This Carey Price soap opera is something else. Come to think of it, this Canadiens soap opera is also scintillating viewing. As the Habs World Turns.
But let’s start with Saint Carey. He’s been playing pretty poorly lately, though he had a decent game Tuesday against the Ottawa Senators. But his return to not-terrible form was overshadowed that evening by the surprise news after the game at the Bell Centre that Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin had fired longtime goalie coach Stéphane Waite during the game.
You read that right. Bergevin gave Waite his walking papers after the second period. Who does that? Why did he feel he had to fire him in the middle of the game? That questionable move had many thinking back to the night in 2012, when former GM Pierre Gauthier traded Mike Cammalleri during a game in Boston against the Bruins. It was symptomatic of the lack of class of the Gauthier regime and the timing of the Waite firing was equalling lacking in class.
During his video news conference Wednesday, Bergevin didn’t offer a convincing argument as to why Waite had to be let go between periods. The bigger question is why the GM felt Waite had to walk the plank. Clearly, it happened because of Price’s inconsistent play this season though my colleague, Stu Cowan, made a great point during the newser, underlining that the other goalie Waite is coaching, Jake Allen, is playing some mighty fine hockey.
The problem is Price not Waite. He has some of the worst stats in the National Hockey League and he’s been inconsistent since the 2014-15 season, the last year in which he truly was the league’s dominant netminder.
Price added to the controversy during his video conference Wednesday during which he gave new meaning to the word “laconic.” Asked repeatedly to talk about the firing of Waite and their eight-year working relationship, Price kept giving monosyllabic answers that often lasted just seconds.
Some think that style is okay. I don’t. He earns US$10.5 million a year and the fate of the team has rested on his shoulders for a decade. Fans have a lot invested in the hockey team we love and I believe the team’s most important player has a duty to properly answer journalists’ questions. He clearly hates talking to the media, but we’re just the conduit to the public. It’s a crucial part of the job and if you don’t like it, get another job.
Sportsnet’s Eric Engels asked how he felt that there is a perception out there among many that Price simply doesn’t care about what he’s doing.
“It doesn’t matter to me anymore,” he replied.
I think that’s uncool if he really feels that way.
The plot thickened Thursday with the news that new interim coach Dominique Ducharme is starting Allen against the Winnipeg Jets Thursday (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5FM).
On to the Habs soap opera. A month ago, Bergevin was turning up on every media tribune and he looked and sounded like a fellow without a care in the world. The wins were piling up and it looked like the CH would be nipping at the Maple Leafs’ skate heels all season. A few weeks later, Montreal is in fourth place in the Canadian division and 13 points behind Toronto.
On Wednesday, Bergevin appeared agitated and uncomfortable in his skin. He became testy with the Athletic’s Arpon Basu after Basu asked him about Price and accountability, a perfectly valid question. You don’t need a PhD in psychology to understand the change in the GM’s attitude.
Things are heating up in the kitchen. Last week, he fired coaches Claude Julien and Kirk Muller and it was Waite’s turn to be ejected this week. Who’s next, the Zamboni driver? These are desperate times for Bergevin.
He needs to make the playoffs and probably needs to make it to the second round. Neither of those things look like a lock at this point. For that to happen, Price will have to play like he did in the Return to Play tournament last summer.
Looking at it that way, firing Waite makes sense if the goal is to give Price a little electroshock therapy. But will it work? Maybe the post-2015 Price is simply who Price is now — a goalie who can be an all-star, like he was against the Pens and Flyers during the summer, and then a no-star, like he was on many occasions this season. And if that’s what he is, a goalie on the decline, then Bergevin is in big trouble.
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