Through their first 10 games, only 18 goals. They’ve since scored 13 goals in two games, but that is probably more of an anomaly than a new trend. In reality, it’s no secret, this team can’t score. What’s worse, they only have 4 wins through 12 games. To put it mildly, the season does not look good so far.
If you look at the team stats, Drouin leads the way with 9 points through 12 games. Brendan Gallagher leads in the goal department with 4. Is it time to hit the panic button yet? I believe, it should have been pushed a couple years ago.
Looking back at the 2015-16 season, the Habs finished with a mediocre 38-38-6 record. Carey Price played 12 games, and no one on the team played with better than a +4 in the +/- category. Read into that what you will, but the Habs missed the playoffs and only finished better in the Atlantic than the rebuilding Leafs and Sabres. Not something to be proud of for a team that should have been a no-brainer playoff team. Either way, that season alone should have been the point when they hit panic button.
Looking at the last 10 cup winners, only 2 of them had a goalie win the Conn Smythe. Even then, I would argue that one of them probably was given to the wrong guy. Not that they didn’t play great, but in my opinion, they weren’t their team’s best player during their run. With that said, it’s hard to be a cup champion when your best player is your goalie. It takes a great system, solid D, and timely saves. Looking at where the league has been trending the last few years, your team’s best player needs to be the center. As a goalie, that’s hard for me to admit, but when you look at your team on paper, you should be able to say that the number 1 center is the best player or close to it. The Hab’s number 1 center, Drouin, would be hard to argue as the number 2 or 3rd best player on that team. And he is even a true center. He has played his entire NHL career in Tampa on the wing.
For a team that has so much trouble scoring, and it’s been no secret for a few years, their highest paid player should not be the goalie. You cannot rely on Price to carry the team every year. If he plays average (this year for example) or even above average, this team will struggle to get into the playoffs. Not to mention, the D in front of him is poor. One of the worst groups of 6/7 D-men in the league. Now, did Carey Price deserve the money he got on his contract extension? Yes. If there was ever a guy that could easily be a team’s MVP, it’s Price. They have relied too much on him to carry the team, and when he was injured or while he’s playing average this year, it shows in the win column. What the Habs should have done, was deal Price before his extension was signed and finish a rebuild.
Now yes, Price’s current deal at $6.5 mil, does have a modified NTC. This would have restricted the ability to trade him to 15 teams of Price’s choosing, which likely would not have been bottom-of-the-league teams. Looking at the remaining teams, who could and would have traded for Price? Perhaps Dallas, Winnipeg, the Islanders, Flyers, or Calgary? This is assuming the Habs move Price at the draft this past year after the Habs won the division and Price’s value was very high. So what could they have gotten in return? Start with Travis Hamonic for example.
The Islanders received a first and 2 seconds for a top-4 defenseman. For the teams listed above, their need for a quality goalie would definitely have gotten the Habs a greater return. We’re talking multiple first rounders, a prospect, and a quality NHL roster defenseman/center. Take for example the Flyers. Now while I like Brian Elliott, Carey Price is clearly a big upgrade. The Flyers could have moved the 2017 first rounder (#27 pick acquired in the Blues trade), one of their 2018 first rounders, another mid rounder and/or a prospect, and perhaps Sean Couturier? Looking at this current year, Couturier has been good in their number 1 center role, but Philly has an abundance of centers and moving Couturier may not have hurt as much with the return coming their way. Not to mention, the arrival of Patrick Nolan would have eased that trade for the fans.
Now, this is all hypothetical, but looking at what Couturier is doing with Vorachek, being able to put Drouin on the wing would have been a better fit for the Habs, as he continues to grow. Not to mention, Couturier is capable of handling the defensive aspect of a number 1 role. So with Price out of Montreal, where do they turn in goal? Montoya is a great backup, but not a number 1. Looking at available free agents; Bernier, Elliot, or Mason would have been good options. Obviously a downgrade in goal, but a definite upgrade at the center position. Would this have been worth it? Yes.
At this point, you’re looking to rebuild on the fly. You acquire a capable number one center, you now have Drouin (a potential 30 to 40 goal scoring winger), and now some future pieces in prospects or draft picks. You could also use those extra draft picks along with Galchenyuk, to flip for a top-4 defensman, something Montreal desperately needs. Again, these are all hypotheticals, but it gives you options to rebuild quickly. Either way, now you don’t have to spend $10.5 million a year on a goalie, which is going to hinder their ability to lock down a number one center or other big goal scorers in the future. Plain and simple, your goalie cannot be the highest paid player on the team.
For me the answer was simple last year, Price should have been traded.