Friday, April 02, 2010

The Continued Booing of Carey Price

The other night after a game that Tobalev broadly described as one with lots to take from, the biggest story is that Carey Price received some boos from the fans.

In Montreal's own way, the city has found an incident that no other team would concern itself with, analyzed it and is now onto analyzing the response. In keeping with the level of "commitment", I am prompted to comment on both and then the analysis itself. Maybe we should all be committed.

The boos

Generally I am not a booer. I boo bad calls at games and Bruins goals, but save my voice for cheering. I used to boo more in my youth, and I have booed players on my own team. It's not something I want to vigorously defend. Let's just say there are a lot of things I've grown out of.

But to briefly touch on booing. The stands are a lieu of limited vocab. Nobody really sings in these terraces, so there are essentially two words to choose from: the affirmative (cheer, whistle, clap) or the negative. It's not subtle. The third is the absence of one or the other when it might have belonged – but this is subtle for drunken Molson zoners. Speaking of subtlety, you can see there isn't much. If I want to voice my displeasure over a trade of a player I thought should have stayed, how can I boo Rejean Houle? I might need to use a proxy (or I would have in those student days). If I am booing Mike Cammalleri for bad pass that leads to a goal, will anyone know I'm not booing Price, Gill, Martin?

The sledgehammer subtlety is important here as the Canadiens had just lost. I know some fans, for example, had been booing from the end of the game – every announcement reinvigorating their disappointment. The absence of cheering and some not so clever sheep made this more an issue.

The game Carey had

Carey's last two games have been good ones, two domes and a game puck from us. The fact he lost both is puzzling if you've gone down that wormhole, but all goalies play well and lose. The fans should be able to recognize a good goaltending performance in a loss by now. I would never have come up with this piece myself, but The Other Wing gets it right in message here. The team winning is supposed to be the reason we cheer, write, gripe, etc. Booing Carey after a game like Wednesday's is counterproductive. He didn't deserve intensified booing. He didn't even deserve the absence of cheers.

The season Carey is having

This is where things get muddled. We can all admit that Carey's had some bad luck over two games. What I won't do is go to Stubbs level of hyperbole and call these two games his season in a microcosm. It simply isn't. If these games were a microcosm of his season, there wouldn't have been a remaining fan to keep quiet as the 50 boo-birds carried their tune.

What we kep getting told, however, is that Carey Price has lost 25 games because the team has let him down. 20 in regulation because the team has let him down. Stubbs talks about the investigative reporting that produced yet another gem on Hockeybuzz:
"Blogger Eric Engels reported yesterday that the Canadiens have scored more than twice in only four of Price's 25 losses this season, including overtime and shootouts. So in 21 games, he needed to allow no more than a single goal for his team to win in regulation time"
It may be true, but why leave out the fact that Carey has actually only posted a save percentage over 0.900 in 7 of those games. And why also leave out that his team won two games where he was below average. His unbalanced bad luck has cost the team 5 losses this season, not 25. Two of those games took place in the past while – we've been dealing with the other three as 15 then 16 then 19 all season long.

He's been unlucky at times, that's true. But a few more wins wouldn't veil the fact that his stats show he's 28th in the league race for least goals allowed per game and that while good (well above replacement level) is not in the echelon of greatness yet with save percentage.

I guess what I'm saying here is that at least 12 of those losses are merited. Had his effort been more Herculean, the tragic references would have rung more true.
Regardless of whether us fans ever accept that, it will be important for Carey himself to realize, admit that. Fueling his notion that he is some snakebit victim of unseen proportion is as counterproductive, if not more so when you consider development and lessons, than the booing from high.

Jacques Martin's response

This whole rant was prompted by Dave Stubbs' article about Jacques Martin. I thought I'd reach the punchline sooner, but here I am.

Stubbs, wholesale believer in the snakebite theory, wanted to hear more from Jacques Martin to bash the fans than this:
"I respect the fans. They pay good dollars to be entertained and they have a right to an opinion," he replied. "As a professional athlete, or a coach, you have to work within the framework.

"Sure I'd like to see better results (for Price), as he would. At the same time, I can't say we lost the game because of him."
As Stubbs points out, it's not exactly forceful.

Rather than taking issue with the lack of expected response, I like to question why. The assumption is that Martin thinks highly of Price and recognizes him now as a convert to hard work every day in practice. It's an assumption. I'm not sure from Martin's muted support that he left that podium regretting he didn't say it Stubbs' way.

That may have been counterproductive too. Maybe not. Heck, it may even be productive. Jacques job is to awaken this sleeping giant from his slumber in Carey- is-just-unlucky-land, not to massage egos or bash 50 loudmouths and 9,000 silent fans (those already sprinting for their cars get reprieve).

Maybe this was just his latest wake-up call.

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