The mantra adopted by the new Canadiens management reads “No Excuses”. For franchise player Carey Price, this phrase is about to define his 2013-14 campaign. There have been a lot of excuses made on Price’s behalf as a member of the Montreal Canadiens. To be fair, Price has never made any of them, knowing full well his responsibilities between the pipes for the historic club.
But it has been the fanbase and certain factions of the media who consistently put Price on a pedestal. When things go wrong, fingers are pointed at the defence or even the officials. Legitimate fights are born based on even the simplest criticism of the Habs netminder. People seem to treat him as if he is as delicate as fine China that could be damaged by every critical tweet, article or even text message.
To be fair, there has always been a group of the Canadiens fanbase who have been overly negative about Price. Montreal is not known for being an incredibly hospitable location for goaltenders. Fans turned on even the beloved Patrick Roy. Yet at the same time there seems to be people trying to ward off negativity that is not present.
But none of that matters now. For excuses and Carey Price this is the end of the line. His performance in the 2013-14 season will be viewed as is, no circumstances will be able to shield his statistics. This is the year that Carey Price proves one of two things: either that he has been immensely overrated or that he truly is among the league’s elite goaltenders.
Price finally has a team in front of him that will lose because of him, not despite his efforts. This not only puts more pressure on him, but also gives him a platform to fully realize his goaltending potential. In a storyline that has long become cliché, the Montreal Canadiens will go as far as Carey Price can take them. His performance this season will be weighed on that factor.
Furthermore, opportunity extends past the Canadiens this year. Price is one of the selected few who will have a chance to play between the pipes for Canada at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. Canada’s goaltending position is largely considered the weak link in an otherwise almost impenetrable roster, and Price’s recent performance has contributed heavily to that perceived shortcoming. If Price had finished last season strong the position would undoubtedly be his.
Should he return to the form which placed him among the top players, not just goaltenders, in the entire NHL then Price will have a Gold Medal hanging around his neck come February. By April the Montreal Canadiens will make a legitimate case for the Stanley Cup, forcing their 2013 playoff shortcomings out of memory. Price will undoubtedly be in the conversation for Vezina Trophy and could very well win the first of his career. This is what sits on the table.
On the other end of the spectrum, should the late season breakdown in Price’s form prove to be more regularity than irregularity not much will change in Montreal. The team will find it very difficult to make the postseason and should they somehow achieve that goal they won’t be in the playoffs for long. However, it is doubtful Price will lose his job between the pipes as Budaj is not a starter and Fucale is too far removed from NHL level.
But something will be lost in Price and the team will suffer exponentially for it. Simply put, if he falters everything that the Canadiens have built essentially goes to waste. The Canadiens have plans of returning to the glory days and cannot do this without Price fully on board. Yes, he could theoretically be replaceable but probably not via trade or free agency. Worst case scenario the Canadiens have a Marc-Andre Fleury on their hands. Of course the Canadiens are no Penguins and could not compensate for this in other areas.
Everyone who has ever watched Carey Price can see that he has the talent to be something special. Considering the market in question, everyone’s first reaction is to bring up the Patrick Roy comparison. While the comparison has been annually unfair this is the season Price proves whether he resembles that calibre or not, and if he is ready to take up the torch and lead this Canadiens team to the long awaited parade down St. Catherine’s.
When fans and the media alike look back on this season they will see it as the one where Carey Price revealed his true identity, for better or for worse.
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