Thursday, July 1, 2010

Whoop-Dee-Freakin'-Do

Well, I hope Carey Price can play close to 82 games this year. And I hope he can win a good chunk of them, because Pierre Gauthier has given the Canadiens no other choice. Cristobal Huet and Jaroslav Halak threatened Price's role as the annointed number-one goalie in Montreal and both of them got the boot. So, when Gauthier went shopping for a backup, he made sure to pick someone who's absolutely no threat to Price. He got that by spending a million bucks on a lousy goalie.

The CH will be Alex Auld's eighth NHL sweater, his seventh in the last four years. When a goalie can't hold a backup spot for more than a season at a time, you know he's destined for a career as an afterthought. This signing is fine (if overpriced by about a third) if you've got a starting goalie who plays seventy-plus games a year and has proven his ability to handle the workload and to bring his best every night. It's maybe not such a great idea when you have a designated number-one goaltender who has never played more than 52 games in a season and has had both extraordinary bad luck and difficulties dealing with failure.

There's no doubt now, if there had ever been any, that Carey Price is the unquestioned number-one. He will have no choice but to play the lion's share of the games, because Auld is not good enough to steal his job. There will be no "veteran mentor" thing happening, because Auld isn't good enough to teach Price much of anything, especially about being a starting goalie in a city like Montreal. And the Habs had better hope Price doesn't get hurt for any length of time, or they'll be no better off than the Flyers or Senators in nets.

More importantly, however, the Habs have to hope Price is really ready and able to take on the role and the workload management has definitively handed to him. Signing Auld has effectively removed Price's safety net, and, for a team that has no guarantee of being in the playoffs, it's placing a huge burden of responsibility on Price. His failure doesn't bear consideration.

I join all Canadiens fans in wishing Carey Price the best. The team will live or die with him now as it never has had to do before. It'll be a defining year for the guy who'll now be tending the Habs net virtually by himself.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree with everything you say here. I'm not a Price-basher by any means, but we needed a #1A type (Ellis), not a career also-ran. Gauthier has decided to play Russian Roulette with the 2010-11 season...not to mention the team's future, because if Price struggles early he will be torn to pieces by the fans and either destroyed by the treatment or driven out of town by it. Gauthier has put our 'Future Franchise Goalie' and by extension the Montreal Canadiens into an extremely dangerous position. I hope it works, but I don't like the 50/50 odds. Good GMs don't risk EVERYTHING if they don't absolutely have to.

Anonymous said...

Other GM's at least try to address the needs of their employer, granted with mixed results but Gauthier doesn't seem to recognize what the Habs needs are. This Habs team as it is presently constituted is crap. Only the Rangers are more embarassing. Good thing Sather isn't french or he might end up in Montreal. Boogard 4 years at 1.625m per for 0 goals over last 4 seasons. Compared to that Laraque was a bargain and Gainey a genius.

Jessica and Stephan said...

I just can't see why they went with Auld over Ellis...I really thought that deal was going to work out. I'm so disappointed, and worried about next season. This is a big gamble, and not one I think Gauthier should have taken. But then again, I'm not a GM.....

pfhabs said...

JT:

-it's like peeling an onion isn't it ? the more you pull back the individual folds the more you begin to cry

-sometime next week it will be one year since I suggested that Gainey and crew should have been fired for their moves of last July. all that money and term for slow and aged D men who are untradeable; first line money for basically second line forwards all capped by one one the dumbest trades in CH history-Gomez. all combined to give you a mirage of a conference final on the back of 1 forward and 1 goalie but more importantly giving you cap misery long term

-just in case we forgot how foolish those moves were in a cap world they re-sign Pouliot giving him a $500K raise on his $850K salary. my question is for what? his 2 assists in the playoffs or his 1 goal in the last 26 games of the regular season?

