Throw away the stat sheet for just a second. It has been plenty well documented that Carey Price is in the midst of a dismal season and that he has been performing well below average. There has not been a grand, radical shift in goaltending standards and such with the introduction of the slimmer, sleeker equipment; by and large, the same names and faces bear the same sort of results and reputation. This has nothing to do with that.
This has something to do with the alteration between Carey Price’s ears. (No, not his newborn crying in the middle of the night and disrupting his sleep.)
How much did everyone love a fiery Carey Price throwing hands at Kyle Palmieri? How much did everyone love Carey Price staring down the much maligned Michel Therrien and his folly friends? Answer: the same number of people that either discounted or despised what such behavior was symptomatic of. Yes, Carey was completely right to do both of those things and he would be right to do much more and far worse.
That was the crack in the dam, though. That was what indicated the turn from a couple bad games to a string of season long dismay. Though it has progressed now in stages, it has only rolled on from there. The only remotely fun part (anger) is long since over and the final stage (acceptance) is creeping dangerously closer.
Carey Price is making young Carey Price mistakes and then some. Some goals that have gone by him he looked to have no chance on, others have left spectators scratching their heads and a number now have been flat out dismal; the answer to each of the three types being “2014-15 Carey would have had that.” No, Carey should not be expected to be at his 2014-15 level all the time/every day but he should be expected to be better than being well below average and –at this current point in time– one of the worst goaltenders in the entire league.
The million dollar question is: what caused this?
No one truly knows the details but we can ballpark the symptoms. First of all, this is not an isolated occurrence. These things are not born of a single event. These transpiring events are all part of a long, drawn out story that would one day be told by ESPN’s 30 For 30. Kyle Palmieri and the likes of the San Jose Sharks did not cause this overnight. An individual in Carey Price’s position can only withstand so much and certainly he has heard more of the mantra than most anyone else will ever know. Remember the “no excuses” sign? Carey Price remembers. Carey Price also remembers the window in which he would naturally be promised immediate help. This team can score all the goals they want to –in the season long picture– but if it’s too little too late, the promises of help being on the way may only come with jobs on the line, windows nearly closed and beyond the point at which Carey Price can truly recover.
Remember the acquisition of Thomas Vanek? Carey Price remembers. Carey Price also remembers how –with good reason– he was released to the free agency come July 1st that year. Carey Price also remembers how it was not until Alexander Radulov came about that said hole was, to the late need addressing Marc Bergevin’s credit, not only filled but exceeded. Carey Price also remembers how this team is at a point wherein Tomas Plekanec is so far from being a second line center that so few remember to criticize him because they fail to notice a single thing that he does for the reason of him being so invisible. Carey Price also remembers how Marc Bergevin traded P.K. Subban and how much greater his workload has since become as a result of the move.
The problem comes from the top down. Everyone is looking at you, Marc Bergevin and Michel Therrien.
The Montreal Canadiens are going forwards in reverse. If one should need a moment to think about that one, by all means, take it.
A few basic physical tells in post-game interviews will showcase Carey Price’s mental state; the most prevalent in his case would be facial tension, followed closely by pupil dilation. Nothing he says is the least bit convincing. He is speaking scared. Carey may be a publicly soft spoken leader but he has been far from a leader since December onward. Is it understandable that Carey has met his limits and that, as a result, he may not humanly recover this season… dare to say at all? Of course it is.
…It does not mean that it is becoming of a leader, though.
Just to name a few: a leader does not lose track of the puck against the Coyotes and stop playing, leading to a goal against. A leader does not lose his footing, go for a swim beside the net and lead to a goal against that would further cement there being no comeback in a building that the Canadiens had owned for half a decade. A leader does not allow himself –in his prime age years– to fall from making the most perceptively impossible saves in recorded history to leaving somewhere between most and all spectators at all levels more and more frequently this season saying “Carey should have had that one” and bordering on the point of “Carey cost this team the game.”
Misfortunes happen to everyone regardless of skill and stature at some point along the way but this rate is alarming to the point of near impossibility. Being a leader means saying “I’m willing to win more games for you than you could ever win for me” or “I’m righting this ship during our contendership window and I’m not gonna let it close just yet.”
The summary of the story that is Carey Price in 2017 is that this is what happens to a world elite talent, a modern day Michael Jordan, when the decision makers fail to make the right decisions. Marc Bergevin and Michel Therrien have long since been given enough rope to hang themselves with. The problem now is that Geoff Molson has given them so much rope that –even with their respective nooses around their neck– their feet are still touching the ground.
Carey Price could come back from this and the bye week may just be exactly what the doctor ordered, no less right on time… but what if this season should find no fortunes? Can anyone trust that the correct decisions will be made within the following 365 days? Can anyone buy into what comes next, including Carey Price? The unfortunate assumption is that nothing changes, nothing fruitful comes from this but one final question does: can Carey Price come back from this while he is still a Montreal Canadien?
The ship can be righted but judgment day is now.
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