Friday, October 22, 2010

Have The Montreal "Boo-Birds" Migrated South?

This article was first published in the October 22nd edition of Main Street Week and is reprinted here with permission from the editors. Drop by Main Street Week News to have a look at a great community newspaper or sign up and have Main Street Week delivered right to your inbox every Friday.

The theme of my September 24th Main Street Week article was how the new NHL season is a fresh start for every team. After a great trip through the playoffs last year with Jaroslav Halak leading the way, the Montreal Canadiens decided that Carey Price would be their number one goaltender moving forward, and the concept of a fresh start also applied to the young net minder. Much to my surprise, that very same week, the boo-birds were out in full-force when Price stumbled in his first pre-season game, allowing four goals on nine shots.

While I was critical of the Halak trade, the timing of the deal more then the fact that he was dealt, the Canadiens management team obviously has faith in Price, after all, their jobs depend on a successful year. So now that the season has begun and Price is statistically one of the better goaltenders in the early portion of the season, I am left wondering - have the boo-birds migrated with our other feathered friends? Perhaps they are waiting for the first losing streak to make their return.

As I write this column, the Canadiens are second in the Northeast Division, with a 3-1-1 win/loss record, one point behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for first place. On a side note, when was the last time the Maple Leafs were in first place? Getting back to my point, Price has started every game for the Canadiens and has a 2.57 goals against average and a .914 save percentage. He has looked composed in the Montreal net, covering his angles and working with the defencemen to limit the second chance opportunities of the opposition.

While the season is still in its early stages, it is a positive sign that Price is playing well. Signed to a two-year contract, with a $2.75 million salary cap hit both years, he is still a few years away from outright free agency. When his current contract expires, he becomes a restricted free agent, which means other teams can make a contract offer but Montreal has the right to match the deal or let Price go and receive compensation; the same scenario the Canadiens faced when they decided to trade Halak.

The one thing I have been wondering since the boo-birds swooped in on Price during the pre-season opener is this... What if he does become the great goaltender Bob Gainey and current GM Pierre Gauthier believe he can become. While it is tremendous that the Canadiens have many passionate fans, there is the risk that Price does become an all-star calibre goaltender and chooses to leave town at the age of 25 because he is tired of the second-guessing and the turmoil in Montreal.

If he continues to improve, there is a very real possibility that Price can become an elite goaltender in the NHL and in the modern day era of free agency and the salary cap, he could lead someone else’s team to the Stanley Cup. Something the Montreal boo-birds might want to take into consideration. Have a great sports day everyone.

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