-now the shit has hit the fan:

1. they traded the playoff hero for 2 unknowns one of which may in a couple of years rise to the level of a second line centre. funny if not for the fact that 2 years from now they'll still have their 2 other 2nd line centres-Gomez & Plekanec. none in the robust gritty w size criteria

-folks beyond who is the better goalie they basically traded Halak because they could not afford his $3-4 miilion dollar w term next contract that St Louis is now dealing with

2. rather than get a real backup that will push Carey and potentially mentor him they get Auld for $1.0 and Sanford at around $500K as insurance rather than Ellis at $1.5 because they could not 'afford' Ellis...seems to me their generosity towards Pouliot was misplaced and cost them Ellis

3. not sure where the current number is at this exact moment but last report was about $7 million in cap left for 6 players without yet to sign Price, Lapierre, Boyd, and some others

4. not positive but Moore is probably gone (as is the 2nd round pick they gave for his 1 year rental) because some GM will offer Moore about $2 million or more . the CH cannot afford that for Moore and may sign Boyd as his replacement assuming he decides to sign in MTL

5. trading S Kostitsyn for 2 UFAS is bizarre even if the kid is 50% responsible for his stature on the team...team management is responsible for the other 50% but it's another example of bad asset management

-while everyone around them in the east improves the CH is basically at a standstill unable to make significant improvements. even the leafs got 2 quality forwards in Versteeg and Armstrong. why ? no cap room care of Gomez et al

-to be fair Gauthier may not be done but I think the minor miracle of losing a contract may not come and what you see today w some help from hamilton is what you'll get next september

-the spin from Boivin and his cabal will soon begin, reminding all that they got to the Conference final w/o Markov and yada yada yada...for me they are a bubble team steering themselves towards lottery status

-all the Gainey apologists can once again rise up and say I'm crazy and too negative but you already played that card last summer and through out the year.. you were wrong then as you are now

-Halak, Cammalleri and serendipidity got this club to the Conference finals in my humble opinion that perfect storm will not occur again in 2011

-wonder who's the Taylor Hall of June 2011 ? at least Gauthier is not as lost as Suter and his bring back the future moves made today in Calgary

Anonymous said...

J.T. I love your headline. A perfect compliment to the day so far.

I have always been pro-Price, but here's what I think anyway. He has a mid-season slump pretty much always. He needs to work on focus, and he needs to work on being a pro. Most people will nod along to that. Others have written or said it. I'm trying to think of something technical he needs to work on. Nope, he has all those tools, is big, and is physically strong. He just needs to be mentally at par with his physical skill set.

Auld as backup? Ok. Desjardins is a pretty good, but young goaltender. Pressure isn't his forte either from what I read. Sanford has played at the NHL level, but he is really an AHL guy. Mayer? Too early to even tell. But say Price or Auld gets injured or suspended or something. Desjardins is the backup. If he backs up Price he may get to play. If he backs up Auld he likely will get to play. Both with limited pressure.

So I'm saying there are advantages as well to the situation. Ellis would have needed over 2 million a year to match what he signed for in TB (taxes)and he went two years. Auld went one year for a million.

I think this is a clear signal to Price that the team wants him to grow up, stand up, and deliver on his potential. Adversity often builds more than it destroys. Regardless Mr Price needs to face challanges to grow. As a fan of his I suspect he will have some rough spots but soon come to be a dominant goaltender, regardless of the off nights his team or he suffers. Brodeur often had sequences of bad games, then came back focused and stronger.

The difference is in the handling. If the agent of the backup goalie had gone public in NJ with snarky comments and demands Lou would have flung the goalie so far from the NHL that even the KHL would have looked like a giant step up.

Anyway goalies seldom score so they can only lose games not win them. You just look for your goalie to be dependable, hold your players accountable, and things have a way of working out.

Anonymous said...

Ellis was never going to sigh in Montreal anyways. Why would he sign up for a #2 job when he can be a #1. He wasn’t about to sit on the bench and watch a kid play for a extra $0.5M.

Now, as for Prices back up... Well we now have 3 options and you can bet that Auld will be on a short leash. If Auld is blowing games we will see Desjardins or Sanford sooner rather than later.

However, no matter what way you slice it (and the Montreal media can certainly slice) the Montreal goalie tandem has to win about 56% games this year to make it into the play-offs. That’s 46 wins.

If the back up(s) play 0.500 hockey Price will have to almost 0.600 hockey. In other words Price has to have a record of…

GP W L
60 35 25
55 33 22
50 30 20
45 28 17

So, the only thing Auld or whoever will do is add or relieve a minimal amount of pressure on Price. Because all of those record above are impressive.

In any event I wouldn’t worry about Auld that much as he is a decent back up. Sure, he was only 10 points shy of Carey’s 31 points and played 17 less games.


HH

pfhabs said...

@Anon:

-just curious...if it's so obvious that Ellis would never sign because he wanted to be a #1 somewhere why did Gauthier bother with the rights ? why not get a pick instead or a better pick if they sign Sergei

-either way waste another asset in SK

Anonymous said...

