The man who will be charged with shaping the biggest asset for the Canadiens franchise is saying all the right things, and that has to be encouraging for fans wondering if Carey Price will be able to bounce back from his sophomore slump.
I haven't been able to make it out to the Habs development camp in Brossard with parenting duties taking precedent this week. But luckily, La Presse's Marc-Antoine Godin is among the media corps covering the festivities, and he got most of the answers to the questions I would have liked to ask the Canadiens new goaltending coach Pierre Groulx.
For some reason, the version of his story that's online is not the one that's in today's print version, with quotes from Groulx that suggest Price is in good hands.
Normally, the hiring of a goaltending coach is not huge news, but in this case the job is of paramount importance considering just how much of this franchise's future has been tied to the back of Price.
Awaiting his 22nd birthday next month, Price represents an asset so vital to the success of the team that the hiring of Groulx may very well have been more important than that of Jacques Martin as head coach.
Groulx only has two years experience as an NHL goaltending coach with the Florida Panthers, and in that span the Panthers finished 14th and ninth in the league in goals against per game. Tomas Vokoun and Craig Anderson finished second and third in the league in save percentage last season, while Vokoun was 12th in the league two seasons ago and Anderson had a gaudy .935 save percentage but didn't play enough games to qualify for the league lead.
Despite those solid results, hiring Groulx to fill this position goes against the philosophy Bob Gainey said led him to reach out to Martin. Gainey wanted experience behind the bench, which is exactly what he's getting in Martin and newly-hired assistant Perry Pearn. But the vital position of goalie coach was given to a virtual rookie.
It could turn out to be a real coup, and the way Groulx is talking it sounds like Price will finally be allowed to develop in his own way.
It was never confirmed by Price or anyone else last season, but anyone who watched him play on a regular basis couldn't help but notice how much time he was suddenly spending on his knees. This appeared, at least to me, to be a directive from Rollie Melanson, who would spend a lot of time in practice working on lateral movement from the knees. The same tendency is what often spelled the demise of Cristobal Huet, but it was more glaring in Price's case simply because he was never a goalie that liked to go down often.
Groulx was very respectful towards Melanson's work, but also emphasized that a new man was now in charge.
"I'm bringing a new philosphy," Godin quoted Groulx as saying. "I won't completely change the style of the goalies I work with. Carey Price, for example, has a hybrid style and we're going to work with both his strengths and his weaknesses. But I'm the one who will adapt to the goalies, they won't have to adapt to me."
That should be music to Price's ears.