Jaroslav Halak = Patrick Roy II?

Steve ThompsonAnalyst IIIJune 18, 2010

PHILADELPHIA - MAY 24:  Goalie Jaroslav Halak #41 of the Montreal Canadiens guards the net against the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wachovia Center on May 24, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Most Montreal Canadien fans will be stunned and angry today when they realize that the goaltender who engineered two upsets over the highly favored Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins, Jaroslav Halak, has been traded to the St. Louis Blues for two unknown prospects, said to have lots of potential.

After the playoffs were over and it was revealed that Montreal had some goaltending depth that could be traded, fans were expecting a deal to strengthen the club.

However, most Canadien fans figured that the goaltender that would leave Montreal would be Carey Price.

After the way Halak played in the playoffs, where he was the only goaltender who could have won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs most valuable player, and also at the Vancouver Olympics where he guided Slovakia to a fourth place finish, Halak established himself as Montreal's goaltender for the coming decade.

Fans will argue that Price has yet to establish himself as a competent playoff goaltender, who can respond in pressure situations and win games almost by himself like Halak recently did.

But management saw differently and now they face a big risk, both for the team's future and their own employment future.

If St. Louis improves to contending status and Montreal declines, fans will think back to the last great Montreal goaltender, Patrick Roy.

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Since trading Roy, the last goaltender to win Montreal the Stanley Cup, Montreal has seldom challenged for the trophy, and is now in one of their longest Cupless droughts in their history of 17 years.

The fans will blame management and say that Halak was the goaltender to build the team around.  Halak's name will be coupled with Patrick Roy for the wrong reason.

The Canadiens ownership and management will say that this deal was based on the salary cap, but they are offering up a brittle argument.

Most fans would have preferred that Price and some other high salary talent moved and Halak kept, despite an impending large contract.

Surely some deep thinking and clever manipulation by management could have made that possible.  Sam Pollack, perhaps Montreal's greatest general manager, made his reputation by accomplishing similar manipulations.

As Halak proved in the playoffs, great goaltending can cover up for other position deficiencies, and talent shortages.

In the 1960s, Toronto never had the overwhelming talent that other teams had, but Johnny Bower, and later Terry Sawchuk, provided the goaltending to win four Stanley Cups.

More recently, Nikolai Khabibulin was the backbone of Tampa Bay's championship team. 

When the Lightning couldn't come to terms for a new contract and he left, the team declined and has struggled to make the playoffs ever since.

In effect, by trading Halak, Montreal's management have painted a target on their own backs.

It's now up to Price and his teammates to prevent the fans from opening fire.