Thursday, February 4, 2010

Writer's Block

As someone who writes for a living I'm pretty ashamed to admit that I've run out of ways to say what needs to be said after Jaroslav Halak's 3-2 shootout win in Boston.

Yes, it was Halak's win, and no one else's. If Halak could get points in the standings, I would have to imagine he'd be ahead of the rest of his team for the number of times he's single-handedly won the Habs games this year.

Jacques Martin even joked after the game that the secret is to give up a ton of shots, before giving the gathered reporters in Boston a good-natured wink. Yeah, good one coach.

He's made 90 saves in his last two games, and in his last six starts he has a .955 save percentage and a 4-1-1 record. And why does he only have a 4-1-1 mark? Because the Habs have been outshot, on average over those six games, 37-25 and only produced three goals total in the two games Halak lost.

On the season, Halak has a .930 save percentage, third in the NHL and only two-thousandths of a point behind league-leader Ryan Miller.

Why go through all these numbers for the 9,000th time this season? Good question. Because numbers are not necessary to show that Halak has come into his own as an NHL goalie, and he's currently one of the best in the league.

And this is why I still feel Bob Gainey should trade Halak at the deadline if the right deal comes along, such as an actual roster player, and perhaps even that top-6 forward he was rumoured to be seeking in return way back when. It seemed a little far-fetched then, a lot less so now.

Frankly, I wouldn't want to be facing Slovakia in the Olympics at any point the way Halak is playing, and if he can pull a Dominik Hasek and take his country farther than it deserves to go in the tournament, his trade value will be as high as it's ever been. Probably as high as it ever will be, considering the Olympics only come around once every four years.

That is when you are supposed to trade someone, when his value is at his highest. Teams usually don't do that because they want to keep their good players, but Montreal is faced with a decision to make and I don't see why Gainey would trade Price when his value is at his lowest rather than the complete opposite situation with Halak.

Speaking of trades, thank God there was all this Ilya Kovalchuk stuff going on over at the Twitter rumour market, because I would have passed out during the game otherwise. Are any of you upset Gainey didn't put together a package that would trump what Don Waddell eventually got? My buddy Marc-Antoine Godin was thinking the Canadiens definitely could have put together a more interesting package than Nicklas Bergfors, Johnny Oduya, Patrice Cormier and a first-rounder, and he's right. They could have.

But should they have? I would say no because the Canadiens, with or without Kovalchuk, are not going to win the Stanley Cup this season. Perhaps, with the hot goaltending they've been getting, Kovalchuk would get them into the playoffs, and quite comfortably for that matter. But the guy has only played four playoff games in his whole life, and he has a goal and an assist to show for it. Not his fault, but a fact nonetheless. There's no way of knowing how he would react to a pressure playoff situation. The Devils are going to find out, and if Kovalchuk responds well he'll probably get someone to offer him the $11 million a year he's looking for this summer.

There's no way the Canadiens could have paid that, and rental players are supposed to go to teams with Stanley Cup aspirations. Well, I guess the Canadiens do have those, so I should re-phrase: realistic Stanley Cup aspirations. Gainey cannot seriously believe the team's he's assembled coached by the very expensive coach that he hired can win the Cup this year, so why would he lose three assets (four counting the first-rounder) for a rental?

What he should be doing is continuing to feel out his fellow GMs to see if they are interested in Halak. Gainey would be in a marvelous bargaining position because, unlike Waddell, he's not being forced into trading him. When your team has so many needs, you can't afford having a luxury item in one area of your team.

So Halak has to be traded, in my books. Gainey just better make sure he does it with a Western team, because with every passing game Halak is looking more and more like a dominant No. 1 goalie.


Anonymous said...

Eventually, you will realize that keeping Halak is the better decision in both the short and long term.

Bryne said...

The writer's block & a lack of sleep is apparently fogging your perspective. Your blogs are always worth reading and insightful, this one ... however defies logic.

V said...

Arpon can (and likely will) speak for himself.

I think what he is trying to say is that Price and Halak are likely to be about equal in value in the mid-term and Halak is worth more in the short-term, so trade him. And that makes sense. Particularly since you can't keep both because they both want to play #1 minutes.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with trading Halak. Although Price is not at the top of his game, his pedigree counts and what he was able to do at the world juniors and in the AHL counts big time. I am sure there are a lot of teams that don't have a "goalie of the futue" in their systems would love to have Price. If there is interest and the return would be solid, I would keep the goalie who has shown what he brings, Halak, and move Price. Brodeur is a great goalie, but would he have done as well if he had been a Canadien? Big difference being a big fish in a little pond like New Jersey.

If Tampa would move Lecavalier for Price and Gomez, I would do it!!

kyleroussel said...

If history has taught us anything, it's that Bob Gainey doesn't really make any big splashes at the deadline. He prefers to hang on to what he has and cross his fingers that the Habs not only make the playoffs, but make a run. To that end, it's not Halak or Price we ought to be concerned about, it's Plekanec.

