Habs’ Success Comes At A Price


Remember the days when goaltending was winning Stanley Cups in Montreal? Back when Jacques Plante was the back bone of the team in the 60’s? Or when Ken Dryden, although playing behind a pretty darn good defense, was stellar and could be counted on as a key player in the 70’s? Perhaps you haven’t had the fortune to watch those guys, but you were born to see Patrick Roy work miracles in the late 80’s and early 90’s? No? Then you had to be alive when Carey Price earned just about every hardware available in the NHL back in 2015, right?

Truth be told, goaltending is a key position and has been on this team for as long as its glorious history goes back. Team General Manager Marc Bergevin knew that he had a special player in his hands in Price and he didn’t hesitate to make him the richest goaltender of all-time with an shiny eight-year, $84 million contact which kicks in this season. Unfortunately for Bergevin, his star goaltender is losing his mojo and when you invest so much into one player, you are fully entitled to expect him to be the best player on your team. No ifs and buts about it.

After signing that lucrative contract over a year ago, Price was not only below average last season, he was amongst the worst starting goaltenders in the entire NHL statistically speaking. A lot was explained due to an under-performing group, particularly the defensive corp in front of him but to Price’s own admission, he can do much better.

Bergevin has invested a lot of money on Carey Price

After the season, Bergevin spoke about the “attitude” in the dressing room having to change. His comment wasn’t clear back then but it certainly got clearer during the summer months when he traded Alex Galchenyuk, a talented goals’ scorer also known for taking shifts and nights off. And it then became crystal clear when rumours got rampant about captain Max Pacioretty being on the block, leading to his departure for Las Vegas a few weeks ago. Anyone will tell you that Pacioretty looked disinterested last season, and he gave up on his team, at least effort-wise. Connor McDavid was playing on a bad team and he never took a shift off. That’s the attitude Bergevin was referring to.

We folks, Price also gave up on his team. Like Pacioretty, his body language and effort-level clearly showed his disinterest. His second and third effort that we were accustomed to seeing since the arrival of goaltending coach Stéphane Waite, they were gone and were replaced by the old habits of ‘going through the motions’.

Hybrid vs Butterfly

I’ve been following the career of Carey Price since the Canadiens drafted him back in 2005 and I was fortunate to live in Western Canada, home of the WHL and the Tri-City Americans, where Price played his junior years. I’ve loved and supported the guy since then and I became rather angry at Roland Melanson who tried changing Price’s style to a pure butterfly, almost ruining him in my opinion. You see, back in junior, Price was mix between what we call the hybrid style (Martin Brodeur) and the butterfly style (Patrick Roy) and Melanson only knew the later, so he started messing up with Price’s natural style, what made him the goalie that he was. This lead to Price’s struggles in the early going of his career. The truth is to be successful in the NHL, you have to make slight adjustments to a goalie’s style, not start from scratch. As soon as  you start thinking too much instead of relying on instincts, the puck is behind you as a goalie.

Bergevin hired someone in Waite who can work with many styles, someone who will teach mental preparation, raise the ‘compete level’ and fix minor bad habits. While the NHL thought they had found ‘the book’ on Price by scoring high, glove side, Waite also fixed that at the time. Under Waite, Price returned to being his old self, a mix of hybrid and butterfly. He stood on shots coming from far with no traffic in front. He went to a butterfly when there was traffic in front to cover most of the net. He was fighting for every puck. He was getting in his opponents’ head.

Price needs to refocus and listen to Waite

Last year though, for whatever reason, we noticed Price reverting to his Melanson style. Beat up glove side more often than not, compete level non-existant (for the most part), a real change in attitude and it lead to the dismal season we saw from him. It’s like he stopped listening to Waite, or he didn’t care anymore. I would be willing to bet that he was one of the athletes on the team Bergevin was pointing the finger to with the ‘attitude’ comment and that the goalie and the GM had a heart-to-heart before summer. The Canadiens invested too much money in him for Price to drop the ball on them like that and it was made clear.

Unfortunately for the team and for the fans, I’m noticing the same style in this pre-season and that folks, doesn’t look good. It’s a bad vibe. He is on his knees on every shot again, no matter where it comes from. He’s getting beat high, glove side too often. His lateral movement is slow and his compete level… well… non-existant. True that he doesn’t have Calgary’s defense ahead of him, or Nashville’s, or San Jose’s, but he’s certainly supposed to be superior to Mike Smith, Pekka Rinne and Martin Jones too. And he’s getting paid accordingly!

Price has been vastly outplayed by Antti Niemi so far, and seems to be battling more to the level of Charlie Lindgren for the backup spot. I’m talking performances here folks. There’s no way Price isn’t the starter in Montreal. He is very much capable to returning to form. But he’s certainly raising red flags for yours truly. The team in front of him is hard working team and they need their best player to join the ranks because right now, we’re far from Plante, Dryden or Roy’s calibre of play. Go Habs Go!


Max Pacioretty: What Have We Learned?


Hockey is a business, particularly since the implementation of the hard salary cap. This may sound like a cliche but it doesn’t make it any less the truth. Today’s teams have to not only manage their assets, but they now have to manage their payroll and that, not only for the season to come, but by having a plan for years ahead. And every year, teams have to make difficult decisions on player-personnel based on money, trying to balance icing a good team and keeping within the mid to long term financial plan. And that’s a situation not unique to Montreal.

