On Saturday evening, after the Canadiens (and Carey's) latest loss, Allan Walsh (non other than Jaroslav Halak's agent) took to the bandwidth and typed in some slightly erroneous statistics that he thought were particularly relevant at the time:
"Interesting stat of the night....Price is 10W, 32L in last 42 starts. Hmm."
While everyone else was watching the game and promptly settling in for a night-long sulk, certain astute members of the Habs internet brigade were reading all things Allan Walsh and caught the tweet. Amazingly, someone at HNIC picked up the story (proving once and for all that there is at least one Habs fan at the CBC) and made fodder of it. I won't recount the whole tale (you can read it at AllHabs, or FanHouse).
Walsh out of step
My first reaction to the story was: Allan Walsh, what a twit. And I had a good laugh about all the wolves he unwittingly (it seems) unleashed on himself. If he thought Montreal and LA were roughly equivalents in hockey, he now knows better.
My second instinct, and really the reason for launching the blog up, was that for all the reaction, over-reaction and rehash of the over-reaction to the tweet, people seem to have missed the point:
Walsh is well and truly out of step here.
Because for the first time since his client has been with the Montreal organization, he is getting a chance to go to battle for that starter's role. I'm not sure whether it's the new coach or just the fact that Gainey's 7-year time here requires some results, but we are now starting to see a more rational approach to choosing goaltenders for games.
As a fervent Halak booster, I have come to the point I wished to reach when I began all this talk of injustice 18 months ago – the point where Halak and Price are being measured by the same scale. And while there are still little niggles here and there, I certainly don't think either goalie can complain of gross injustice with regard to ice time thus far. Both have had ample chance to seize the starting position for their own, and it seems both will get that chance again as it remains up for contention.
No, Walsh has his timing way off with his comment.
I could see his gripe being published last season when Halak and Price might have both benefited from being on even footing, yet Price received 24/36 starts prior to getting injured and 25/37 despite questionable form after he twisted his ankle.
Had the criticism on Twitter come in April, it would have at least had basis. But now that's water under the bridge. Price has been questioned and challenged by his coaches and managers, and starts are flowing, for the most part on merit. But I guess, Walsh realised that he'd get more mileage out of the stats that harp back to that cruel February.
Holier than thou
Some people like Kelly Hrudey, for example, came into the fray late, and took the holier than thou approach. I can see where they are coming from about the professionalism of Allan Walsh, but as for the rest of their over-reacting?
“It makes me sick. I hate it and I’ll tell you why. I have no problem with an agent sticking up for his client and telling management and whomever that this is what I think about my guy, the team and the direction and all that, but to make that public really annoys me."
They say this as if criticising and judging players is a level they would never stoop to. And at the same time, that if anyone should stoop so low, well then it should be solely the domain of the media.
Kelly Hrudey should take a serious look at the organization that he works for if his ethics can be so offended by an agent making stats public. Last time I checked, the great institution called Hockey Night in Canada still had a certain Don Cherry in their employ, who week in, week out makes decrees that spread further and wider than any Allan Walsh twitter post could. What's more, rather than sticking to the facts, Don simply relies on his own prejudices to write whole swathes of players off at once.
Habs fans: we need to look at ourselves
This incident is just one more indication of how we're taking this hockey thing too far. This is not the first time a controversial post has been made on twitter, nor is this one that important in the scheme of things.
One only needs to look at the coverage the Canadiens fans have given this – starting with the originator of this story at AllHabs (then followed by others, including Dave Stubbs with his back way up) – vs. the coverage from non-Montreal sources like Adam Gretz.
You see, while we all get fully embroiled in the rights and wrongs of this whole matter (I'm not excluding myself here, though I am trying to change day-by-day), people in other cities around the league see this for what it is – a funny incident. While we sit here wondering how this will damage the relationship between the two young goalies (because Kelly Hrudey said it would), non-Habs fans just chuckle and recognise that both Habs goalies have been less than optimal.
Think about it, if this were Toskala/Gustavsson, we'd be having a right old roll on the floor as we laugh ourselves hoarse. If Varlamov's agent pointed to Theodore's stats, we'd be lauding someone for finally noticing (why did I take Theo in my pool??).
I think, for our health and enjoyment, we need to recognise that it's a long season, that goalies will have lots of bad games, some good ones and teammates will fall out and fall back in when the winning begins in earnest. Allan Walsh won't change that – that's just the way it is.