Montreal Canadiens Netminder : Who’s #2

Auld In Action

So, back from hiatus and I’m feeling the pressures of the off-season signings. Last post I talked about what I considered to be some answers to the lingering questions that hung in the Montreal smog.

I talked about defense. I talked about the hope of a top six forward. I spoke about Markov, Gorges, and the rest of the D unit possibilities. Heck – I even talked Pouliot (I spelled it right this time!!!) and Ryan White.

But then, I read a comment on my take of what’s happening, and I stopped cold in my tracks – literally! As I was walking back from the market, my iPhone buzzed to alert me to a new comment, and as I read it – I realized that the reader touched on something completely significant. Something that I’ve been wanting to speak to – yet was too caught up in the MSM hailstorm of other news to fully undertake  addressing it.

Who should back up Carey Price?

I know there are several schools of thought on this issue, but when a reader asks me specifically for my take … well … I give it!

Let me digress for just a moment though. This topic hit me hard in the chest just over 5 weeks ago when I called upon a few of my readers to participate in a Capology Roster Synopsis. The main topic of discussion lay in whether Markov would be re-signed, and who the next top 6 forward could be. The answers were solid and sparked quite the commentary.

But what struck me most was an area that no one seemed to really be looking at. So when a great new follower asked me to address the question regarding Montreal’s blue paint – it all came rushing back.

Let’s go here first … 72 Games Played resulting in a 38-28-6 record. A total of 8 shutouts (3rd in th NHL), and second overall in TOI for a goaltender in the league. I could spew a ton of stats at you that speak the volume of Carey Price – but there’s no need to beat a dead horse. The only confusion about Price’s season lies in the question as to why he was not up for the Vezina Trophy.

We’ll leave that one for another day – or the comment section.

So the question that really begs answering is this: Who should back up our number one goaltender Carey Price?

When our “Capology Roster 2011-2012″ panelists weighed in, I was interested to see the answers. One person said Marty Turco at a cool million. Another said “who cares” at a million; while the third gave Alex Auld his job back.

Those answers struck me hard. And for many different reasons.

First off – the “who cares “approach is one that many of us would take. Price had stellar stats and so we don’t care who backs him up. In the end – number 31 is a machine and will handle the workload – getting the job done.

The second answer was one that I didn’t give a lot of clear thought to, until recently. Marty Turco. Really? A veteran who “commanded” $1.3M as a backup goaltender who went 11-11-3 with an overall .897 Save% and a 3.02 GAA ??? Why would I think he’d take a paycut, and why would I even want him with numbers like that? He’s 35 years old and hardly improving.

Before I move to the third answer – I want to go back to the “who cares” approach.

Reality is this. If anything happens to our star goalie, we need someone who can stand between the pipes and save the day. We need veteran experience without the attitude. We don’t want someone who believes they should be in a battle for the starting position. Instead – we need someone who recognizes their role as a backup – period!

So if not Alex Auld, who should it be? I’m looking over the available personelle and here’s what I see …

Mathieu Garon … He fetched a $1.2M contract from the Blue Jackets last year. In 36 games he posted a .901 Sv% and had a 2.72 GAA. He’s 33 years old.

Patrick Lalime (at 36 years of age) played with the Sabres in a backup role last year and in seven games played, went 0-5-0 with a .890 Sv% and a 2.96 GAA.

What about Jimmy Howard? Oh wait – he resigned with the Red Wings for $717K.

So who’s left? Brian Boucher? We all know where that would leave us … in a world of hurt!

So that brings me promptly back to square one. Alex Auld. When I look at his numbers, I’m sold on him. When I look at his integrity as a human being, I’m sold on him. When I look at his compatability with the organization, I’m sold on him.

Alex Auld was called upon to start 12 games this past season (he also came in for 6 others when Price was having a tough night). In that span, Auld posted a 6-2-2 record. His Save Percentage was at .914 and he recorded a GAA of 2.64.

It should also be noted that he’s only 30 years old, has no complaints about being number 2 on the bench, and seems to play well behind his fellow team-mates, who have great respect for him.

I think the part that took me over the top when it came to selling me Alex Auld was this …

Both Price and Auld were questioned about confidence as a net-minder. And in many ways they come from different schools of thought. But when I heard the following quotes – I was sold.

“You try to play too aggressive, you try too hard almost” says Price. His advice: “Simply be patient and let the puck come to you.”

Auld perks up again across from Price. “Just get back to the basics” he says. “Those same basics that sometimes get forgotten when confidence dwindles.”

