My career is a burden, but I can’t just fade out like a pathetic sore loser. More often than not, I’m just making a fool of myself for the hundredth time, and that wasn’t part of the plan, initially. I’d be happier not having any kind of public presence whatsoever and just hiding behind the sleeves of the CD. ~ American multi-instrumentalist Ariel Pink
Such is life. We go through ups and downs our entire life and the best find a way to stay at the top the longest, with fewer dips in between. Montreal Canadiens’ goaltender Carey Price has had an amazing career thus far, one which peaked in the 2014-2015 season when he swept the hardware at the NHL Awards. The then 27 year-old goaltender earned four major Awards that year. And it wasn’t even close. Price received 139 first place votes for the Hart Memorial Trophy to Alexander Ovechkin‘s eight! Price also received the Ted Lindsay Award, the Vezina Trophy and the William Jennings Trophy and was named to the NHL’s First All-Star Team. A 1.96 goals against average and a .933 saves percentage will do wonders to a goaltender. The following season, he only played 12 games before missing the rest of the season due to an injury.
In July 2017, with a year left to his existing contract, Price put his name at the bottom of an eight-year, $84 million contract, making him by far the highest paid goaltender in the world. But with money come expectations… If you’re paid the best, you better perform as one of the best and up until a couple of years ago, he was able to play up to his status through ups and downs. While Price had his issues when Shea Weber was injured, he played much better with Man Mountain in the line-up.
Price’s struggles really started a couple of years ago. In 2017-18, he finished the year with an un-Price-like 3.11 GAA and a below average .900 saves percentage. He bounced back last season but he is back having a hard time again this season. He currently sits 23rd amongst starters with a 3.01 GAA and 22nd with a .902 saves percentage. Some people will try to explain his numbers by downplaying the team and defensemen in front of him but when one looks further than the Canadiens’ own backyard, they will notice that goaltenders in comparable and worse teams have better numbers that the one once catalogued the best goaltender in the world.
This production drop is not without worrying many people around the Canadiens, as he is only in the second year of his $10.5 million cap hit contract. To make matters worse, Price’s performances are affecting his wins totals. With only 16 wins to show for in 35 games, Price should have more wins than that considering that of the goaltenders mentioned above, only Lehner (3.13 G/GP) has a better goals’ support than the Habs’ netminder (3.06).
While Price’s spot in the line-up certainly isn’t in jeopardy, everyone – himself included – is taking notice of another young goaltender in the organisation slowly but surely making a push for his job. When selected in the seventh round of the 2017 NHL Draft, Cayden Primeau was a very long shot to ever play a game in the NHL. But since then, his progression has made of him one of the NHL’s top prospect goaltenders. While ideally, Primeau would spend a season or two in the AHL with the Laval Rockets, the 20 year-old son of former NHL center Keith Primeau has already played a couple of games with the Habs and has looked quite good, earning his first NHL win on December 11th against the Ottawa Senators.
Some people will say that Primeau is too young to make the jump to the NHL immediately but they should be reminded that Patrick Roy was considered long shots to make it to the NHL when he was drafted. Yet, he had an impact in his very first season in 1985-86 as a 20 year-old. Price did the same but he was a high first round pick. Regardless, good goaltenders can play at this level, though like with any young players, there are growing pains to be expected.
Ultimately, the Canadiens won’t go anywhere without Price playing as a top-10 goaltender. In a salary cap era, they won’t be able to sign everyone they need to in order to make them a contender, if he doesn’t live up to his contract. That’s a fact.
While I know that some will see this as yet another Price hater spilling his venom on a poor innocent player but if that’s what they’re thinking, they could not be more wrong. I have been a huge Carey Price supporter (and still am) ever since the Canadiens drafted him fifth overall back in 2005. I went to watch him play in Kelowna, B.C., and stuck with him when he was going through his off-ice issues and throughout the whole Price vs Halak debate.
To this day, he is one of my favourite players on the Habs and I think that he’s an outstanding individual. I admire his demeanor, his professionalism, his dedication to first nations and what he stands for as a man, even as a player. But that doesn’t mean that I cannot see the trend he’s finding himself in. Here’s hoping, for the best of everyone, that he finds his mojo as this isn’t the first time he’s lost it. Otherwise Seattle, home town of Price’s wife Angela, might come knocking at the expansion draft. Go Habs Go!