I don't know what is more displeasing J.T.
The further babying of the "franchise" by eliminating any competition for his job, or the giving of the number 11 to Gomez. Gomez? He of the ridiculous contract, of the 12 goals and 59 points. Oh the depths to which this management team sinks is truly dizzying. As if we need further evidence they have no concept of the word CLASS.

Anonymous said...

In the immortal words of the great Donald Sutherland as Oddball in the 1970's classic philosophical masterpiece Kelly's Heroes:

"Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?"

Anonymous said...

The Habs seem to be intent on becoming the joke franchise in Canada just as the leafs are beginning to shed the title. Glad that Boyd was signed but how did Gauthier let Armstrong and Versteeg go to toronto? And Auld for more $$ than Biron? The Habs are now a contender for last in the division. If the honour goes to the loser of game 82 in toronto, I know who I'll have my money on.

Anonymous said...

Hope 11 isn't the number of goals Gomez scores in 2011. "Gauthier says why not?" What a douche he is. After all that Koivu gave to the team and the city a little more respect would have shown some class something that the Habs no longer or maybe never had.

Anonymous said...

Ellis is one smart cookie. Signs with an up and coming franchise, with a chance to earn the starting job (could have beat out Price as Halak did but would never get the job) and no state income tax to worry about. He'll be playing in the playoffs with Tampa while Price is golfing with Gauthier and the rest of the Habs. Good for him.

David said...

All of this, IF we come to terms with Price. I'm getting more and more worried as he takes more time to make a deal already.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who thinks Saku Koivu is in the same class as the other Habs who have had their sweater retired simply doesn't understand the heritage of this organization. The Montreal Canadiens are not the Vancouver Canucks or the Florida Panthers. There is NO case to be made against Gomez carrying the #11. And by the way, his team went further than Koivu's ever did. Koivu is gone. Get over it.

MC said...

I think Montreal fans have been spoiled for the past few years with two number-one goalies that were paid slightly above the league minimum. There are a lot of teams that can't find even one good goalie for years (i.e. the Flyers, Ottawa) Paying $1.5-2M for Ellis to sit on the bench would have been a huge mistake from a cap management perspective, IMO. Even $1M may be too much for a backup. Detroit refuses to pay for even one good goalie, yet alone two, and they have done okay over the years. I think this move was about saving cap room. The fact that Auld is not a threat to Price is a bonus.

Auld has a similar style to Michael Leighton; a big, butterfly goalie who takes up a lot of the net. He will be steady when he plays, just not spectacular. What I don't understand is why the Habs did not give Sanford a chance to be backup for less money? He has about the same career stats as Auld, and I'm sure he can open the door on the bench just as well. I wonder if Montreal is speculating on the goalie equipment rule changes coming in next season that arguably benefits bigger goalies.

@JT "...for a team that has no guarantee of being in the playoffs..." This comment surprises me. Do you really think Montreal is a bubble team again, or are you just trying to keep your expectations under control? Barring injury trouble, I see them fighting for the Northeast title even if Price only plays average hockey. Buffalo are now a bubble team at best after losing their defencemen to free agency. Boston and Ottawa will be okay, but they still do not have secondary scoring. And the leafs, well, they suck.

J.T. said...

@MC: Boston added Seguin and Horton, which will certainly improve their scoring ability. Rask is a good young goalie and their defence will be fine. Ottawa is going to have a better power play with Gonchar, and we know a good PP can win you games. That's just in the Northeast. If you look around the Eastern Conference, you see an improved Pittsburgh defence after yesterday, and the addition of Volchenkov in Jersey will be like giving Brodeur a force field to protect his net. Assuming Philly and the Caps are playoff locks, and the Lightning and Thrashers have improved enough to challenge for a spot, the Habs are by no means guaranteed a playoff berth. Injuries, slumps by important players, mediocre goaltending, internal conflict...any of those could derail a team in a tight race. The Habs scraped into the playoffs this spring, and they have pretty much the same team now, except without Halak and his 26 wins.

pfhabs said...

@MC:

-you are absolutely correct the CH will be fighting for the Division title as all the clubs will be unfortunately they will be fighting for it from the bottom of the division

-they lost Halak, they lost moore, that D is older and slower by 1 year, Subban has a lot to learn to be the top dog he will eventually become, Markov is coming off yet another injury, we trade a second line talent for a fourth line talent, Pouliot and AK may or may not be better. sounds exciting doesn't it

-if the leafs can get Savard out of Boston they will be even with the CH

-no MC, JT is correct they are less than they were last year but for some polyanna rules because even in a hurricane there's some positive just not sure what that would be notwithstanding the war flick reference above

Brian said...

