The Curse of St. Patrick
“I remember when I started my first game for Montreal," Roy said. "I said not to be Jacques Plante, or Ken Dryden, or Georges Vezina, but be Patrick Roy. Jocelyn Thibault can't be Patrick Roy. He has to be Jocelyn Thibault,” stated Patrick Roy one day after “Le Trade,” which sent Roy and team captain Mike Keane to Colorado for goalie Jocelyn Thibault and forwards Andrei Kovalenko and Martin Rucinsky in December 1995. Approximately fifteen years later, Montreal is once again faced with a goaltender situation that is less than pleasant, but who’s to blame? Is it the goaltenders themselves? What about the team’s management and front office? Or is it the fans?
With Carey Price’s less than stellar performance in his first two starts of the 2010-2011 NHL Pre-season, allowing 4 goals on 9 shots in the first game and allowing 6 goals on 30 shots in his second start, the Montreal fans and media have not been afraid of voicing their disappointment with the young goaltender’s performance. Carey Price is 23 years old and is entering his 4th season as a member of Les Habitants. In 2007, only three years ago, Carey Price led Team Canada to its third consecutive gold medal at the World Junior Championships, even earning tournament MVP honors. That wasn’t the only honor that Carey Price has received in his young career so far, his other honors include:
· WHL West First All-Star Team in 2007.
· Won the Del Wilson Trophy (WHL Top Goaltender) in 2007.
· Won the CHL Goaltender of the Year Award in 2007.
· Won the Calder Cup with the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2007.
· Won the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy (Calder Cup MVP) in 2007.
· NHL Rookie of the Month in March 2008.
· NHL All-Rookie Team in 2008.
· NHL All-Star Game in 2009 (starter)
· NHL YoungStars Game in 2009
Quite an impressive resume for a 23 year old that has yet to start more than 52 games in a season, but still cannot shake the Bronx cheers and jeers that have haunted him throughout his short career in Montreal. Alright, so Price’s problem doesn’t seem to be a result of poor pedigree, so let’s look at his stats in comparison to other goaltenders in the league.
42 GP: 24 W, 12L, 3OT
55GP: 28W, 19L, 6OT
49 GP: 23, 16L, 10OT
76GP: 45W, 24L, 5OT
39 GP: 13, 20L, 5OT
31GP: 17W, 9L, 2OT
So what was the point of these statistics, you ask? To show that although Price may have regressed from his rookie season, he still improved from 2008-2009 during the next season, even though his win-loss total doesn’t reflect that. So if a goaltender gets better from one year to the next, but ends up losing more games, is that on the goaltender, or the team/management? What we see is that in comparison to 3 other goaltenders, one of which has won the Vezina, while another made it to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals with a worse regular season performance, is that Price’s statistics show the development of a solid goaltender who has similar, if not better statistics than some of the more successful goalies in the game.
Okay, so its not his pedigree and it doesn’t appear to be regressing play, so what is the problem? The Curse of St. Patrick. Since 1995, when the Montreal Canadians traded away future Hall of Famer, 4-time Stanley Cup Champion, and 3-time Conn Smythe winner to the Colorado Avalanche, it wasn’t because Roy’s overall play was regressing, but because the expectations held by the Montreal faithful far exceeded reality. Goaltenders have bad games and sometime have bad games on consecutive nights. It’s a fact of hockey. As with quarterbacks in football, the psyche of a goaltender is largely dependent on the confidence of that individual, and constant attacks on that person’s ego will not help anything. Once Roy was no longer playing under the watchful eyes of the Montreal fans, he started to regain his confidence and led the Avalanche to the Stanley Cup in that same year, once again winning the Conn Smythe. Clearly, Patrick Roy’s play in Montreal had less to do with a regression in talent, but was the result of the constant hounding from the fanbase and media. The Montreal faithful booed one of the best goaltenders in the history of the NHL, right of the ice, and it would come back to haunt them.
Since the departure of Roy from Montreal, the team has lacked a franchise goaltender until the emergence of a 21-year-old Carey Price. Before he had even played the majority of games in a season, he had already been baptized as the next Ken Dryden or Patrick Roy by the fans and media. Its beginning to look as if they were half right, as it seems like Price will meet a fate more similar to Patrick Roy, than that of Dryden. The situation was only exacerbated by the breakout play of Jaroslav Halak during the 2009-2010 season and especially during the 2010 playoffs. Simply put, the fans, the media, and the organization are all to blame for the current goaltender situation that they face. Price has only started 2 games this season, but has already heard a season’s worth of boos, but what good does that do to anyone, especially Price. First, the organization is at blame, for not surrounding their “franchise goaltender” with the proper talent to help that goaltender out. Second, media and fans are to blame for attempting to run Price out of town, before he’s even old enough to rent a car in most states. Every miscue or puck that gets by is immediately blamed on the play of the young goaltender, but it’s hard to imagine that Price is content in his current situation, as he can do no right. If he gets booed after every goal he allows, he will have no confidence by opening night and that will only leave the situation worse than it started. As the saying goes, history repeats itself. 15 years ago, Patrick Roy gave up 4 goals on 16 shots and was traded the next day after being booed off the ice and now Carey Price is consistently facing the same pressure, but will it have the same result? If Montreal Canadien fans want to see Carey Price succeed as a goaltender and become the franchise goaltender that so many hope he will become, then my suggestion, as an outside observer, is to support your goaltender, through bad times and good, give him the confidence that he can do it. Here’s my challenge to the city of Montreal, its media and its fanbase: Give Carey Price one year of support, instead of the usual harassment that he currently receives night in and night out and see if his play improves? If it does, then its on you, otherwise, your gripe with the play of Carey Price might be well-founded.