Two different team-mates, taught two different ways, coming to the same conclusion. They compliment each other in every possible fashion. Price has star quality and a humble and solid approach to the game. Auld knows what he’s here for, and is pleased to do it without predjudice, or being disgruntled.

If ever there was a recipe that screams out perfection – this is it. I don’t want to go searching for someone to fill the role of someone who clearly already gets it. Ink the deal at 1.0M for another year and keep everyone happy.

The fans, the franchise, the starting goalie, and Alex Auld.

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About Iain Carnegie (@emann_222 on Twitter)

I have followed the Montreal Canadiens for over twenty years, even while living in the heart of Toronto. I spent 5 years in the mecca of hockey, moving to the Plateau region of Montreal in the summer of 2009, I've been writing extensively on the Habs franchise at Bleed Blue Blanc Rouge BBBR has now moved to it's new home here at WordPress, , where content continues to matter.
This entry was posted in 2011 - 2012 NHL Season, Eastern Conference, Montreal Canadiens, NHL, Northeastern Division, Roster Challenge, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Montreal Canadiens Netminder : Who’s #2

  1. ChrisGrenon says:

    Iain, another great post. I don’t even understand why PG has not resigned Auld yet. He is the veteran, calming presence and can continue to mentor our young #1. He is a solid backup and understands that is his role, and embraces it.

    I heard a few comments about brining up Drew McIntyre from Hamilton, but that would result in two things: a) not enough games played for him, and probably a bit of conflict. He would want to impress and go for the starting position, but that is not likely to happen. At 27 already, he is peaking (goaltenders tend to peak in their late 20s) so if he hasn’t broken into the league, he is not likely to do so… That said, Timmy Thomas has proven that it is never too late, so I wouldn’t count Drew out just yet.

    I would be very content with Auld between the pipes foe 10-16 games on the season. If anything were to happen to Carey, Alex could keep us in the running for a good stretch, with callup help like Drew McIntyre. Auld adds more value to this team than his 10 starts suggest.

    • Thanks once more for leaving your thoughts Chris.

      I completely concur with your thoughts on McIntyre. His AHL stats are definitely strong, but I don’t believe he’s ready for consecutive games in the NHL, especially when he would be sitting cold between starts. He appears to be a goalie that requires use, and that could cause conflict between himself and Carey Price.

      Having said that, if Auld re-signs and Price were out for any stretch, McIntyre would become a decent call-up for the franchise to back up Auld.

      The comment that you made that struck me most was your final sentence. And it’s so very true: “Auld adds more value to this team than his 10 starts suggest.”

  2. Kyle Roussel says:

    I think I would be the “who cares” guy LOL!

    If Price gets hurt, I think no matter who #2 is, Gauthier goes out and eventually makes a deal for an upgrade. Whether its Auld, Turco, or somebody else, if Price is significantly lost (i.e. 6+ weeks) then I think Gauthier gets on the horn. Sure Auld will get to carry the ball for a while on his own but I think he would be reinforced or replaced asap.

    • Kyle – How did you know? LOL

      First, let me start by saying that I appreciate you reading and leaving thoughts. Second, I’m looking forward to getting together to do another post with you soon. Third, I hope you didn’t think I was being critical of the “who cares” statement.

      There is no doubt that we all have that thought in our heads that – as Platinum Blonde would say – “It doesn’t really matter” (yes – I just dated myself with that one). As I sit in my living room watching Price make incredible save after save, with seeming ease – ice flowing through his veins – I’m not concerned about who’s on the bench to back him up.

      But I do believe that we’ve found the right chemistry between our two blue paint warriors. One is ready to shine, grow, and become one of the best goaltenders of our time. The other is a quiet, calm, capable backstop who not only knows his position, but accepts it for what it is.

      Agreed that if we were looking at a long term loss of Price – perhaps PG would go shopping. But as things stand, I’m willing to hope for a healthy Price all season long, and allow Mr. Auld to continue to be the backup that he is.

      Thanks for the comments Kyle!

  3. cokeaddict says:

    That picture you used of Auld put the Pointer Sisters in my head. ;-)

    I’m happy with Bauldy Auldy backing up Pricey. Hoping that PG gets this done soon. Wish I had more constructive things to say, but we all know that I don’t pay much attention to prospects or trade options. So I’d just be making stuff up. =P

  4. 22chill22 says:

    Wow! Another excellent analysis. I’m very glad my last question encouraged you to tackle this significant question. And I’m very impressed that you put this post together so quickly.

