Fans of the Montreal Canadiens cannot complain about this summer being boring. General Manager, Bob Gainey, a man under a constant microscope, has often been criticized by many for not doing this and not doing that.
The past couple of weeks however, have seen Gainey, in a series of moves that have been applauded by many, shape the Canadiens as they head towards their centennial festivities.
For the longest time, many in the media and in fan circles have bemoaned the Canadiens lack of toughness as seen by their lack of a quality enforcer for at least the last decade. The signing of Georges Laraque has seemingly pacified many of these critics, as Gainey has managed to sign one of the rarest species in the modern NHL, a player who can drop the gloves and take a regular shift every night.
Gainey’s ability these past few weeks to sign the team’s younger players to affordable long-term contracts has allowed the Canadiens to be able to maintain their young core without sacrificing any of their top line talent. And while some have bemoaned the losses of Michael Ryder and Mark Streit to free agency, their departures weren’t entirely unexpected or unanticipated, whereas the signings of Andrei Kostitsyn, Josh Gorges, Jaroslav Halak, and Ryan O’Byrne were considered essential by many for the Habs long-term future.
The acquisition of Alex Tanguay, which had been rumoured for a long time, brought the Canadiens a top six forward that figures to bring more punch to a second line that struggled mightily at times last year. Watching the teams developmental camp this past week also brought a glimpse of the future, no more so than in the continued evolution of Max Pacioretty, the top prospect in the organization.
Of course, the dominant story of the summer has been Gainey’s and the Canadiens continued pursuit of Mats Sundin. And while this saga has dragged out to the point that many fans profess not to care about whether the elusive Swede joins the Habs or not, there is no doubt that his presence on the Canadiens would make them a true Stanley Cup favourite.
Lost in all this hoopla, all this media and fan speculation has been the status of the man that many consider the most important player for the Montreal Canadiens, a player this past spring who carried the hopes and dreams of the Habs on his young shoulders.
Yet in the last few months his name has been conspicuously absent from any articles, editorials, and blog postings.
His name is Carey Price, and while he currently is enjoying a quiet summer in far away British Columbia, that will change this fall when he once again becomes the focus of the media and fan firestorm that is inherent in being the starting goaltender of the Montreal Canadiens.
Even with all of the recent acquisitions, there is no player more critical to the Canadiens success this upcoming year than Carey Price; such is the importance of goaltending in today’s game.
Since that day last spring that Carey Price jumped into his truck for the long trek home, there hasn’t been much heard from the jewel of the Canadiens future. There have been no features in the newspaper and no interviews on television, in fact with the exception of a few posted pictures of a Mexican trip with some of his teammates; it’s been a summer of silence from Price. In a world in which we spotlight many athletes who spend their personal lives making poor decisions, hearing nothing from a player in the off-season isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Traditionally, summer has represented a time for reflection for most players, and while this is still true, it is also a time now for the players to better themselves, both physically and mentally. Whatever Carey Price is doing this summer this fall will tell the tale, for right now all we have is questions, questions that will only be answered when the Canadiens take the ice next season.
Next year the Canadiens will be asking Price to be the unopposed man in the nets. As opposed to last year where Montreal was able to play Cristobal Huet for the majority of the team’s games in the first two-thirds of the schedule, Price will be given the puck from opening night on. After a rookie season that saw tremendous highs and steep lows, one has to wonder how Price will respond.
There were times last year, especially at the conclusion of the season where Price appeared to be tired, both mentally and physically. In many ways, the playoffs showed the good and the bad of Price, a shutout in game seven against the Bruins in the first round that led to what can best be called an inconsistent performance against the Flyers in round two.
The questions about Price and his future are still unclear this summer. Even though Gainey and the Canadiens have given the youngster their full confidence, one has to wonder if he’s up to the challenge. This fall will tell the tale, for right now all we have is questions.
The pressure on Carey Price to lead the Canadiens to the promised land this upcoming year may be even more intense then what he faced last year. This year’s team, on paper at least, looks to be the equal of, if not better than last year’s Eastern Conference regular season champions. Many in the media and in fandom have begun to build up their expectations to a level that hasn’t been seen in Montreal in many years. Throw in the spectacle of the Canadiens 100th anniversary, and the potential signing of Mats Sundin, and one has to wonder is anything less than a Stanley Cup championship will be enough to satisfy the hopes of all those around the team.