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How to Kill a Season: Montreal’s Mishandling of Carey Price

How to Kill a Season: Montreal’s Mishandling of Carey Price

And there it was. A reliable media voice in Montreal confirmed what many Canadiens fans had suspected since November. It’s possible that Montreal’s fan base is the most pessimistic in hockey, but in this case, it had every reason to be. The team has handled Carey Price’s lower-body injury so poorly that placing any confidence in their timeline for his return would have been the height of naïveté.

Unraveling a Mystery

From the initial injury sustained on October 29 against the Edmonton Oilers, the Canadiens have followed their usual policy of being as vague as possible about the nature of the affliction. When asked for specific details about the injury in early November, head coach Michel Therrien joked in French “If I tell you, I’d have to kill you.” The putative purpose of keeping injuries secret is to prevent opponents from using the information to gain an advantage. Of course, secrecy also serves a less noble function: if you never detail the injury, you don’t have to face scrutiny for your decisions surrounding the player. Because “lower-body injury” says precisely nothing, and because the Canadiens provided a gradually-shifting timeline for Price’s return, we have been left to piece together the evidence on our own.

Exhibit A: The Kreider Collision

The moment Chris Kreider ran over Carey Price in the 2014 Eastern Conference Final is the most obvious starting place if we’re looking for evidence of previous injury and potential weak points:

Kreider Hits Price

Earlier that season, Price had missed eight games with a lower-body injury he had been playing through in Sochi. Price’s Olympic teammate Sidney Crosby commented that “I think it was something that didn’t just happen at the Olympics. I think it’s something he’s been battling for a while.” It’s possible that the Kreider collision was as debilitating as it was because it impacted the existing injury.

Exhibit B: First 2015-16 Injury, October 29

According to Elliotte Friedman, Price slipped on a puck before a game against the Edmonton Oilers, which began this season’s injury troubles. Accidents happen, of course, but what’s most troubling about this account is that Price played the entire game that night. He held up well throughout most of the game, but by the third, his movements had lost their crispness and it was evident that his mobility was compromised. The ease with which Price injured himself might well be connected to his goaltending coach Stephane Waite’s remarks that Price played through an injury in the 2015 playoffs. Was Price battling the now nagging knee injury again? Regardless, based on his injury history, why would the team take a chance playing him through what might have been a minor reinjury? By doing so, the Canadiens virtually ensured that Price would need to miss significant time with a more serious injury.

Exhibit C: Second 2015-16 Injury, November 25 Price returned from his first injury in a little under three weeks, played two full games, and then went down to injury once more in a game against the New York Rangers:

Price Injury Oilers Small

Price finished the period after this obviously painful sequence, and then left the game. Again, given his very recent return from, perhaps, the very same injury, why was Price left on the ice? Earlier in the game, it was already obvious Price was at least experiencing some discomfort. His recovery here is clearly not painless:

Price Rangers Injury Small

You might argue that his difficulties were not evident to the trainers or coaching staff. This seems very unlikely, since they were noticeable even earlier in the game to those watching at home  

In fact, even in the previous two games, observers remarked that Price did not look entirely well:

If other careful observers could discern Price’s difficulties, why couldn’t the club that had the most to lose if he went down to injury?

Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin insisted that “It was not because he came back too quick that he got injured […]. You always wonder if that was the case, but we looked into it really deeply and that was not the case.”

Bergevin’s comments are hard to believe given the outcome of Price’s return, and the fact that Price had not been responding well to treatment. A trip to New York to obtain a second opinion was further evidence that all was not going well with Price’s convalescence. Given his difficult recovery, injury history, and on-ice mobility problems, the team’s decision to play Price and allow him to play through pain is unconscionable.

The Verdict

The Montreal Canadiens (including Price himself) have only themselves to blame for Price’s extended absence. Nothing but prolonged rest and therapy could properly heal his (suspected) MCL injury, but Montreal has insisted, at every juncture, on playing him despite every indication that he was not fully healed.

I hope Price is given, and takes, all the time he needs to come back from this injury. Sadly, needlessly, he’s already lost the chance to defend last season’s incredible cache of awards. At this point, the only consolation would be a healthy return in time for the playoffs. I hope it happens, but it’s more than the Canadiens deserve.

About The Author

Paul Campbell

Paul Campbell is a writer at InGoal, and a former CIS goaltender and women's goaltending coach for Mount Allison University. He occassionally moonlights as a university literature instructor.

3 Comments

  1. Haakan

    It’s ridiculous to me how some nhl teams mismanage injured players. You’ve got a guy who is literally your franchise marquee player and you take a chance on an injury that could hamper, shorten, or derail his career? Absolutely inexcusable. I’m not a fan of Montreal and never have been, but regardless of my allegiance, I feel terrible for Price. He is one of the game’s best players. Every time one of the game’s best goes down or has their career compromised, it diminishes the quality and excitement of the whole league. Who doesn’t enjoy watching highlight reel saves, goals, passes, etc??? The NHL needs to do more to protect players from injury (both from dirty/illegal hits, and from teams exploiting the fear and ego of players to force them back prematurely). Look at baseball…. When steven Strasburg was hurt early in his career, Washington shut him down because they knew they would rather risk losing him for one season, than risking his health for his career. Or look at how the oilers have handled mcdavid. They have refused to rush him back or take any chances. Edmonton has done a lot of stupid things in the last 5-7 seasons, but rushing talented players back prematurely from injury isn’t one of them. And Montreal can’t make the excuse that the fans are pressuring them or the media is pressuring them. Edmonton has been in the cellar for years and they have fans throwing jerseys on the ice. Montreal has consistently made the playoffs and made a strong run.

  2. HabsinToronto

    It’s always deeply enlightening to read wannabe columnists put blame on an organization for a player’s injury, while having *zero* access to the real medical information about the player’s injury. Conjecture, speculation and b.s.. Price is being handled by a professional medical staff.

  3. Rick

    What a crock of b.s. Typical story of the click-bait era. A controversial title and convenient examples to fit the author’s intentions. How does Price pull off the sensational 14-15 season if still harboring injury from Kreider’s dirty play (it was dirty and he should have been pummeled).
    Author feels fine diagnosing the injury (“suspected MCL”) without any details and the most important thing to remember is that the only person who know when and if CP31 is good to go is himself, which he obviously thought was the case. Yes, athletes push themselves back (sometimes to their own detriment), but that hardly supports this article’s blasphemous headline. Way to capitalize on the Mtl fan base and desire for “news”, total hack.