Montreal Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme revealed to reporters on Tuesday that star goaltender Carey Price is close to a return. Price voluntarily checked into the NHL/NHLPA’s joint player assistance program on Oct. 7th. His 30 day stay in the program would officially come to an end on Friday.
“We don’t have confirmation yet but we expect him to be back in the city soon,” Ducharme said after practice today. “But we don’t have an exact date just yet.”
Due to the private and confidential nature of the program, there has been no word on exactly why Price decided to check into the program a week ahead of the start of the NHL season.
But one thing has become clear in his absence.
Carey Price can’t save this hockey team. Nor should he be expected to. At least this year.
Playing the long game
The Montreal Canadiens announced earlier today that goaltender Jake Allen has been named the recipient of the Molson Cup for the month of October. There weren’t many other candidates to choose from. The Habs are mired in their worst start to a season in 70 years at 2-8. The only person who could have potentially won the award, given out to the team’s player of the month, would have been Jonathan Drouin (who will play centre tonight against Detroit for some reason).
The point is that you can count on half of a hand the Montreal Canadiens who have had good starts to their season this year. The Habs are in full blown crisis mode. The team is playing with no perceived identity, have been blown out in half of the games they’ve lost and are playing AHL tweeners due to injuries and struggling youngsters.
There are just too many issues on this team for Price to come back and magically fix. He has made it magically work before, as he proved by taking what was clearly a good but not great team to within three wins of the Stanley Cup.
But he is coming off of off-season knee surgery. He continues to deal with an ongoing hip issue. Two injuries that he has played through for several seasons now. Both are not only crucial to what a goaltender can do on the ice but are taxing to manage off of it. Especially at 34 years of age.
Whatever amount of time it takes for Carey Price to get back to 100% both physically and mentally should be given to him. Then wait a week. Maybe even a month. He has always been the franchise but is even more so now that his friend and captain Shea Weber will likely never play hockey again.
He is too important to be thrown into the fire in the insane hope that he can salvage what is looking like an increasingly lost season. Whether it takes another 30, 60 even 100 days for him to get right. The Habs should give it to him.
Carey Price has worked miracles before. Now isn’t the time for that. Let him heal.