Saturday, August 14, 2010

No Carey, No Cry

Well, I'm away on holiday right now, and one thing I can tell you is that there are a LOT of Habs fans outside Quebec, even in the territory of some other teams. In fact, I have seen many, many more Canadiens' sweaters, hats, t-shirts, Youppi air fresheners and beach towels than I have of those pimping the other team (which shall remain nameless) in whose fandom I'm vacationing. It also appears that many of those red, white and blue t-shirt wearers are both fans of Carey Price, based on the numbers on the backs of said t-shirts, and worried about Price not having signed yet, based on conversations with some of them. Numbered among their worries are the fear of an offer sheet from another team, fear of a holdout by Price and concern that the team is playing hardball and risks alienating the kid.

I figure devotees of Price's should relax and accept two likely situations. First, he'll sign soon because he's restricted, nobody has yet sent an offer sheet his way and he's got little to gain by holding out. Second, this will probably happen again.

Price is an interesting case. He's been given the keys to the kingdom, which should translate to a solid number-one goalie kind of contract. On the other hand, he's not got the solid number-one stats to justify that kind of deal. The Canadiens have publicly and, with the trade of Jaro Halak, unequivocally, staked their future on the kid and want a long-term deal. They're also probably thinking they can use his stats to get a bargain. Price, on the other hand, surely believes he can do better, and wants to keep a deal short so he can re-set the last couple of years and try to improve his numbers. In the end they'll compromise, and Price will probably sign a two or three-year deal for a little less money than he likely wants. The team will bend on term and Price will bend on price. They'll have it wrapped up by training camp.

The problem for Price is, all this adds to the pressure to perform he'll already be facing. The number-one job is going to be tough enough, with no Halak or Huet behind him to be his safety net. Add the pressure of playing for a contract, and that turns up the heat already on him. That's just the internal pressure. He'll also have to deal with the expectations of a fanbase that fell in love with Halak in the playoffs, many of whom will have little patience for the guy who didn't get traded, if he doesn't perform right out of the gate. So, one of two things will happen. He'll either prove the newfound maturity his teammates remarked about during the playoffs is real and he'll handle the pressure better than he has in the past. Or, he'll prove the stick-breaking, eye-rolling, wall-punching Price is the real one, and he'll suffer under the unrelenting eyes of Montreal fans and media.

I believe Price is a little bit of both. He's probably maturing, but the sulky hothead is still a part of him as well. It's going to be a challenge for him this year, and over the duration of a short contract, to let the mature guy control his game most of the time. That's why I think we won't see the best he can offer a team in the next couple of years. He may be good, but while he struggles to grow up...with the understanding that he's playing for his future on top of'll be very difficult for him to be great. There will be brilliant nights and there will be stinking ones. He'll hear ovations and jeers. The question is whether the deal he signs now will be long enough for him to achieve more of the former and learn how to tolerate the latter. A short deal, which is what he and his agent are pushing for, will likely mean another summer like this one when it ends, because he'll think he can do better and the team will be looking for a bargain if he's inconsistent.

The worst-case scenario here would be if the team manages to win its push for a couple of years more on this contract. If Price has the freedom to walk away when this deal ends, he'd be within his rights to do so after living through the struggle of growing into his talent under a very jaundiced eye in Montreal.

I wonder if Price really has long-term plans for playing in Montreal after his early experience there in any case. The organization is making him THE young star around which the team will be built. There really hasn't been another guy in that situation. All the other Habs stars, like Roy, Lafleur, Beliveau, Robinson, Savard and Shutt had either a supporting cast, or time to grow into the roles they eventually assumed. Price is unique in that he's been shoved to the fore and announced as the future of the team; a thoroughbred, before he's ready to be a saviour. There's no established hero or francophone favourite to take some of the heat off him. And those other guys had a real razzle-dazzle sort of component to their personalities that warmed up under the limelight. Price tolerates it. I've no doubt he likes the perks being a star brings, but I think he doesn't enjoy the scrutiny of performance that comes with it. I always get the feeling Carey Price grew up wanting to play hockey because the game is fun, but he can have fun without the stuff he hates, like public pressure and constant criticism, somewhere else. The only link he has to Montreal is that the Canadiens happened to be the team that drafted him, and that's a link easily broken in today's professional leagues.

