Monday, January 11, 2010

Goalie controversies are fun, aren't they?

This was quite predictable, no?

The Canadiens go on media blackout mode for two days with no practice, and the city's sports talk lines are buzzing with talk of Jaro v. Carey.

There are several other possible topics of conversation for people to get passionate about, such as the Habs utter lack of scoring in the New Year, for instance. With four goals against NHL goaltending over the past four games (not counting the empty-netter against Florida), the Canadiens are proving once again that they just can't get their entire game together at once.

When the puck's going in the net, the defence is allowing 40-plus shots a night. When the defence finally figures it out and tightens up, the scoring goes dry. It could simply be that the team is not good enough to do both at once, or it could be a question of circumstances, but either way it's a worrying stretch of four games that would definitely merit some discussion.

But perhaps that lack of scoring or porous defence - whatever happens to be the Habs mood or number of healthy bodies in that given week - are two things that point the spotlight on the Habs net, seeing as Jaroslav Halak and Carey Price become the lone determining factor between a win and a loss under those trying conditions.

I went to play my weekly game of lazy, old man basketball tonight, and on my way I was tuned into Ron Fournier's popular evening call-in show on CKAC. I listened to Marc Denis talk about what he would do with the goaltending situation in Montreal. He felt that the Habs should keep both guys because that's what will give them the best chances of making the playoffs, but at some point they will need to pick a No. 1 guy for the playoffs and ride him. That's kind of my reason for feeling Halak should be traded, seeing as a No. 1 guy has to be designated at some point, but that's just me.

Two hours later, I returned to my car after huffing and wheezing my way through a game that could barely be described as basketball, and when the radio came on they were still talking about the same thing. Two hours of radio is an eternity, and I'm sure Ron had no shortage of callers over that time who wanted to weigh in on the situation.

This is simply what people do in this city, and if you take it like good, clean fun, then that's all it is. But if you take debates like this one and label it a controversy, then I feel it's going too far. There is no controversy here. Both goalies know the situation: you play well, you stay in. Perhaps Price takes this as an affront to his status as franchise saviour, or Halak sees it as an impediment towards his ultimate goal of being a starter in the NHL, but that matters little in the grand scheme of things. At least not for the time being.

I think Bob Gainey has been pretty clear on this that no goalie will be traded prior to the Olympics because the schedule is pretty jam packed until then. But when he does decide to trade a goalie, or if, then it's also pretty clear it will be Halak. You can love that position or you can hate it, but that's the reality of the situation. Bob Gainey will not trade Carey Price, and I'm with him on this one.

Why? Well, I continue to stand by my belief that Price is only 22, and there are few goalies in NHL history who have done what he's done at his age. I'm not going to pull out the numbers on Roy and Brodeur and Luongo and whoever else at age 22.

But I will say that I'm pretty sure the Pittsburgh Penguins are happy they didn't give up on Marc-Andre Fleury when he was 22 and he was stopping fewer than nine out of 10 pucks sent on goal and allowing 3.25 goals per game. Two years later he was in the Stanley Cup final, and a year after that he won it. Before you go there, I'm not saying Price will do the same thing. Obviously he doesn't have Crosby, Malkin, Staal et al supporting his bid to be a champion. My point is that goalies take time, and Fleury at the same age was considered a bust who was unlikely to fulfill his tremendous potential. Now he's on the Canadian Olympic team and a Cup champion.

For further information on this debate, I will defer to Chris Boyle. If you haven't read his stuff over at Robert Lefebvre's Habs Eyes on the Prize blog, you should immediately. Not only is the statistical analysis mind-bogglingly exhaustive, but his preface to this month's entry sums up my thoughts on this debate perfectly. Too many people have made up their mind both on Price and Halak, while the fact is there are huge question marks still surrounding both of them. Does Price have the work ethic and discipline to make it as an elite netminder? Could Halak ever carry a team and play 50 or 60 games in a season? We don't know the answers to either of those questions, so we probably shouldn't be acting like we do.

Still, Halak's expressed desire for increased playing time makes this a topic that needs to be discussed, and people are doing just that. Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, in his weekly round-up of rumours, states that Halak would still interest the Philadelphia Flyers, while Thursday's Bell Centre visitors the Dallas Stars could also be intrigued based on Marty Turco's impending UFA status.

I would have to guess the Stars will get a very good look at Halak on Thursday, because I can't see how Jacques Martin can go with Price at this point. But that decision, and the ones that come in the games following it, have little bearing on the goaltending "controversy" in Montreal. It just shows that, for now, the one and only position where the Canadiens are among the most talented teams in the league is in goal.


Anvilcloud said...

Surely, some of whom to trade depends on what you can get in return. If Price would bring a Malkin (I'm not serious) but Halak a Joe Blow, I would trade Price.

