Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Price of success

First of all, sorry for the long delay between posts here. I guess I could tell you I've been charging my batteries in view of the long season ahead, but that would be a lie.
The idle time was not completely wasted, however, as I had an interesting conversation I'd like to share with you.
I, like many of you, was wondering how Carey Price was digesting his experience in last year's playoffs. Though he expressed his excitement to be back in town and shrugged off the suggestion he spent all summer ruminating over it when he spoke to reporters at the Canadiens golf tournament, my main curiosity centred around whether Price has ever had to deal with an end to the season quite like the one he had last year.
When you've been successful at basically every level you've ever played, I guess the only drawback is that you don't gain much exprience in dealing with disappointments.
So I decided to look through his career numbers, and nowhere in there is it apparent Price ever finished off a year the way his playoffs ended last season.
But numbers never tell the whole story, and that's when I remembered a blog written by the CBC's Elliotte Friedman during last year's playoffs where he spoke to Tri-City Americans GM Bob Tory about Price. Having scouted and drafted him out of bantam, who better to ask if Price has ever gone through anything similar than Tory?
First of all, Tory is adamant that last year's Canadiens ouster was not Price's fault, and I'd have to agree with him. While his game definitely dipped considerably, the biggest problem for the Canadiens was burying their chances at the other end of the ice. I would be inclined to believe that Price would have been a very different goalie playing with the lead against Philadelphia, which his teammates were never able to provide him.
With that disclaimer out of the way, though, Tory pointed to one situation Price went through when he was 15 and decided to go play Junior "B" hockey with the Quesnel Millionaires.
"It wasn't a good situation for him, so he left the team at Christmas and went back to Williams Lake to play midget," Tory recalled. "It wasn't a very good team, but he led them to the provincial champonship. So he took a negative situation and turned it into a postive one."
Granted, that anecdote doesn't speak to how Price can handle an entire summer's worth of time to mull over a perceived failure, but it is further evidence that his nerves are not exactly human.
Tory is very well placed to speak about how Price can handle pressure, because he saw an example of it very early in his junior career. When he was only 16, the Americans decided to throw Price in net for their first round playoff series against Portland instead of regular starter Tyler Weiman, and Price promptly led Tri-City to a five-game series win.
That's essentially the same scenario that played out in Hamilton two years ago, except in that case Price led the Bulldogs all the way to the Calder Cup.
In Tory's eyes, everything Price went through over the past two years - an MVP performance and a gold medal at the world junior championship, a Calder Cup title in Hamilton, winning a spot on the Canadiens, being named the starter with the trade of Cristobal Huet, and earning his first NHL playoff series win - would have crumbled a lesser-minded man.
"Just think of how he handled that emotional roller coaster. I mean, that's a lot," Tory said. "To experience all that in one season is an incredible experience for a player."
In other words, Price was given a crash course in maturity, which may have been Bob Gainey's plan all along when he shipped out Huet.
But in Tory's eyes, Price didn't need any crash courses, because his parents gave him all the maturity a young man could need, and more.
Since Price left the Americans, his dad Jerry has begun working for the team as a Northern B.C. scout and goalie coach. Tory would have brought him on board earlier, but the elder Price insisted his son be off the team before he took the job to avoid any appearance of inpropriety.
"That's just an example of the kind of family they are," he said. "They're just very grounded."
So, what does all this mean about how Price will be able to perform this season? Not a whole lot, because it's clear Price has never really been in this situation before.
But everything in his past, both on the ice and off, suggests this kid has it in him to simply go out and do the job that's asked of him. Except he's being asked to lead the league's most storied franchise to its former glory in its centennial season, a task that would be monumental for Martin Brodeur, let alone Carey Price.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the article Arp! Welcome to my "Bookmarks" my friend.
- Timmy K

Paul said...

Arpon, hello

Nice work.

Paul A