    You’re right to identify a lot of general indifference among Habs fans about who the number two netminder should be: “the “who cares” approach is one that many of us would take.” And in the broadest scheme of things, if all goes well for Price, it probably won’t matter an enormous amount who that second guy is. If Price is healthy, the back-up’s role will be small and he’ll probably start fewer games than any other back-up in the league. If Price goes down for a lengthy period of time (Hockey-God forbid) then the Habs won’t have much of a chance unless the offence really picks up. Price is maturing quickly, and the mentor’s role played by an older goaltender will be less and less important for him as the years go by and he keeps improving his game.

    But regardless, we still need a back-up, so why not go for the best we can get? Why not get one that complements Price, our franchise guy, in as many ways as possible? There are so many intangible benefits to having the right number two guy, and your post hits on most of them. I’ve always liked Auld for the same reasons you mention. You sum it up well here: “Alex Auld. When I look at his numbers, I’m sold on him. When I look at his integrity as a human being, I’m sold on him. When I look at his compatability with the organization, I’m sold on him.” Now that I’ve read your thoughts and seen what some of the other options are (Turco, Lalime, Garon, Boucher) I’m more convinced than ever. I even think that who the number two

    I agree with ChrisGrenon that this is not the time to have Drew McIntyre sitting game after game on the bench behind Price. But should Price go down with an injury (again, Hockey-God forbid) and McIntyre be asked to take a trip down the 401, I think the steady, calm, experienced, ego-less, if not always flashy presence of Auld there with the rookie would be a very welcome thing. And let’s not forget that Auld, only 30, has had some really good runs with other teams before he came to Nos Glorieux (have a look at his stats with Boston and Ottawa), so he just might be able to handle the number one spot alone for a stretch if he had to. No one wants to think about Price not being able to play. Like I said, if he goes down for the season we’re done. But what if it’s only for 12 or 15 games? We all know from the last couple of seasons how important 4 or 5 points can be going into April, and a win or three might be the difference between Auld and one if the less-enticing back-up options you identify. So I agree. Sign Auld, already. That fact that Mr. Gauthier hasn’t done it yet is, like you say, a little surprising. But, then again, the front office may have other priorities.

    Again, great blog. There’s so much stuff out there about the Canadiens, but most mainstream media doesn’t really “get” the Habs and most of the rest of the stuff is just amateur opinion, like you get from the guy sitting next to you at a game. Nothing wrong with that at all, but you can only read so much about Gomez being a turkey before you start saying, “ok, anybody got something else to say?” Your posts are refreshing because they are really firmly grounded in stats and rigorous analysis while also paying attention to the big picture and intangibles like character and personality. That’s the kind of stuff that’s worth reading. And if you keep spelling Pouliot correctly, I’ll remember that Andrei Kostitsyn has the privilege of wearing number 46 on that jersey, not 47 like a wrote in my last comment.

    Looking forward to more great reading on this site in the future.

    • Well – I didn’t want to come across as arrogant by correcting the AK46 / 47 thing – but it was tempting since you found my Pouliot error! LOL It’s all good my friend!

      Thanks once again for the kind words. I am thrilled when people see that I truly try to be different as a Habs fan and writer. Don’t get me wrong -there are plenty of times where I lose my cool with certain players and go off on a biased rant (at least internally, or within the 4 walled confines of my home). But I always try to regain my composure before I write anything, trying to look at it from a calm perspective.

      You’ve brought up some great points regarding the career of Alex Auld. I even had to use them in a response comment – I hope you don’t mind. But you’re bang on when talking about the years that Auld had with Boston and Ottawa. As Chris pointed out in his comments – 10 games is not a true measuring stick of the man we currently have as a back-up to Carey Price.

      There are definitley strong words to be said about Auld’s ability to be accepting of the position he is in. He is a true Robin to our Batman – so to speak. Understated, yet capable without remorse or dis-satisfaction with his role. That is what makes him the paramount back-up to me.

      His numbers are good. He’s composed. If he gets the call for the right games, he’ll gain us points when we need them. He’ll allow Price to rest when he’s tired. He’ll prove to be a quiet confidence on the bench. And more than all that – he’ll keep controversy from the MSM and Locker-room, and fan base.

      There’s something to be said about unsung heroes that just show up content to do their job. Alex Auld is that kind of guy.

      McIntyre is a back-ups back-up for the NHL. Yes – he has great nimbers in the AHL – but we all know that place is a different kettle of fish. Could McIntyre back-up Auld? Definitely – on occassion. But I’d rather see him in that role than backing Price.

      I fail to see the point in going out and spending another 200-300K to acquire someone new. Auld has experienced Montreal now, and for what it’s worth – that’s no easy feat between the pipes. I believe that fans in this city embraced Auld last year. When he started games – the true fans had his back. When he came into a game in relief of Price on a bad night – he was appreciated. And when he had a bad night himself, and Price was his relief – no one came down on him.