I want Price to earn whatever contract he signs so there are no doubts about his value or his ability when his next deal comes around. With the way negotiations are going right now, though, I think it's shaping up to be a difficult couple of years for him during which he may or may not develop as a player. And I think whatever happens in this contract will set the tone for whether he's a career Hab or a star who might have been. In light of that, it's a good thing this deal is taking a while to construct. All parties need to be very careful and very sure about what they're asking for and the consequences therein.

Now, back to vacation.


Anonymous said...

he'll sign and he'll have an amazing year!

Anonymous said...

Worst case scenario for all involved is that the Habs overpay to secure term and Price stinks out the joint.

Carey better give on salary to secure a three year deal and establish himself as a bonafide #1. It serves nobodies purpose to do a 1 year deal and go through this all again in a year or two.

Anonymous said...

I dunno JT. I kind of remember a huge chorus of "We should have taken Marcel Dionne not Lafleur." that continued until Guy took the scoring title. Even with the Cups he was fighting that. I think because Guy was a winger, and at that time everyone "knew" that strength down center was the key to success. Dionne was a center, did well, and Guy had to fight and the "Anyone could have got those points playing with Pete or Jacques." crowd.

That seems to be what we fans are about. We pick players and figure they're all that, or not. Right now "Center" has been replaced with "goalie". Yet in Guy's time the team moved Vachon, Myre, and Esposito. They pinned their hopes on Dryden. Likewise Roy took the job away from the next great one "Steve Penny" when he and Soetart couldn't handle the load. People remember Roy appearing on the scene, talking to his posts, carrying the team. They forget he had parts of two seasons under his belt, was 23-18-3 in the playoffs and had a sv% .875. Yes Saint Patrick was good, tall, and flashy. He talked to his posts, did I mention that?

Dryden was big leaned on his stick, went to college, played on the nationals. Roy didn't. Now here is the interesting part. Both those teams came together and played above expectations around their goaltender. Last year the team came together and played beyond expectations. Halak was the goaltender. They didn't make it.

Carey Price is in the mold of Dryden and Roy. Halak was not. Dryden and Roy learned to handle the pressure, as Price is. Halak could not. In St Louis Halak can become the new Vachon or even the new Esposito. Surrounded by a great team he might even get close to the cup. But he will never be a Carey Price. That is why he is gone.

I read a lot of net opinions, and sports writers, too many in fact. One thing is consistent. They ignore the flip side of the coin. The Montreal Canadiens have committed to Carey Price, and Carey Price has committed to the Montreal Canadiens.

Look at the remolding of the team. The players who committed are there, the ones who did not are being pared out.


moeman said...

With permission from J.T. and slight apologies to Bob Marley;

'Cause I remember when TFS™ used to sit

In the goalie back bench in FrenCHtown

Oba, ob-serving the media hypocrites

As they would tingle their piss on his feet

Goalie friends he have had, oh goalie friends he's lost, along the way

In his bright future he can't forget the past

So dry your fears I say

No Carey, no cry

No Carey, no cry

Little darlin' J.T., don't shed no tears

Go Carey, do try

Said, said, I remember when he used to sit

In the goalie back bench in FrenCHtown

And then Big Georgie would make the fake fight

Blog good burnin' through the night

When J.T. would cook us a happy meal

Of which she'll share with you

Her blog beat is her faithful carriage

So she's got to push on through

But when she's gone...

Ev'rything's gonna be alright, but we miss her

Ev'rything's gonna be alright, how we miss her

Ev'rything's gonna be alright, Habs i/o links her

Ev'rything's gonna be alright, FHFers seek her

Ev'rything's gonna be alright, daily, I check in on her

Ev'rything's gonna be alright, regulars love to comment her

Ev'rything's gonna be alright, betcha Carey reads her

Ev'rything's gonna be alright, did I mention I'd marry her?

So, no Carey, no cry

No, no Carey, no Carey, no cry

Oh, little 'H' darlings, don't shed no tears

No Carey, no cry

No M├ętro, no Boivin, no Mara, no cry

No Uro, no cry

Oh, my little Habs darlins' please don't shed no tears

No Jaro, no cry, yeah

Anonymous said...

JT, your suspicion that CP will bolt once he is a free agent is bang on. He is an English-speaking Western-Canada small-town boy who likes country music and rodeo. Montreal must feel like a different universe. Factor in taxes and all the crap that comes with being a goalie in Montreal, and the result is he will not waste one second of UFA status on a Montreal contract. I will be gobsmacked if he does.