Okay, here’s a pop quiz:
1. Hockey wisdom says what wins playoffs?
B) copious amounts of goalscoring
2. Who has been known to steal games his team should lose?
A) the coach
B) Ryan O’Byrne (couldn’t resist)
C) the goaltender
3. The Devils, Canucks and Canadiens lost in the playoffs because who was exhausted?
A) the trainer
B) the owner
C) the goaltender
If you’re like me and you always choose C) in multiple choice quizzes because an article you read in grade nine says that’s statistically most often correct, then you’d score well on this. Which brings me to my point: Why are people so cavalier about the idea of trading Jaroslav Halak?
Halak is a very good goalie, and sure, he may be too good to be a backup. And of course Carey Price is off to a stellar start in his own right, and Marc Denis is tearing up the AHL. But I just don’t see the logic in all that of trading Halak. The Canadiens are blessed to have two good, young goaltenders, both capable of carrying the team and both seemingly well-liked by their teammates. They’re also both very cap friendly and signed for next year at good deals. The beauty of it is if the pressure or the workload or a simple slump starts to affect Carey Price’s play, you’ve got Halak there to take over. Denis might be doing well in Hamilton, but I still wouldn’t trust him to lead the Habs in their Centennial season. I do trust Halak. He’s proven his ability to step into the breach when needed, and he’s done it while Denis was busy…well…not proving that with other teams.
The big impetus to the Halak trade talk seems to be the idea that Halak won’t be happy playing only 25-30 games, so he’s disposable. Best trade him now before he becomes unhappy and asks to be moved. I’m not buying that argument. So far, Halak has not only not complained, he’s said he understands his role and he’ll do his best to win the games he’s given. And he’s followed up his words by doing exactly that. In my view, if the team is winning and no one’s complaining, it makes little sense to stand up in the goaltending canoe and knock the team into the water.
That’s especially true when you look at the players the Canadiens would allegedly get in return for a package involving Halak, like Marian Gaborik. The team has been going along quite well, even though it hasn’t iced a complete roster yet this season. Goalscoring hasn’t yet been a problem because there are nine or ten guys on the team perfectly able to put the puck in the net. There are only two capable of stopping it from going in the Canadiens’ cage. Unloading half a solid goaltending tandem just to add yet more offence doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
Perhaps there will come a day when a trade involving Halak is feasible and will benefit the team more than hurt it. Maybe by the trade deadline, or next season or the season after, Halak will have proven his value to the rest of the league and he’ll bring a piece in return that the team really needs. But right now, anything he’d bring must be diminished in value when offset by his loss. He might be playing only 25-30 games, but those potential 50-60 points, of which Halak will bring home the majority, will make the difference between making the playoffs or not; winning the division or not. More importantly, he can be relied upon to capably stand in for Price and prevent the number one from hitting the playoffs exhausted after playing seventy-five games. The team doesn’t miss a step when playing Halak instead of Price, and the importance of that role can’t be underestimated.
I guess when it comes right down to it, I look at it this way: If Canadiens and Red Wings are facing each other in the Stanley Cup Final and Carey Price goes down with an injury, who would I rather see take over, A) Marc Denis, B) Cedric Desjardins or C)Jaroslav Halak?
The answer’s "C." Hands down.