Thursday, June 17, 2010

No More Halak Attacks...

So it is done: Jaroslav Halak is out of Montreal, after a solid Olympics, dragging the team into the playoffs, and carrying them to the Conference Finals.

I was expecting a goalie to leave Montreal, but I expected something 'interesting' in return. First, I thought Price would be the one to go. (See my last post.) Price looked tired and frustrated in Montreal, and I figured he was gonna ask for a trade. I suppose this could still happen.

But it was Halak. The Hero Halak. Traded. Ok -- not the end of the franchise, but after hearing rumours that Philly was offering Jeff Carter for one of our goalies... that San Jose was in the mix... Tampa Bay (Lecavellier? hahahaha) was in the mix... We ended up with a couple prospects -- a replacement for  Ryan McDonagh in Lars Eller, and a big forward in Ian Schultz. Prospects can be good trade acquisitions - but I have trouble trusting prospects taken by a team who just fired all its scouts!

Had we lost Halak to free agency, we would have gotten 3 draft picks in return. But Halak was probably due for a big salary upgrade, even if he went to arbitration; so no guarantee another team would have paid the draft-picks. Gauthier had to dump Halak for money reasons I suppose.

The problem is not losing Halak - I'm sad to see him go, but not shocked - the problem is what we got back in return. Having both Price and Halak was like having money to burn - wrap one of them up with even something else (like a Kostitsyn maybe) and there should have been an opportunity to really make this team better. Instead, we've just lost a good goalie who showed he can really steal games.

This trade feels like the kind of trades that were made in the late 90s ... talent for saving money ... not a good hockey decision. It seems like we just flushed a good player. No offence to our new prospects, but lets face it: they have a long way to go before they make it to The Show.

I like Carey Price; I hope he bounces back after last year. I also hope he wins his team's confidence back, and they'll play for him. Because if there is no chemistry between the guys on the ice and the guy in the net, then Gauthier is gonna have to dump some more players... and that will just be bad.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Price v. Leighton

I'm not sure if a lot of Habs fans noticed, but there were a lot of similarities between 'journeyman goalie turn hero' Michael Leighton and our very own Carey Price: Big goalie, calm and collected, lets in unlucky and untimely goals.

These 2 play a similar style in net: they rely on their size and positioning to be there to make the saves. They also rely on the defence to make life difficult for the shooters, so when the shots do show up there isn't much to shoot at. They both play their best in a calm, collected manner; not letting the pressure crack them (this is not so true of Carey Price lately, I'll admit.) And finally they both seem to let in the same type of goals; tip shots find holes, and then a moment of weakness on their part will send a puck to the back of the net.

So, who would you rather have: Stanley Cup Finalist Michael Leighton, who collected himself after letting in 3 goals to beat the Bruins in game 7, all but shutout the Canadiens, only to fall to the Blackhawks: or Price, who rode the bench to the conference finals, never impressing when he was on the ice (and uncharacteristically showing a lack of composure against Washington) ?

Well, I suppose the hope is that Price, being younger and showing great promise early on, can rebound to form. Leighton's performance should certainly give Price fans hope that given the right situation, Price can shine. Price isn't as dynamic as Luongo in net, for example, but on the right team should be able to provide the solid goaltending a team needs to win.

I am not sure this can happen in Montreal. Price seems to have been cracked in Montreal; rattled to his core. He is trying, for sure, but his calm confidence seems to have turned to detached apathy - he seems almost too removed from the game at times. And you can see it in everyone's body language when Price lets in a goal; he slumps, looks helplessly at his defence, who slump, who look to their coach, who shakes his head -- the crowd tearing up their tickets and heading for the exits. He doesn't get a lot of support out there, perhaps because he doesn't command it.

Anyhow, I liked the way Price played in 2008. I was sad to see him stumble in 2009. I'm disappointed he looks to be gone in 2010. But given Leighton's performance, I think Price, given the same room to make mistakes and support to succeed, will do well. Hopefully other GMs see the same thing, and Montreal won't lose him for a song.

I don't see a way back to success for Price in Montreal.