      There is a true calmness and a great symbiotic relationship between both of them, and that’s a chemistry not easily found. And one that should not be thrown away.

      Thanks for your great comments … and I look forward to your continued support!

  5. 22chill22 says:

    At the end of paragraph 3 I meant to write:

    I even think that who the number two goalie is is a more important question than who our 6th or 7th defenceman will be.

  6. Hello Iain, welcome back!

    I am not as comfortable as you are with Alex Auld, although I must agree with your assessment of his character and makeup. Here’s an excerpt from a post I wrote on the subject in May:

    “While Alex Auld did better than expected in his various cameos this year, he is – let’s be honest – a sub-par substitute (the prospect of seing him in the crease for more than a game at a time made most fans cringe). This increased the load put on Price, who weathered it well, but why tempt fate ? It would be foolhardy to saddle Price again with a workload of 75 games next season. Yes, he is young, but why overburden him and increase the risk of injury?”

    http://habrachadabra.wordpress.com/2011/05/27/goaltending-out-with-the-auld-in-with-the%E2%80%A6who-pg-part-1/

    My candidate would be Garon (right profile, experience backing a young stud, knows Montreal, apparently displays the kind of work ethic Jacques Martin likes). His numbers do not compare favorably with those of Auld, but one must consider the team he played on (Columbus) and the ones he played against. Auld’s only start against a playoff team was vs the NY Rangers; Garon faced a playoff team in half of his 30 starts (!) behind a rather mediocre defense (Steve Mason’s save % was also .901).

    I wouldn’t be furious (or indeed, shocked) if the Habs were to re-sign Auld, but do you really see him starting 20some games with a reasonable expectation of winning at least 12? I do not, and do think it is what the Habs need this year.

    Excellent post, as always!

    • Great analysis and arguement for Garon. A great deep dive into who he played against, not just what his numbers are. Seldom do people go that far to really understand what they are talking about … it’s refreshing to see that you do!

      Thanks for welcoming me back to the fold of the blogosphere too – made me smile to know that someone’s happy to be reading my opinions again! LOL

      I understand your concern with Auld. On some ocassions last year, I was dubious about some of the starting calls that he got. Sometimes it worried me, thinking that he wasn’t able to handle a few of the games he was called upon to start. But in hindsight – I’m not sure that the coaching staff always made the right call as to when to sit Price and start Auld. A lot of those decisions seemed to revolve around emotion instead of statistical merit. Games where I thought Price should have sat, he played because it was a home game – and Auld would get the nod on the road where clearly Price would have been a better game decision (IMHO).

      I don’t mind Garon, and I can clearly see and understand why you would choose him out of the UFA’s that are available. If I HAD to choose one from the list – he’d be my guy too.

      I just think that the mental chemistry between Price and Auld is worth more than the numbers suggest. As my new-found avid reader (22chill22) points out – and perhaps I should have included it in my post – Auld has had some excellent NHL years with Boston and Ottawa. He’s got veteran talent that won’t interfere with Price doing his job.

      I felt blessed to have a season of Montreal Canadiens hockey “sans controverse” about the goaltender position, and I believe a lot of that has to do with the fact that Auld not only accepts his place here, he knows it.

      So glad that you came by for the read and I loved the comments. Now I’m off to read your post – which I suggest ALL BBBR readers do!

  7. 22chill22 says:

    habrachadabra: thanks for the link to your blog. Looking forward to checking it out.

  8. mbouf says:

    Hey Iain,

    I really like this 22Chill22 reader you picked up! Interesting comments he/she has been leaving on your last two blog posts :)

    I must admit I also never really thought about a back up goaltender for Price. We have Auld and that was working so the thought never crossed my mind. If I absolutely HAD to choose one of the three tenders you listed I’d jump on Garon since we have had him before and he played pretty good for us. I’m not a fan of Turco or Lalime.

    But for now I think we should just be sticking with Auld for sure. He played above average for a back up goaltender IMO when he came in for a few games to give Price a break. Win some, lose some.

    The biggest thing I like is what you pointed out – he sits on the bench and he doesn’t show he has a problem with that. He’s a team player in my eyes. He is happy sitting on the bench watching Price save the Habs ass if it means a win for the team.

    • Eaxctly.

      The last thing we want is a rejuvenated goalie controversy. let’s be happy with the back-up we have, at the price we’re paying. He doesn’t just contribute in the blue paint – he keeps it real off the ice as well.

      And yeah – this 22chill22 cat ain’t so bad ;-)

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