The Montreal Canadiens with five straight losses trying to change their fortunes against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Bell Centre. However, this was a day with so much more than a hockey game as huge news surfaced on one front with Carey Price and another front with Kent Hughes and Jeff Petry.
The Canadiens lost to Columbus 6-3, but the real stories are off the ice.
A new era of more open management seems to be on the horizon in Montreal. New General Manager Kent Hughes conducted an interview with La Presse this weekend and the forthright nature of it is startling after years of close-to-the-vest management from Marc Bergevin.
Hughes was asked specifically about the future of Jeff Petry who is likely having the worst season of his career. Hughes opened up about how Petry is struggling with his family not in Canada with him because of Covid-19. Jeff and his wife Julie felt that because of restrictions in Canada that the three children should be back in the United States enjoying a freer life in terms of lockdowns and following, or in this case not following, strict Covid protocols.
Hughes also said that he told Petry that even with the difficulty of being away from family that his best effort was expected of him. However, none of that seemed that revealing in comparison to this: “If there’s a chance it will work out on both sides to trade him, we’ll trade him.”
It is not often that a GM in Montreal openly gives out information that a player is on the trading block. Hughes went on: “Jeff is not the youngest player in the world. If it comes up, that we can improve our future for our team and improve the circumstances for Jeff, we’ll do it.”
This is a much more important sentence than it sounds on first blush because if you read this carefully this is the first sign that the new management of the Montreal Canadiens sees this rebuild as lasting long and being significant.
The message from Hughes is that by the time the Canadiens are truly competing again Petry will be too old to be a part of that.
This is a monster message that has not been conveyed until this moment by Canadiens management that the rebuild will be long and difficult – that a 34 year old can’t help us when this is ready to launch.
Get ready Canadiens fans because this rebuild is going to take a while, but they’re going to do it right.
No one would blame fans for dumping all over these Canadiens after a night like this, but if you can’t get a save, then you can not compete. Another five goals against cancelled a 3 point night from Artturi Lehkonen and two points each from Nick Suzuki and Tyler Toffoli.
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The Canadiens goalies Sam Montembeault and Cayden Primeau are saving at just over .750 in the last four games. There is no set of 18 forwards and defenders that can look good when their goalie is .750. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl can be your top forwards and your top defenders can be Adam Fox and Cale Makar, and your support team can consist of Sidney Crosby, Aleksander Barkov, Victor Hedman, and Charlie McAvoy, it still won’t matter. A collection of superstars would still need six goals to win, if they allowed only 20 shots on net.
You simply can not win hockey games when your goalies are doing .750 as a save percentage for a couple weeks. So make it six straight losses for the Canadiens with the tank going beautifully. This is a bit what this management team is looking for we must assume, because they are making no effort to improve this team’s goaltending in the short term.
Until Jake Allen returns from a lower body injury around March 21, expect more of this. Perhaps one of these kids in net can find a higher level at some point. As much as fingers are pointed all over the blue line and forward ranks on Montreal, somewhere around .890 in net is needed to have any chance at all.
The longer the Carey Price news conference went on, the more it became apparent that Price may never play another NHL game. It was a continual revelation for 20 minutes how much Price has gone through in the last months with his knee.
Little has been offered in the way of revealing how close Price’s knee is to being done, so the assumption was made that if the goalie finished the Stanley Cup Finals in the net, how serious could the difficulty be?
Unfortunately, he told us in many unsettling ways: “I’m anxious for the next couple weeks to see how the knee responds, hoping for the best. I obviously want this to go well. If I have another setback, I’ll have to start over again.”
Also: “There’s always going to be a little doubt. You wonder if you’ll be the same player when you’re back. We have a great training staff here they give you the best odds of coming back to your best, I’ll trust the process.”
You can forget about some sort of trade to a cup contender looking for a $10.5 million dollar goalie to lead them to the promised land. Price was asked about a trade early in the news conference, before the severity of the knee injury became more and more transparent to everyone.
Price reiterated how committed he is to Montreal: “Me and my family are very happy here. We’re settled in. This is our home. There’s a reason I signed the contract I did here with a no-movement clause. As of right now I have no plans to be anywhere else.”
So if he plays anywhere, then he plays in Montreal.
What we thought would be a large part of the news conference was only one question. Price answered why he entered the players assistance program and how he feels after it with such confidence that everyone breathed a sigh of relief: “The decision was very difficult. I was in a position where I definitely needed to reach out. At the end of the day, it was one that I knew had to be made. Ultimately, it was one that was successful. I’m very thankful for the help that I got.”
While his knee is a question mark, it was wonderful to hear that confidence about his mental health.
Carey Price is a hero in this city. He is much loved. Whatever his future in the crease, his future in everyone’s heart is already guaranteed. To the rafters for the number; to the future for more answers if he’ll ever be in the crease again.