Auld is the third coming of Aebischer, the second of course being Carey Price. Get ready for another odd-ending-year suckfest.

Anonymous said...

Thanks JT for the clear reasoning of why the Habs are a bubble team at best. If the leafs manage to get Savard from Boston, the Habs will likely sink to the basement of the Northeast. The only way this doesn't happen is if Ak46 scores 30+ and Pouloit chips in with 25+ and how likely is that? Boston, Philly, toronto, Ottawa and the Rangers are set to physically pound the Habs all season long. If it wasn't for Calgary the Montreal would be the joke franchise in Canada. Thanks Darryl!

subdoxastic said...

The contagion has spread across the intertubes. It's everywhere.

Goalie-itis.

@J.T. "Difficulty with failure"? Is this pleonasm? I imagine one would have difficulty with it, as a lack of difficulty would probably equal success-- or some weird masochistic thing.

@anonymous harpies screeching of impending doom-maybe try waiting until next season before judging Price's performance-- you know when he's actually playing. But I get it, if he does well there can be no joy had in having anticipated calamity. And if he does poorly, and you didn't call-it (no black-magic, no erasies) then again no joy to be had. Shorter version: what about hockey gives you joy? There has to be more to it, right?

Paul B. said...

Fran├žois Gagnon (La Presse) couldn't have said it better. With most of the money going to the smurfs, the Habs couldn't shop at Birks. So, they went to Dollaroma...

Number31 said...

Huet and Halak weren't a "threat" to his job. That's a load of malarkey straight from the local conspiracy sports radio shows or the papers. The only threat they possessed was their innevitable salary demands. Exibit A: Chicago Blackhawks sending playoff heroes and character guys out regardless of their accomplishments because the money isn't there for them.

However if there's one thing Auld has over both those guy is he's taller (as in Leighton was a crap goalie but he knew better to put his large frame in the proper spot to make the first stop which was then dealt with by his defence and beat the Habs in both regular season games he faced them while shutting out the Habs three times in the playoffs because of it) and he's been through the wringer his entire career. I'm not saying he'll steal games, but he's adequate enough at the right price and won't have an annoying agent buzzing in the background about nonexistent injustices.

Also there are 18 other players on the ice every night that need to show up. There's also a coach that needs to realize his Hail Mary system isn't foolproof.

Anonymous said...

Hey JT,

all the talk out here in Vancouver is about reigning Lou in and giving him more rest - press pointed out that before Nabakov did it this year, no goaltender had played 65 games and made it past the second round since 2003. Playing Price 82 games prob means there's nothing in the tank left for playoffs...although speaking of playoffs after trading your best playoff performer might be a little presumptuous.

MC said...

@JT: I see where you are coming from now. I agree that anything can happen in a given season, you just have to look at Carolina and Philly last year. Any team that runs into problems can find itself in the basement.

I think the Habs are quite different from the team that started and played last year. There were many in-season adjustments made and the impact of all the injuries last year was considerable. Here are the differences between the team that opened the season in Toronto last year, and the team that started the second round of the playoffs against Pittsburgh:

Mara - Subban
D'Agostini/Stewart - Pyatt
Latendresse - Pouliot
Laraque - Bergeron
Pacioretty/Chipchura - Moore

That's over a quarter of the team. Despite Latendresse`s success in Minny, based on how he played for the Habs, these were all huge upgrades. The Habs' bottom six were getting killed every night at the start of the season, while in the playoffs, the bottom six won them some games. We have also replaced Metro with Boyd for next season, which should be an upgrade.

As well last season,Gionta, Cammalleri, AK46, and Markov missed a total of 98 games, and they still made the playoffs. They should have been a lottery team. The few times their top six were healthy, they went on winning streaks, which helped them squeak into the 8th seed. If all theses guys stay healthy next year (and they are all normally durable players, each injury was unlucky), the Habs will be a more consistent team.

Six other impact players were new to the team last year along with a new coaching staff. This year they are all coming back as a team, having been through the crucible of a playoff run together. That`s a huge change from the start of last year.

I will agree though that giving up Halak puts a huge hole in the lineup, and it is a concern for next year. Management have really gambled on Price reaching his potential. Goal scoring during the regular season should not be as bad, but goal scoring in the playoffs next year might still be a problem again. They need one more impact forward...