Jack Todd and I must be share the same brain wave

Monday, February 16, 2009

Well, not exactly. But last night I was writing up something about Price and I didn't finish it because my brain was dead and this morning I see that Todd has written pretty much what I wanted to say...in semi more coherent words too. Anyway!

man, I love playing with this

Can we please stop bashing Price too?

So it's the day after Valentines Day (well, it was when I wrote this anyway) and you'd think there'd be at least a little bit of that love wafting over into today. Well, you'd think wrong. Today I was treated to some more Price bashing in the paper. I completely forgot to mention yesterday that Price has also taken a lot of flak for the Habs’ recent performance. European. Goalie. Whatever. Same difference, right? They're all to blame for the losses.

In the eyes of a lot of the Habs fans, our number one goalie has gone from drop-dead amazing to well, just drop-dead. And I'm fed up of reading about this too.

I'll be honest. I like Price. He was one of the first players who’s name and number I actually remembered, so I've got a bit of a soft spot for the guy. That being said, I am keenly aware that his performance has dropped a lot since coming back from his injury. I'm not blind to what's begin going on. But what irks me more than the seven goals that he allowed against Edmonton the other night is the reaction of the fans. Today I read something where the writer believes that Gainey has made a mistake in drafting Price. If the author had more reasons for believing this than just going from Price's most recent performance then he didn't elaborate on them, which leads me to wonder if this is just another person jumping on the "let's bash the goalie because we can" bandwagon.

Maybe Gainey did make a mistake. Maybe Price can't handle the pressure of being a goalie in the NHL or maybe he just wasn't made to be a goalie in the most unforgiving city in the NHL. But how the heck are we supposed to tell if he can or can't cut it when he hasn't even played a full season in the NHL yet? Last season he started with the Habs before being sent back to Hamilton for a brief spell in January before being recalled a month later and pressed into being the starter. We could debate the wisdom of such a move by the management office and I'd love to if I had more time. But as it is, I’ll say that it probably wasn’t the smartest move to make in this city, especially given the fact that everyone knew that this season the stakes were going to be upped by a lot. There's the whole "the year thing" (and yes, Red Fisher, I will continue to believe that this label has caused a lot of problems for this team no matter what you think) but even if there wasn't, there'd still be a lot of pressure on Price because we all seem to think that he has to be the next Patrick Roy for some reason. And if we’re not comparing him to Patrick Roy we’re comparing him to Steve Mason (another point in which I feel the need to do the blasphemous and counter Red Fisher. Oh shock and awe!).

Many people seem to be fond of comparing Price to the NHL's newest goalie sensation. Many believe that if 20 year old Mason can handle being the startup goalie for Columbus and have a league leading 7 shutouts and GAA, then Price should be able to do that too. I think age has both everything and nothing to do with what's going on with Price. Everything in that everyone expects him to be great right now at 21 years old. They want him to be the best that he can be and make this team great right now (which is silly). And by nothing, I mean it’s unfair to even think of pressuring him to be the next “great one” right now and to make comparisons to “St. Patrick”.

Patrick Roy is Patrick Roy because not every goalie who plays for the Habs is going to carry their team to the Stanley Cup at age 20. This sounds obvious and yet everyone still seems to think (or is that "thought" now?) that Price can become the next Roy. Need I really say how unfair this is? And can I point out that goalies like Jacques Plante and Ken Dryden only joined the Habs when they were in their mid twenties? Which is supposed to be around the time when goalies start to mature (according to Olaf Kolzig anyway). And that Gump Worsley only won his first of four Stanley Cups (in five years) at 36? That sort of takes away from the notion that you need to be 20 years old to go down as one of the greats. And before you start on how the league is all different now and you need to be able to compete harder against so many other teams.... I took a look at the current leaders in the four categories for goalies. Everyone in the top five for save percentage, goals against, and shutouts (except for Mason) are 27 or older. And in the category for most wins Miller is the youngest at 28. Actually the second youngest player in the top TEN of all those categories is Jonathon Quick at 23. That's a full three years older than Mason.

