Bob Gainey shocked the hockey world at the 2005 Amateur Entry Draft when he selected with the fifth pick overall, Carey Price, a young goaltender from western Canada. What was he thinking when the team was set in net for years to come with local hero Jose Theodore? We can still hear the so-called experts laughing at Gainey claiming loud and clear to whomever would listen that Gainey should have picked Gilbert Brule!
Since then, Price was awarded the Del Wilson Trophy as the WHL goaltender of the year and was named to the WHL First All-Star Team, while being named CHL Goaltender of the Year in his final season with Tri-City. That year, he not only led Team Canada junior to the gold medal, but he was also named the best goalie and tournament MVP, stomping the Americans in an exciting shootout finals. He finished that season with the Hamilton Bulldogs, making his professional debuts and what an impact he had on the Baby-Habs! Price went on to lead the Bulldogs to a 15–6 playoff record and the 2007 Calder Cup championship, posting an impressive 2.06 GAA and .936 Sv%. In his first game of the Calder Cup finals, he stopped all 46 shots to post a shutout. He was awarded the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the Calder Cup playoffs MVP award, making him the youngest player ever to receive this honour. Furthermore, Price is the only goaltender in hockey history to be named CHL Goaltender of the Year, World Junior Championship’s tournament MVP and win the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy all in the same year. He is also the only goaltender in hockey history to win the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy the same year as playing junior.
And we all know his roller-coaster ride since joining the NHL, the so-called preferential treatment he has received when Gainey traded away fan favourite Cristobal Huet. Some members of the media loved to make of Price the anti-Christ, the sinner of all sinners, going to great lengths in revealing stories (true or untrue) on his personal life, taking too many fans in their tsunami of off-ice stories. With those stories came the resurgence of another good young goalie in the organisation, Jaroslav Halak who, in many people’s opinion, should be the goaltender of the future. What seemed like a majority of fans and media called for Price’s head, swearing that Halak had to be the goaltender of the future in Montreal, and that the Canadiens had to trade the cancer that Carey Price was on and off the ice, questioning his mental toughness, his work ethics and his maturity.
We know the rest. In June 2010, Pierre Gauthier announced that he had traded Halak for Lars Eller and Ian Schultz, clearing ways for Carey Price. When he signed Alex Auld to free agency, it became clear that the net would be Price’s for this season. This was a huge gamble by the Canadiens’ GM but one that he would not regret.
So far this season, Price has proven to the hockey world that they were wrong in laughing at Bob Gainey for drafting him so high, and to the fans and media that they too, were wrong in blaming Gauthier for trading Halak in favour of him. With a second berth to the NHL All-Star game, Price finds himself amongst the best goaltenders in the entire NHL this season:
- Tied for first in wins with Roberto Luongo, whose Canucks have 20 more points than the Habs
- Tied for first in games played, second in shots against and saves.
- He is 6th in the NHL in saves percentage and 8th in GAA
- His 8 shutouts place him 3rd in the league, one behind Tim Thomas
Price won every portion of the Molson Cup but one this season, and was the undisputed MVP. One has to wonder where the Canadiens would be had Price not been this dominant, on a team ranked 24th out of 30 in goals for per game.
And what if Gauthier had given up on Price and kept Halak? The thought is enough to make many like yours truly nauseous…