HabsWorld.net -- 

When Carey Price entered into the league a
couple of seasons ago, most fans and media were quick to praise his cool headed
play and anoint him Saint and Saviour of Les Glorieux. Now, a mere two seasons
later, most are equally swift to deem him nonchalant and not yet ready for the
burden of being a number one. Some appear to think he is simply unfit for the
starter role in the NHL. Heck, others have him going to Chicago in a trade for
Cristobal Huet!

While he certainly has had his difficulties
over the course of the last few seasons, one must be mindful that being thrust
into the spotlight at such an early age can be quite difficult. The learning
curve for a goaltender is longer than for other positions and, particularly in
Montreal, is rife with obstacles. Yet, we mustn’t lose faith just yet. Patience
is key with such a young man. With time, Price will flourish in this league,
much like Marc-André Fleury, who went through a similar learning process.

After being drafted first overall, Fleury was
propelled, yellow pads and all, into the role of number one goaltender for the
Penguins as an 18 year old. As we all know, he eventually blossomed into a
premier player in the NHL and helped lead his team to back-to-back finals and a
Stanley Cup. His first two seasons, however, were decidedly mediocre. In
2003-2004, his first year in the league, the rookie played only 21 games, going
4-14-1 and posting a .896 save percentage along with a 3.64 GAA. After playing a
season in Wilkes-Barre during the lockout, where he registered excellent
numbers, Fleury returned to the Pens in 2005-2006. Even with a year of seasoning
in the minors under his belt, he stumbled out of the gate and shuttled between
the AHL and the NHL during the first two months of the season. He would end the
year with a 13-27-7 record, a .898 save percentage and a 3.25 GAA. Furthermore,
during these first few seasons, Fleury often saw himself sharing netminding
duties with the likes of likes of Sebastian Caron, Jean-Sebastien Aubin and
Jocelyn Thibault. Average numbers, trips to the minors, shared goaltending
duties. Sound familiar? We all know Fleury continuously improved over the
subsequent seasons, but it took time and difficulty before that happened. Other
goaltenders take much longer to fully develop. Tim Thomas won his first Vezina
at the not-so-young age of 35. Dominik Hasek was 28 when he finally became a
starter for the Sabres. Niklas Backstrom of the Wild was playing in Finland
until he stormed into the league at 28 years old. Frankly, this list could go on
much longer. The point is, why do we expect Price to be outstanding in only his
third full season and at the very young age of 22 years old? Goaltenders take
time and we need to be patient. Good things come to those who wait.  


On a side note, it is interesting that Montreal
fans have not done any retrospection regarding the 2005 Draft, which was the
year Carey Price was drafted. After all, with Price was sitting out his fifth
straight game, Anze Kopitar continues to throne near the top of the scoring
leaders. The young center already has over 200 points in his career and is
currently second in league scoring, one point behind Ovechkin. He also measures
6-4 and weighs 220 pounds, so he clearly fits the billing of the elusive big
center. Yet Kopitar was drafted 11th overall in 2005, 6 spots after
Price, who was drafted 5th overall.  As stated above, it takes more
time for a goaltender to develop and one must continue to be patient. Carey
Price is hardly a bust and his potential is extremely high. Nonetheless, it is
still surprising that the issue has yet to come up in Montreal, where a big
center seems to have been coveted for more than a decade.  Clearly, when you
play in L.A, even being ahead of superstars such as Crosby, Malkin, Thornton is
not good enough to get you noticed.