Pretending that most goalies can mature at 18 years old, I will further mention that Mason isn't playing in the pressure cooker known as Montreal. Nobody is exactly expecting Columbus to get into the playoffs, let alone win the Stanley Cup. There is no real pressure on Mason to make his team good enough to be in the playoffs. Or at least there wasn’t until he got all of those shutouts anyway. You can have a gazillion shutouts but shutouts don't necessarily translate to getting your team into the playoffs or doing well in said playoffs. Maybe Mason could handle playing here in Montreal. Maybe not. At this point we’re not talking about talent. We’re talking about personalities and certain people’s abilities to deal with high pressure situations better than others. Now we’re getting into the area of speculation and I’m not overly fond of this. I also haven’t seen enough of Mason and Mason going through a series of bad games to know how he will react.

Maybe Mason really can handle high pressure situations better. Great for him. What one guy does or doesn’t do shouldn’t lessen what another guy does or doesn’t do. There is a lot of talk going on now about Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. For those of you who don’t know and don’t care about tennis, then let me just sum this up quickly: Roger Federer will most likely go down as one of the greatest players of all time. But right now his legacy is being challenged by Nadal who right now has the ability to take away some of Federer’s records at a younger age. If Nadal accomplishes some of the things that Federer has done while being younger than Federer, that’s great for Nadal. But that doesn’t, and shouldn’t, take away from what Federer has done in his own career. It’s pointless to compare these guys even now because we don’t know what they’ve got left to do in their careers.

Just like it’s pointless to compare Price and Mason. The bottom line here really is that it's pointless and unfair to compare Mason and Price not because of the totally different environments that they're playing in but because they're different people who react to situations differently. We don’t know what these guys will do for the rest of their careers. Maybe Mason will implode completely next year. Maybe he’ll go on to be the greatest goalie in the history of the sport. Maybe not. We don’t know and it’s WAY too early to tell. If Mason does goes on to win a Stanley Cup with the Blue Jackets this year then first off, I'll die of disbelief, but second, that win would make Mason the exception to the rule, not the rule itself. The rule being that not all goalies will take their team to win the Stanley Cup at age 20.

I have theories like the lovely people over at the blog Brodeur is a Fraud (see to your left) that it takes more than a good goalie to win games but those can wait. I think like this article pointed out, that Price is going through a serious confidence crisis right now. Just like the rest of the team is. The problem with being the goalie is you're always going to be the one who people look to at the end of the day when things go right or wrong. That's just part of the job and Price is going to have to learn how to deal with the pressure and the awful stuff when things go wrong. Was he awful in that game against Edmonton? Well, yes. But was his team backing him up? Not so much, no.

For a team to be successful it is indeed important to have good goaltending. But it’s just as important for a team to play well, as a team. Teamwork means every single guy has to work hard out there to win. Yeah, a goalie can steal a win for his team but there’s something seriously wrong if people both on and off the team expect the goalie to steal every game. It just won’t happen.

And finally. The latest argument that Price needs to go is that according to a bunch of pictures that surfaced on the net from last year, he spent his post-playoff vacation drinking and smoking and whatever else it was too. I haven’t actually seen those pictures and I don’t really care to either. What he does with his life is not really my business and I don’t care to make it my business either. I’m sure he’s not the first player to do something like that and I’m sure he won’t be the last. My issues with him are what he does or doesn’t do. Right now he’s playing like a guy who has lost all confidence in himself and maybe even in his team. This bad, bad, bad, bad. He needs to work on his own issues and start trusting in his team to back him up. And said team should start giving their goalies a reason to believe that they will actually back them up. And we need to stop treating him badly just because he’s going through a rough time of it.

I don’t believe for a second that Gainey will keep Price on this team if he doesn’t think he can handle it. Then again, I don’t believe for a second that Gainey is going to use this one little strip of bad playing as the basis for his entire judgment. What’s important now is for Price to get out of this crisis and for the fans to stop being so damn fickle when it comes to the player’s performance over a few games.

What would all this people be saying if Price got traded to Nashville and the next thing we all hear, he's leading the league in everything? Exactly. His contract is up next year so we'll see what's going to happen at that time. Until then, stop griping.


David Hutchison said...

Great to find another person blogging about goalies. I've linked to you in today's news section at the Goalie Blog inGoalMAg.com

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