughest division (Central) in the National Hockey League, finishing ahead of teams having tremendous seasons such as the Nashville Predators, Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks. (All had over 100 points this season) With the Blues, we have a team that has been relatively injury-free all season long compared to the Habs, and whose success this season is no huge surprise to those who’ve seen their progress over the last few seasons. There is simply no way to compare the Blues to the Canadiens this season, and it would take a whole other column to make that point. Just very quickly, on the statistical side, the Blues gave up three less shots per game this season than the Habs, which adds up to a whole lot of shots if you multiply it by the 82 game calendar. The Blues actually were first in the league, giving up the least amount of shots out of any team in the league. As for Montreal, the fact that Josh Gorges and the Montreal Canadiens lead the league in blocked shots, is a clear indication that the Canadiens spend more time in their own zone then they’d like.
Therefore the argument that Carey Price should have lead the Canadiens to the playoffs, because Jonathan Quick was able to do so, and because the St Louis Blues are in, two teams who have similar goals for as the Habs do, is invalid. You simply can’t take that and that alone into consideration.
Finally, Mr. Todd closes his argument by saying Price just doesn’t win games like Patrick Roy used to do. This comment comes only a year after Price obtained more wins than Patrick Roy ever did as a Montreal Canadien, and also matching Roy’s career high. In Roy’s case, if you look past the wins and into the stats, you notice that for the most part, Roy didn’t have the greatest stats, whether GAA or Sv% throughout his career, but was able to win games, because he not only was a great goaltender, but played on great teams for the most part, which helped him gather those wins. After all, it is a team sport.
Does Mr. Todd have a point when saying Carey Price is part of the problem? I don’t believe he does one bit, and if anything, I believe people like Jack Todd are part of the problem.