I know a lot of you don't want to hear this right now. You don't want to know anything other than how the Habs are doomed because Pierre Gauthier foolishly traded Jaroslav Halak away for, in the words of the esteemed Justin Trudeau, "two hockey sticks and a bag of magic beans."
But I just wanted to give my take on the guy Gauthier chose to keep, the one who will be your starting goaltender in the fall, whether you like it or not.
Carey Price has undergone an incredible transformation in the past 13-odd months, at least in my eyes. Think back to the petulant kid who was pulling his Patrick Roy impression as he received mock cheers from the Bell Centre "faithful" for making a routine stop in the final game of a sweep at the hands of the hated Boston Bruins. That night, Bob Gainey warned those fans - or "bullies" as he called them - to be careful who they booed out of town.
The next day, as player after player was fed to the Montreal media for what would be the last time for many of them, Price was the big story. He was the one everyone wanted to talk to. Gainey came out and famously referred to Price as a "thoroughbred" in defending his decision to stick with him throughout the playoffs.
Ultimately, Price didn't come out for what we reporters call a "scrum," he had a press conference all to himself, broadcast live to Habs nation. A ball cap pulled down near his eyes, Price was barely audible as he tried to explain his feelings, tried to say how badly it hurt to be made the scapegoat for a season that spiraled out of control, attempted to convince people he still wanted to be in Montreal.
But despite his greatest efforts, Price came off as a spoiled, pouty kid that day. His public image was never lower, and the theory was born that he will never, ever succeed in the pressure cooker that is Montreal.
A year later, at the same getaway day event after the Canadiens elimination from the Eastern Conference final, a ride that was orchestrated by his fellow goalie Halak, there was no press conference organized for Price. His media availability was not broadcast live to the nation. He was not wearing a baseball cap.
Price spoke for the better part of 45 minutes to wave after wave of reporters and did it with a smile on his face. He talked one hell of a game. He was candid about the infamous incident with Andrei Markov following, ironically enough, an overtime loss to Halak's new team, the St Louis Blues. He said that was a wake up call that came about a year too late. He admitted that starting in the all-star game, being on the cover of ESPN Magazine, being anointed the goalie of the future for the most glorious brand in professional hockey got to his head. He felt he'd made it, and he "plateaued," as he called it.
While he was busy plateauing, Halak was busy working. Working to continue proving his value, and working to pass Price on the Habs depth chart. When Markov called him out for what was perceived to be a soft goal in overtime and for his work ethic in general, Price said it clicked.
"When I was sitting on the bench there was a decision that I made, if things weren't going to work out it wasn't going to be from a lack of effort," Price said about a million times that day. "I put a lot of effort into the last two months as far as being supportive and just working hard in general."
I remember talking to Price for a long while in Washington after practice prior to Game 2. My story that day was on Halak and his ascension to these heights, but of course, Halak wasn't available to speak to reporters. So I spoke to Price about Halak. You would think it would be an awkward conversation, but it surprisingly wasn't at all, simply because Price was so comfortable in his skin and with the situation. But the one thing that was abundantly clear in that conversation was that Price's comfort level with the situation had an expiry date.
But still, his attitude was refreshing because this was the same guy who often threw his teammates under the bus following a bad game, particularly doing so on the ice when he felt his defencemen let him down. Price had some help in changing that ugly side of his personality, particularly from Hal Gill. Renaud Lavoie of RDS wrote a great little profile on Gill just before the playoffs, or just before writing nice little profiles on Gill became mandatory for the entire working hockey media. In it, he talks about how Gill pulled Price aside and explained to him that for all the times his defencemen made him look bad, there were just as many times that his defencemen made him look good as well.
It was just one example of the continued growth of Carey Price, a maturing process I felt I saw first hand in how he dealt with being knocked down a peg, something he probably needed. And you know what? How many of us at the age of 22 didn't have some growing up to do? I know I did.
So you can count me among what appears to be a minority of people who believes that Price has the mental fortitude to survive in this market. Actually, I believe he will thrive here.
Why? Because I, like Gainey, feel he's a pretty good goalie who's trying to find his way. On top of his athleticism and his much, much improved physical conditioning, I feel Price is a goalie who has a style and stature that will stand the test of time. When he's on top of things pucks just hit him and he makes very difficult saves look unspectacular. He hasn't been like that in some time, but I'm convinced he will be again.
Also, Price's large frame will not be prone to the whims of the NHL competition committee. Remember back when Jose Theodore was really good? When he was winning Hart and Vezina Trophies? Then, suddenly, he wasn't. Coincidentally, that coincided with the season where the NHL first cracked down on goalie equipment, something the league is seemingly going to do again next season.
A fellow reporter pointed out to me during the playoffs that a crackdown like this could hurt Halak in a big way. At only 5-foot-10, Halak's pads come up to about his mid thigh, so when he's in his butterfly the excess padding helps to cover his 5-hole. If that excess is taken away, will Halak's game suffer? Possibly, and possibly not. But it would probably affect Price a lot less than it will Halak.
But really, I have very little doubt that Halak will be a huge success in St. Louis, because even if the equipment thing throws him for a loop I'm confident he'll just work that much harder to get past it and adjust. That's just what he does.
But no matter what anybody says or thinks - myself included - absolutely no one has any idea what Price will be two years from now, let alone four or five years down the road.
I think he'll be great, probably better than Halak. But he might not. I just feel Price should be given a chance to at least go down that road before he's placed before the jury.