Nobody can say for sure, but all signs point to Gainey not even having reached out to begin negotiations. I'm not sure if he's applying the same logic as past years, because as one of the most (if not the most) coveted free agent center on the UFA market this summer, some General Manager is going to overpay for Plekanec to the tune of 6+ million. Hey, Sather gave Gomez nearly 8 million per season under similar circumstances 3 years ago, and I don't think anyone believes that Gomez is better than Plekanec.

As for Halak, I don't know how he does it. He sometimes looks to be fighting the puck, yet still making the save. He can find himself out of position, and when he plays the puck, I cringe. Yet here he is with an unbelievable .930 save percentage over 20+ games. Is he a battler, or has he been lucky? Who are the Habs to argue?

The Habs remind me of that Simpsons episode where Homer gets in to boxing and easily climbs to the top without ever throwing a punch. Instead he lets the other guy pummel him until they're too exhausted to stand.

I wonder what Jacques Martin thinks of all this? After looking ill with the entertaining hockey he, and the rest of us all saw, he must be positively elated at what he saw last night. Night after night he continues to prove that he is not the right coach for this team.

Ted said...

No that made me laugh!!! Arpon, I have to tell you that I'm at a loss here. Because we have a goalie who apparently can steal one - actually about ten we should trade him but only if his name is Halak.

Given that logic I guess we should trade Pouliot because he is now producing, Markov because he always did and Gionta because he seems to come through in the clutch.

Why can't we just sit back and enjoy the Halak ride. It may not last. Maybe it will. I for one would love it, if it did. But must we, at the first lick of the salt block of success start promoting the idea to rid ourselves of the guys who deliver it.

Arpon Basu said...

My point, as I thought I wrote pretty clearly, is that trading Price when his value is low makes no sense. Besides, I continue to believe that Price will be the goalie for this team for years, and his inconsistent performances this season are simply saving the Habs money and cap space on his next contract. Halak has been outstanding, but does anyone believe he'll be a whole lot better than he is now? I'm pretty sure he's creeping very close to his ceiling, which means he's a pretty darn good goalie, but also means he'll be a coveted asset on the trade market.
I'm not so sure Price's reputation and pedigree will make him valuable on the market. Even if 29 teams show interest in him, it would be in the hopes that they can get him for a low-ball offer, because the Canadiens would not be dealing from a position of strength. In Halak's case, they are in a position of strength.
Finally, on Plekanec, I think the fact that Price might be coming in at a relative discount next year means Gainey will be able to keep him. It wouldn't surprise me one bit of Gainey has begun negotiations behind the scenes with Plekanec, and the fact the national media is not prying into his trade status can only be viewed as a good thing. I think we saw what that produces in the whole Kovalchuk situation.

Rob said...

Amen to that Arpon! The cup is not realistically in reach this year, so Bob should maneuvering the team for the future. I'm not suggesting a whole sale sell off, but if he has assets to trade that will help the team a little now and a lot down the road then he should be jumping at the opportunity. Halak, and I would even include Pleks, are candidates for selling while the value is highest. The only concern I have with trading Halak is the potential outlash from fans and the media against Price. This would totally be unfair in IMO and might just be enough to run him out of town. Too bad, b/c I still believe he just needs a little more time to become that dominant #1 they drafted him as.

Arpon Basu said...

Comparing a goaltender to a forward in this situation is not really applicable. There's only one goalie who can play the majority of games, and the Habs have two. There are 12 forwards who dress for every game, and the Habs have perhaps five or six who really deserve to play. That's what I'm saying, you take a position where there's an overflow and use it to fill a position where there is a deficiency. The Habs could also use a defenceman to play with Andrei Markov, but I have a feeling they have that guy down in Hamilton.

Ted said...

Arpon, I don't understand how that move helps us this year or in the future? Your goaltender is the guy saving your bacon right at this moment. Are we saying we're scrapping this season. If so what evidence is there that a team which doesn't play in front of Price now will suddenly start to next season.No matter what you think of Price, the team is not getting the job done with him in.

If Kovalchuk doesn't bring more then Odouya what do you think Halak would bring? It's not likely you'll get a top pairing defenseman with any deal nor will you get a top six forward.

Heck I'd rather believe in a miracle. The one where we squeak into the playoffs but then lo and behold we have a healthy top two lines and a healthy complement of defensemen. A goaltender who stands on his head and just wants to prove himself. I would like to see this team play as a full complement just once. That hasn't happened yet this season.

Now I'll shut up and enjoy your blog.

Anonymous said...

This Halak, Price debate just goes on and on. Maybe someone could tell me, when is this higher ceiling that Price has going to kick in? If you trade Halak now who are you going to play in nets for the rest of the year?
I remember when Dryden first played for Montreal, as well as Roy, they were both very young just like Price, but there was one thing that stands out to me, HEART, Price doesn`t have the one thing that is most important, he doesn`t have the heart, the drive to be the best.
I don`t hate Price, but i`m not in love with him either. Bob has to take alot of the blame for where Price is now. Bob built Price up and then did nothing when Price fell.
Anyway, you trade Halak now, you are giving up on the playoffs. Of course, a top 5 draft pick would be nice, though I wouldn`t suggest we pick a goalie this time, lol.