But when it does happens in Montreal, things seem to take a life of its own, particularly when you have a group of reporters and fans who appear to have an axe to grind for the team’s General Manager, Marc Bergevin. He gives canned answers, he gets blamed. He comes up with lines like “If you want loyalty, get a dog”, he gets blamed. He makes a trade, he gets blamed. He doesn’t, he also gets blamed. He signs someone, he gets blamed and you guessed it, he doesn’t offer someone a contract, the same people point the finger at him. Oh I know, it comes with the job but folks, knowledgeable hockey people see right though that behaviour.

So much has been said, written, that this contract, non-contract or trade talks about Max Pacioretty is getting old in a hurry. Let’s try to not take sides for a second here. What actually happened out there? Here’s what’s been reported so far…

Trade Deadline 2018

Since the rumours started before the trade deadline last season, Pacioretty has been adamant: he loves Montreal and says wanting to play in Montreal. Even if we had doubts, who are we to go against what the player himself says?

On February 24th, Nick Kypreos reports that the Los Angeles Kings were pushing hard to get Pacioretty.

“We believe the Montreal Canadiens have asked for guys like Tanner Pearson or Tyler Toffoli,” he said. “I’m not sure if that gets it done, but at least a first-round pick would be out there involved, and perhaps L.A.’s first pick last season – 11th overall, Gabe Vilardi — is out there as well. Perhaps he might be the piece that gets the deal done.”

In the same article, Elliott Friedman stated that there was a “belief” that Pacioretty had asked to be traded.

As we know, nothing happened at the trade deadline. No offers were good enough to convince Bergevin to give up his captain and best goals’ scorer. As Joe Sakic did with Matt Duchene, Bergevin preferred keeping his asset than giving him away.

NHL Draft

Now jump to June, at the Draft. Talks have been ongoing, with multiple reports that Bergevin was the most active GM out there, trying to wheel and deal. According to some reports, he didn’t have one, but two deals in place for Pacioretty that weekend.

According to Sportsnet’s Eric Engels, there was a 3-way deal in place between the Habs, the Sabres and the Islanders, which would have seen Pacioretty head to New York (and help convince John Tavares to re-sign), and Ryan O’Reilly pivoting a line with the Canadiens. But when Islanders’ GM Lou Lamoriello saw who was available with the 11th and 12th picks at the draft (Oliver Wahlstrom and Noah Dobson), he pulled out of the deal, as one of those picks were destined to Buffalo. We know the rest, Tavares ended up signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

We have also learned that the Kings did indeed have a deal in place with the Canadiens for Pacioretty, information recently confirmed by the Canadiens’ captain’s agent himself (see below). Whether the player(s) involved were what Kypreos advanced at the deadline or not, that we don’t know, but it’s been reported that the reason why the deal fell through is Pacioretty’s unwillingness to sign a contract extension estimated at $36 million for six years, according to Tony Marinaro at TSN690. Further, according to Pat Hickey of The Gazette, there was a time element involved because Los Angeles’ first-round pick (20th overall) was part of the return to Montreal. And add the following from TSN:

“The belief is that there was a deal in place with the Los Angeles Kings for Max Pacioretty, and that it didn’t get done because there wasn’t the ability to get a contract extension done,” [Bob] McKenzie told TSN Radio Montreal 690. “And obviously complicating things was that, as I understand it, the contract offer that Pacioretty got went through his agent, Pat Brisson, on Friday and by Saturday morning, Max Pacioretty had changed agents, and had gone to Allan Walsh.

He said, she said

SRC’s Martin Leclerc threw a bomb this week, quoting not one, but three rock solid sources from within the organisation stating that Pacioretty asked to be traded last year.

Allan Walsh was, as he usually is, quick at denying the rumours although did he really deny anything?

Screen Shot 2018-08-31 at 4.57.11 AM

Perhaps Walsh could have added: “at the right price”… but what is that price? And since Walsh acknowledges that the sources are coming from the Habs, can we assume that they are true? Is it possible that Pacioretty asked for a trade but would stay pending an overpayment?

At the same time, Kings’ Luc Robitaille was interviewed on 91.9 Sports radio in Montreal, confirming the talks between the Canadiens and the California team.

Robitaille basically confirmed two things: the Kings and Canadiens had serious talks about Pacioretty, and Bergevin was put in a position to trade him, something he didn’t really want to do. That would go along the lines of what Leclerc is reporting from his sources.


Pacioretty likes Montreal. He’s made that clear. But he wants major money. There are plenty of reports out there stating that Pacioretty (through Walsh) has been upset at his last contract, missing out on major money. For that reason, they’re trying to put the toothpaste back into the tube and make up for lost time. So it is my humble opinion that it would take a severe overpayment to get a deal done with Montreal.

But here’s the thing. Let’s go with the assumption that Pacioretty didn’t ask for a trade and genuinely wants to stay in Montreal… It’s clear that the Canadiens didn’t make a contract offer. Where is it stated anywhere that the Habs didn’t ask Pacioretty’s agent what his expectations were? Is it remotely possible that the demands are nowhere close to what the team is willing to offer? Is it possible that the team was given non-negotiable numbers and term?

And what if Elliott Friedman’s report from last February and Martin Leclerc’s report this week to the effect that Pacioretty did ask for a trade… why would he receive a contract offer if his desire is to leave? Is it possible that Bergevin was upset to see his captain wanting to abandon ship when it was going through tougher times? Could it be what he was referring to when talking about “attitudes” needing to change?

Now you’re the Canadiens’ GM. You have a 30 year-old player who not only wants the maximum years, but top dollars with the mentality that they had him on a club-friendly deal for the past six years. Hockey being a business, do you do it?

No matter what, it certainly looks like we have reached the point of no return with this story and it’s unfortunate, really. Having said that, don’t come and grind your axe against Bergevin or against Pacioretty here. Hockey is a business and both sides know it. Go Habs Go!