Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A delightful (hypothetical) dilemma

This is the problem with a win-and-your-in policy when managing your goalies.

Jaroslav Halak will not play in Buffalo on Wednesday night because he stayed home to nurse his flu bug, one that coudn't arrive at a worse time for the goalie who has spent his entire time in the Canadiens organization playing second fiddle.

Now, Carey Price inherits the net he believes belongs to him, and for the first time in a year he feels legitimately threatened of losing his status as the number one guy.

How will he react? If Price is the fierce competitor he'll need to be in order to have any semblance of the kind of career everyone has prediced for him, he'll need to play with a purpose and prove that he should be the top dog in Montreal.

I'm not sure whether or not he'll do that, but let's say he does. Let's say he comes out and stops 45 shots in a 1-0 win over the Sabres in Buffalo. What does Guy Carbonneau do then? Can he rightfully start Price again and send Halak to the bench even tough he's the lone reason his team has won the last four games? On the other hand, how do you sit the franchise player when he shows a sign that he's ready to come out of this prolonged funk he's been in?

It's a tough situation, one I'm sure Carbonneau hopes to have on his hands come Thursday morning, because that will mean his team has just won it's fifth straight game. And, if the scenario we painted out earlier in fact comes to pass, Carbonneau will still be answering questions about his team's shots against totals on Thursday morning just like he was on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Bob Gainey is surely working the phones as I type this, trying to see what is out there and how much it will cost him. I personally believe that Gainey will do something between now and Wednesday at 3 p.m. to improve his club, but I don't know why I think that. I just do.

Maybe it's because everyone is taking it for granted that the Habs won't do anything, and that's usually when Gainey moves, almost as if he wants to spite all the pundits and prove to them that they know absolutely nothing in terms of what makes him tick. Gainey has a wealth of prospects that are pretty valued around the league, and though none of them could ever be confused for Jarome Iginla, Gainey has proven in the past that he's willing to trade a sure-thing prospect in order to grab a player he feels will put his team over the top.

The question, of course, is whether or not Gainey feels his club is only one or two players away from being a Stanley Cup contender. The way the team is playing right now, probably not, but as Carbonneau noted Tuesday it's difficult to evaluate this team since it's played only a handful of games where everyone was healthy.

With all the impending free agents on the team and the prospect of a mini-rebuild looming next year, maybe Gainey will decide it's time for this team to take its shot, for better or for worse.


pierre said...

I think we blew it Arpon and thats why the commun wisdom says no moves tomorow from Bob.

Hard core rentals are for teams having the cap space and a legitimate shot at the cup and I dont see our team in that very small group of teams.

Getting players with contract for next year like Pronger and jokinen would have made sens in that they could have helped us attracting free agents in Montreal next season but our trade for Schneider pretty much took our cap space away from such possibilities.

Topham said...

I was thinking about this whole Carey price thing.

I hope he plays well obviously, but upon reading this on HI/O:

"On CKAC this afternoon, Martin McGuire reported Price has been working very hard in practice. He's the first one on the ice with the injured guys and often the last to leave.

Implicit in McGuire's praise is the notion that Price's work habits have not always been exemplary.

If the kid has the kind of pride I think he does, Price will be great against the Sabres."

My thinking is that Halak should definitely be put right back in. If Price has not been working hard and now he is – why put that to an end after a week? Time to drill this into Carey's mind: work hard and then you'll get your chance; no more freebies.

Then after a couple more starts for Jaro (assuming he does alright), Carey gets another and we repeat. Eventually they go evens and from there the best.

Just a thought.

I used to coach, and it was the greatest thing to see athletes get the kind of motivation that Carey now has. They become possessed and prolonged bouts of that can lead to great things, in my experience.

Halak's recent excellence may in retrospect look like the best thing that could have happened to Price who may have been starting to rest on his laurels a bit.

Thanks for challenging me on Grabovski, by the way. I think the readers will appreciate your balance added to the world of my imagination.

Arpon Basu said...

I also believe Price will respond to this challenge, because in many ways tonight's game is make or break for him. I don't want to get too dramatic, but I have to think the organization is looking at this situation the same way you are. They want to see how Price responds because so far, he hasn't risen to the challenges he's been presented with.