Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How long is Price's leash?

I'm just wondering because I believe Guy Carbonneau's goalie management is one of the areas where Bob Gainey was in disagreement with his coach.

Remember the last time Gainey came down from the seventh floor to take over for a coach, it was partly because Claude Julien had lost confidence in Jose Theodore and wanted to play Cristobal Huet instead. When Gainey took over, Theodore was back in nets, but when he continued to struggle he was shipped off to Colorado in what has to be among Gainey's top-five trades.

Carey Price has shown signs that he's rounding back into form the past couple of games, and it's clear he is a far better goaltender than Theodore so he's not playing for his job. But with a playoff spot far from being assured for the Canadiens right now, how long before Gainey adopts the same win-and-you're-in approach as Carbonneau?

As I see it, the Habs need to solidify a playoff spot over the next 10 games because their April schedule is pretty tough, and it was that urgency that probably played a pivotal role in Gainey's timing for his decision to let Carbonneau go.

So what happens if Price falters tonight against the Oilers? Does he get another shot Thursday against the Islanders? And what if he folds in that game as well? How long before Gainey turns to Jaroslav Halak, who has to feel like his best shot at grabbing the starting position from Price just got fired?

Gainey and Canadiens fans everywhere are obviously hoping Price's play makes this discussion moot, but I'm very curious to see what will happen if there's any hint that Price isn't up to the task.

Tuesday's morning skate in Brossard saw the pairing of Andrei Markov and Mike Komisarek reunited on defence, while Ryan O'Byrne was with Roman Hamrlik and Mathieu Schneider was with Josh Gorges.

It's those last two pairings that intrigue me the most, because I truly feel Gainey believes O'Byrne is the poster child for the group of players who aren't playing to their potential because the coaching staff didn't get it out of them. Don Lever being around may help in that regard, and O'Byrne feeling he has Gainey's confidence will also help a great deal because Gainey may actually tell him.

Gainey putting Schneider with Gorges also shows that the GM who acquired Schneider in a trade did so with a clear role in mind, and that was not to be playing top pair minutes. Though I understand Carbonneau's decision to use Schneider the way he was, because the defence had become so atrocious of late, Gainey's desire to limit his minutes is a wise one if he wants Schneider to be effective in the playoffs.

Up front, I must say I'm surprised to see Max Pacioretty sitting out Tuesday, but adding Mathieu Dandenault's veteran presence can't hurt, and Gainey may want to draw on his desperation to earn a new contract. Seeing as that appears to have been his strategy for motivating this team from the get go, may as well ride it to the end, no?


Sliver24 said...

I don't necessarily agree that Halak would see Carbo as his biggest ally. Carbo is the guy that sat Halak in two consecutive games when everyone else, including Halak, thought Halak deserved the start.

That being said, I'm not sure he'll see Gainey's taking over as beneficial to him either.

The only thing that will Get Halak in the number one spot is another four or five stinkers from Price. Hopefully9 Jaro isn't rooting against his teammate...

Anonymous said...

i really hope he doesn't have four or five stinkers before halak gets the start...gainey knows the habs are on a clock. there would be no point in risking the season just to groom price would there?

i think you're right arp, while o'byrne was at his worst he was still playing second pairing minutes which did horrible things to his confidence and yet carbo refused to limit his ice time. he was either benched or playing 20min a game. since his stint in hamilton he's been more solid. (oddly, hammer's played his best hockey paired with o'byrne, weird.)

so far i like the changes. i just hope they translate well onto the ice and that price's leash is a short one.