Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Locke and Halak given their chance

Can I say it?


I like Carey Price and I like Kyle Chipchura. I think they will both be key elements for the Canadiens in the future. I think they will both be with us for a long time. And, I think they'll both win awards with our team.

However, I was happy with the news yesterday. Not because Price and Chipchura could use the time in the AHL. I don't see this move that way at all. I am happy because Halak and Locke have earned their chances to play a few games (if not more) in the NHL this year.

Jaroslav Halak had a rough start in the AHL by his standards in 2007. Apparently he was sulking. But someone must have had a good chat with him, because he has been able to turn his form around and rediscover the form that made him the best goalie in the AHL last season. His chance has been a long time coming, if you consider, he earned a chance with his play in the AHL last year. He earned a chance with his phenomenal goaltending in the NHL last March. And, he earned a chance based on his performance in training camp. Unfortunately, circumstances kept him in the minors, because on any other team he would have been backing up the starter, if not starting himself. But now, it seems, the gulf in current form is too wide to ignore, as the Habs promote the AHL's hottest goalie and demote a tepid Price.

Rather than questioning how Price could be demoted and how it will affect his psyche, we should relish the chance to see another talented goalie in action for a while. Besides, Price (if he even plays down there) will have to show he can pull out of a sulk himself and also show the ability to dominate in the AHL like last spring.

Corey Locke's story is even better than Halak's. As a junior scoring champ, everyone passed over him because he was too small. He probably asked what more he could have done. He might also have asked whether anyone had ever seen what small players were doing in the league. The Canadiens chanced a third round pick on him (I was very pleased) and since junior has been in the AHL. His career in Hamilton has been a relative success, and he has seen many of his (bigger) teammates make the leap to the NHL while he waited patiently.

Last spring, he upped the ante as he led the Hamilton Bulldogs (with Carey Price) to a Calder Cup – 22 points in 22 games, including 10 goals. He, however, had a higher hill to climb than Halak with Koivu and Plekanec ahead of him and the invisible wall keeping the next small forward off the Habs. As we know, he got his chance, but the airline messed it up for him. So, it's nice to see him get another, especially after he put together his best games following that debacle over the holidays.

Why Chipchura?

While the timing of the moves make it look like Chipchura's place goes to Locke, I don't think that is the case. If anything, the choice of Chipchura has more to do with the imminent return of Smolinski and Begin than anything else. Those two cannot be demoted, and are not expendable yet. As such, Corey Locke will have to outplay Maxim Lapierre in the next few days if he thinks he's going to turn this call-up into anything permanent.

So, all in all, it's great to see these two prospects up. It's what this depth thing we keep hearing is all about. Chipchura and Price will be fine and they'll be back. We know that because we drafted them for their competitive edge and their character. Locke and Halak may take their chance or not, but at least they got it.

The positive message this send to Hamilton cannot be underestimated...

Play well = NHL.

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