MathMan said...

"when is this higher ceiling that Price has going to kick in?"

Probably when he's older than 22 and not at an age where goalies are supposed to post #1 stats in the AHL, not in the NHL like he's doing. There's a delusion running around that Price has been bad, but he hasn't. He's been good, very good even, but Halak has been completely lights-out, Hasek-level, Vezina quality, so of course he plays. That's no knock on Price, who is *well* ahead of the development curve for his age.

Halak has been fantastic. If he had been anything below this unearthly level we'd be counting Taylor Hall lottery balls and wondering about a new coach. This is obviously his ceiling just because there's plain nowhere higher to go, and it's doubtful he can maintain this level for his entire career as it would put him in the conversation for best-goalie-ever (it's that good), but he's going to top out as an excellent goaltender. (He's also hurting his team long-term right now by masking some serious issues, notably with coaching, but one can hardly blame him for that. ;) )

I don't think Gainey should trade Halak or Price. Goalies are notoriously bad trading commodities unless you find a desperate GM and Gainey won't get a satisfying return for either goalie at this point, but he really doesn't have to. His goalies are keeping his team alive anyway, so trading one away would be a bald-face tank and I don't think that's in the cards, unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Halak will bring the best return this season. This maybe crazy thinking but why not ride Halak for the whole season to see what he can do? And if he keeps playing like he is now I believe Gainey could package him up with the Habs 1st round draft pick to get a top pick at this years draft. Khabibulin is a good goalie but is injured a lot. I'm sure the Oilers would love to have Halak on their team.

kyleroussel said...

The way Halak has been playing, he's gone and done something that may be working against him: he's made some among us ask if he's too good to be true?

It's for this reason why I would not trade either of them. A couple weeks back I could have justified it. But with Halak, I'm now finding myself waiting for the bubble to the burst.

The *only* way I'd trade either goalie right now is if it were an attempt to get the Oilers 1st round pick THIS year. I don't want any establishes top-6 forwards or top-4 d-men that are going to strain the Habs already tight cap situation.

Arpon Basu said...

Nice idea of trading up in the draft with the Oilers, it's a definite possibility. And MathMan, you took the words out of my mouth. People feel Price has had all the time in the world to show what he's made of, but it's just not true. I read a great comparison between Price and Tuuka Rask the other day. Both goalies were first-rounders in 2005, but this is Rask's first shot at the show, and look what he's doing. Still, it doesn't mean he won't have a let-down season next year. But just because Price was rushed into this situation doesn't mean he won't settle into a zone where he is consistent and confident. The reason I believe his ceiling is so high is because he has all the tools to do it, the only thing lacking right now is what's between the ears. And that will come with maturity. Comparing him to Roy and Dryden - two of the most mentally tough goalies in history - is completely unfair. If we held everyone to the same standard, practically every goalie in the NHL would be substandard.
Finally, Ted, you're right. I have given up on this season. You can only go so far when your goalie is the ONLY thing you've got going for you. Maybe having a healthy team will make a difference, but judging by the year so far, I doubt that will ever happen.

V said...

Arpon, a healthy team will make a big difference.

I believe the only reason we trade either goalie this year is because they want to be traded and with Halak getting the playing time he was looking for and Price likely to be OK with that given age and likely assurance he is the long-term solution, I don't see a trade for either of them now. Besides, as Mathman said, if Halak was traded now there would be rioting in the streets (literally). If he cools off, it could happen, but I doubt it.

kyleroussel said...

Why do we believe that a healthy team will make a big difference? Granted we have not seen a FULLY healthy team for more than a handful of games this season, but as long as Martin employs this passive strategy that exhausts everyone by chasing the puck around our own end, what evidence is there to suggest that this team will be better when healthy?

As long as this strategy is being used, it's going to be a situation where we go as far as the goaltending can take us.

V said...

We don't know whether the current strategy (assuming it is a strategy rather than a failure to follow one) is simply a response to the injuries... injuries often dictate the game you must play rather than the one you would prefer to play.

If these were 3rd and 4th liners going down, I would be the first to admit what we are seeing is a flawed strategy or an inability to execute (and at this stage you would be forced to shift strategy). But we have seen the ripple effect of good players consistently absent from the top six and what we see as a result may be what no one wants (including JM) in the long term.

I think they would be a lot better (especially with some sustained play together) because the glimpse we got when they were all present was intriguing and encouraging.

john deere said...

Halak to Atlanta for prospect Angelo Esposito.

David Gogo said...

Keeping Halak is a good thing . Trading Halak is a bad thing .

Anonymous said...

Trade Halak? Are you off your bonkers?