Monday, September 10, 2007

Halak of respect?

Apart form the growing buzz of Habs fans singing Price, Price, Price, all of the newspapers and Habs blogs these days are talking up the former first rounder. One of, if not my favourite, Habs blog (eyesontheprize) guarantees, with a bit of bravado, that Carey Price will start the season in Montreal. Why? Well the Calder Cup run proved he has nothing to learn in the AHL of course.

I was as thrilled as anyone when the Bulldogs won the Calder Cup, but the resulting hype surrounding Carey Price has been ridiculous. The guy won the Calder Cup and the playoff MVP with his stellar play. All this in addition to his eye-catching play at the 2006 WJC.

Both fine achievements. No doubt.

Before we hand Carey the keys to the Bell Centre, maybe it’s worth considering what he did the other 80 games of his season (and prior to last year)– the ones with his team, the Tri-city Americans:

1) Carey Price compiled decent stats with 2.45 GAA (7th) and .917 S% (3rd), the two players that beat him out in save % – Leland Irving in both categories (1.86, .929), Taylor Dakers (2.16, .919) – show that he probably wasn’t the top goalie over the WHL season. Tyson Sexsmith, who beat Carey in GAA (with 1.79) also won the Memorial Cup with his Vancouver Giants.

It’s worth noting that none of the three is slated to play in the NHL for certain this year.

2) Carey’s heroics didn’t pay off for his team last season. They finished 4th in the league, but were eliminated in the first round of the WHL playoffs. Carey Price did best again in save %, good enough for 7th in the WHL playoffs. Both Dakers and Sexsmith bested him again

3) His stats from the year before suggest that he was never the top WHL goalie (2.87 GAA and .906 save %), which made him look like an average to below average WHL goalie. And another first round elimination with a sub-900 save % in the playoffs, didn’t exactly point to big-game pedigree at the time.

What these stats show me is that Carey is very much a can-miss prospect. Let’s face it Team Canada goalies always look good. I mean we don’t think Pogge will be a star do we? And the Hamilton Cup run shows real improvement from Carey, especially following the disappointing elimination of his own team (which consequently freed him up to play for the Bulldogs).

The foolhardiness of proclaiming him an NHLer already belies a skewed perspective, one with blinders to the majority of his form last year.

It also belittles the accomplishments of our other prospect goalie: Jaroslav Halak. He who led the AHL in most statistics for the entire season. He who faced NHL shooters and won his games under pressure. And were it not for a hugely complimentary call-up to his country’s senior national team, he may have taken his NHL-enhanced confidence to the Calder Cup as well. Halak, who was purported in the same article, to have a lot left to learn in the AHL, actually has a claim to having done all he can down there as well in my eyes – perhaps even a better one than Carey Price.

Don't get me wrong though. I very much support the idea of Carey Price in Montreal, even to start. But I would like him to earn that job. I think Gainey is probably on the same page as me here. In fact, I'll make a guarantee of my own:

Carey Price will not start the season in Montreal if Halak and Huet outplay him in training camp.

It would not be a waste for him to play in Hamilton by any means as suggested by eyesontheprize, simply because he could benefit from learning how to put together 60 games in a season. Even Carey Price knows that, he's said as much on more than one occasion.


  1. As I posted on a comment in that other blog, I have a tough time envisioning him with the big team unless he has an incredible camp. Huet needs to play for trade value purposes if nothing else and because he's earned it. If they keep Price, whoever is the other guy won't get much work. If they keep Huet and Halak, they can split the chores fairly evenly, and Price can play almost every game with Hamilton. Unless there's a trade for Huet already in the works, but I don't think so.

  2. I don't know how "good" his team was in the WHL but you can't judge a goalie by his statistics. You need to see him play to really get a grip on how good he is.

    Shot quality is not measured.

    We'll know whether he has the goods when we actually see him with our own eyes, something that the scouts and the team's admin staff have done.

  3. I am all for reserving judgment after having seen people play, it's the right thing to do. I am truly excited about Price, but I feel some people need to cool off just a bit at the moment.

    Let's be clear though, all the goalies in the WHL play against the same teams, so while the numbers shouldn't be looked at in isolation, they can be looked at in the context of his peers' stats.

    His rankings put him in good stead for sure, but perhaps not in the "nothing left to learn in the AHL" category.

  4. You can't compare goalie stats in the same league just because they face the same shooters.

    A goalie's success weighs heavily on the defenders around him. (Shot quality, shot frequency, penalty killing, shot blocking etc)

    Leland Irving was on a team that was 54-15. A very good team.

    I understand that we should reserve judgement on Price before we see him but I won't dismiss him based on stats.

  5. Gary, I understand your point, believe me I do. I do not like citing stats in isolation.

    However, I believe the stats in this case tell me that Carey Price was not head and shoulders above everyone in the league. This is what we are suggesting right, when we say he should step right into the NHL and has nothing to learn in the WHL?

    In addition, I think the only thing unaccounted for in the statistics, if I'm honest is shot quality and rebounds. Blocked shots play no part whatsoever, as they are not shots. Penalty killing would fall under shot quality.

    And, I don't think it's unreasonable to assume that Carey Price's team (who placed 5th in the 21 team WHL) were a reasonably good team and so Carey probably faced shots of the same quality on average as his peers, with the exception of perhaps those few teams ahead of his, and those few just behind.

    Carey's save % in particular does not set him so much apart from all those around him.

  6. Very interesting report, Topham. Lots of people see this guy as the Saviour and tend to forget he's only 20 years old. However, he was ranked #16 on HockeysFuture top NHL prospects in march 2007, and that was before the Calder Cup run. So I guess he really has a chance to make the team and make a difference in Montreal.