It's not as impossible as Kovalchuk turning down 110, .. what?
Quite surprising that we'll be inserting a plan the parade tag to this post. But last night's win got us thinking about another kind of parade. La fête, eastern Europe style.
Vibe with me people.
Isn't Jaro Halak's performance starting to feel like Jose Théodore's back in his Hart winning 2002 season? Remember when he started really getting his game together at the 50-game mark and brought home one 45-stop win after another? That year, the race for the Hart trophy was a close one, with Jarome Iginla's Flames missing the playoffs and probably depriving their star of well deserved MVP status in the process. This year, it's really no contest. Ovechkin with that newly minted C on his chest is helping the Capitals runaway with the Conference. Unless Ryan Miller takes the Sabres there or bags another 5 or 6 shutouts by year's end, Ovie will claim the Hart.
But Jaro is doing a fabulous job. Last night, with the Bruins outshooting the Habs by a wide margin for 2 periods, skating them to sleep and looking very much like a team that was ready to break out of a historical funk (didn't we tell you guys about Michael Ryder?), Jaro kept the Habs within striking distance with some inspiring goaltending. He's officially in the zone, as the acrobatic blocker and toe saves would suggest. Gomez had a bit of spark in him in the third and so did Metro and Markov, but make no mistake: Jaro won this game pretty much all by himself. And he's writing an increasingly interesting subplot.
Something has happened to the Habs' ability to keep the opposing team to an acceptable number of shots. And we're not just talking plain shots, we're talking decent scoring chances. With a defence corps and a depleted lineup at the forward position clearly scrambling for some kind of structure on the ice, Jaro remains square to the puck, unfazed, totally together.
What does Gainey do? Does he trade his MVP with a team clearly still in the playoff hunt? Does he stick to his Carey is my big horse of a thoroughbred stallion, look how well he chews hay I love how he gallops logic? Two years ago, he handed mission control to Price with Huet's UFA status looming large. Well we're back at Mission Control and Gainey's got a small problem. He's been praising Price for years.
I was speaking to someone not too long ago who was discussing the concept of potential. She used lawyers as a good example of the trouble that arises when one remains stuck on the promise of potential. Society has been branding lawyers as an elite group, monetarily speaking, well capable of reaching important financial heights. And so people keep on selling lawyers their potential rather than what they actually have. The result is that lawyers live more over their means than any other category of workers. And they are hurt by it in the process.
If you import this logic, there is no doubt the Canadiens' prestige drives them to think in similar terms, that in Montreal, we need to do well, we are capable of far more because of who we are and what our franchise stands for. Everything this organization has done with regards to Price speaks of a team desperate to see something in the goalie and in itself. And lost in that projection of mystique is the blunt reality of things: on its face, there is nothing mystical about the Montreal Canadiens in 2009-2010. It's an average hockey team blessed with a very passionate fan base, and it has been a very average team for a very long time.
This franchise has been almost fraudulent for 3 years now. Selling us anything that can be made in Small Medium and Large with the 100 Years logo on it, while giving us mediocrity to feed on in the now. Selling the past while shortchanging us in the present. Why can't the Montreal Canadiens just call it the way it is?
Carey Price is not a thoroughbred. He's a young goalie with a ton of upside who's just adjusting to a life in the spotlight while playing hockey in the league's most capricious and voracious market.
How much is riding on Carey from an organizational credibility perspective? Picked 5th overall, way higher than anyone had predicted. Given the number one status way before anyone thought he could handle it. Constantly re-endoresed by management despite so many flat performances. And it makes sense, no argument there. Stand behind him. Believe in him. Get him to where he needs to go. But Montreal has to stop throwing the rest of the team under the bus in a grand sacrifice for Carey's anointment to something nobody can be sure about.
You keep on trading away your "backup" to keep the "Carey is our future" banner flying high, and you're just guilty of wanting too much, too soon. You're paying Scott Gomez 8 million a season now so better make the most of it now and get the best team on the ice now. Selling promise over reality and over-stretching a team in goal, a crucial position, just perpetuates this need to see something now that's just not ready to be there.
What they have now gives them a chance for today, and maybe tomorrow if the team dare look beyond next season and what that could mean about their self-assessed Price chart. How much better does this team, those other 20 players, get in the future if they ride a hot streak with Jaro and do something in the playoffs? Why has it been about how much experience you need to give Carey no matter how much it deflates the rest of the team? There must be room for this logic: a more confident team will only alleviate the pressure on Price in the future. The way the team has orchestrated things so far is making it up to the young goalie to lift the entire weight of the franchise. How much easier would it be if they had it going in the other direction.
And this speaks so much to how Jaro has been treated by this organization. Did Jacques Martin fly over to Jaro's house this summer to have a quality chat with his young goalie? Has Jaro ever played a game following a loss in his THREE YEARS in Montreal (can you believe that???)?
Would you want to commit to this team if you were Jaroslav Halak? So at least make it interesting, Gainey. See what you've got before he goes, because you're not going to resign him and by all accounts he's in a much better position to deliver something special this year than your young stallion. Make it interesting. Keep him, give your team a fighting chance, give the goalie what he's earned. He's your number one, he's done what it takes to get there. Maybe the best way to assess his true worth is by keeping him and risk losing him. If he does well, really well, you may not need to buy into the Price perspective. You may see yourself suddenly detaching from it. If he does well, really well, then at least you'll be in a better position than anyone to apologize and make it up to him. Take him for one of those celebrated walks around Old Montreal.