MJ Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MJ Smith said...

Good post!

I agree. Gainey will keep Price. No place for both goalies next season. One rooster in the hen house is enough.

Also I'm pretty much tired of hearing the Price-haters putting the blame on Price every time the Habs lose. I never heard anyone do the same when Halak loses. Did you hear anything?

Gainey probably shouldn't put all the limelight on Price so soon. But hey I guess he wanted to do so because for one in a long long time the Habs finally have a possible high calibre goalie.
Halak is good. But there's just something about Price that makes him a bit better. Sure it doesn't show lately. But looking at the stats from the Habseyeontheprize article, no matter what they say about Price his stats are about the same as Halak's.

I'm happy the Habs have two good goalies. And yes instead of creating a controversy(reminder: the media has started this whole thing), we should be talking about the lack of scoring.

Thanks Arpron

john deere said...

I hope we trade Halak to Edmonton for Robert Nilsson. They are shopping him and a change of scenery would be good for him.

Arpon, your observations about Latendresse were spot on . I watched him last night and I thought maybe he would change his style but no he played exactly as you pointed out was not good enough in Montreal. Havlat was the difference, he partners very well with him.

pierre said...

We were flirting with the 12th in the East when Markov came back in late december and without Gionta and Pouliot we were still 2 men short from having a top 6 quality squad.

When looking at our team's stats in early January I wasn't surprised to see how bad they were when compared with the rest of the league because watching them playing hockey up to that point had been such an unbearable painfull experience as a whole.

Here are a few of our stats we had against the rest of the league.

Our shots per game average was terrible.... 29th lowest in the league.

Shots against us were terrible.... 28th worst in the league.

Our hability to score goals were no better..... 27th worst in the league.

Our discipline was a joke..... we took more minors and played more short handed minutes compared to ANY other teams out there.

Those stats tell you how bad a watch we were when playing 5 on 5 and the fact that we couldn't sustained offensive pressure enouph to draw penalties against us can tell you how dysfontional we were as a team because we couldn't take advantage of our no. 1 PP effiency...... we had the lowest number of PP opportunities in the league.

Despite our PP efficiency being nullified.... despite our low scoring when 5 on 5 ( 26th overall ) we managed to survived..... mosly because our goals against stats were not the worst but average ( 13th overall )..... thanks to our goaltending duo and to our PK effiency ( 7th overall ) to which they contributed dearly.

J.Martin and our team have been painfully dependant on the prowess of our goaltending duo in the first half and the media and the fans are going nuts over them..... to me, its silly, its not interesting and its a waste of time.... yet, its understandable.

Habster in Leaf Land said...

Bravo Arpon,

Fans in Mtl drive me nuts always creating a controversy where one isn't needed There are teams (Like the one here in Southern Ontario) who would die for 1 good goalie where Habs have 2. I feel there is no reason to trade Halak, until Price shows he is ready maturity wise, to carry the team. Until then you need a competent backup and Halak gives them that, if it means keeping him until the end of the season, so be it. The Huet situation was different, he was UFA where Halak is restricted, so you control him for another year. Huet was going to walk for nothing and they were able to get something so it made sense. Even if a team would sign Halak to an offer sheet the Canadians would have the option to match or get back draft picks for them. What excatly the picks would be I'm not too sure but probably better than 1 second rounder which they got for Huet. As for who is better, when you look at the blog you linked to their numbers are pretty comparable except for wins. I think this probably has more to do with the goals for than goals against. I feel Price has been a victim of too many games where his team scores 2 or less and he has had to be near perfect in order to win. But like you I believe the upside with Price is so much higher.

Ted said...

This topic drives me nuts because people argue two sides of the same coin. Here is the stat that matters. Who is winning.

I don't give a GGD if your save percentage is in the toilet. When you win your in. Its really simple. By the way - the pasture is full of thoroughbreds. Stud farms thrive on them. Some even won a few races but then for one reason or another it goes sour. The owner decides to put him to pasture when he stops winning.

I would prefer to hang on to both goaltenders. But given the choice, I take the best deal to improve my scoring and or defense. Don't be surprised if the best deal is for Halak.

LeMatheux said...

My comment on the goalie debate has always been this: there are so many things that are wrong with the Habs, and the goaltending is pretty much the only thing that is definitely Not The Problem -- on way too many nights it seems to be the only thing the team has going for them -- so why is this treated as a life and death matter? It really makes no material difference to the teams' chances of winning whether Price or Halak is in goal.

I get it if the question is whether to trade one for help where we need it (though I maintain the Habs' problems are not, at their core, a problem of personnel) but the notion that the team needs to annoint one of them, either Halak or Price, as #1 for the rest of the way because otherwise they might not make the playoffs... that's just crap.