Carey Price was accepting the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for his dedication to hockey, for conquering substance abuse and pushing through a knee injury that threatened to (but didn’t) keep him out of every Montreal Canadiens game this past season, and he was talking about his continued dedication to the game.
Last Friday, the franchise goaltender reaffirmed the statement he made at the end of April. He said at the end of the season that without improvement to his surgically repaired but still-bothersome knee he wouldn’t be able to meet the demands of being an NHL starter again but would continue to try to push through whatever he must to pursue the chance to play again. He graciously accepted his award and repeated that his goal hadn’t changed.
Whether or not he can achieve it remains unanswered. It’s going to remain unanswered for longer than Price or the Canadiens want it to be, and that’s a reality everyone is going to have to accept.
“I don’t really have any new news for you,” the 34-year-old said. “I will tell you that I had a PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injection this summer, so I’m just letting that sit and I’m getting prepared to start my ramp up and start preparing for next season. I’m going to start preparing like I am playing. I don’t think I will actually have an idea of how that’s going to look until later this summer when I’ve taken all the necessary steps to get back on the ice again."
"So, I wish I could give you news, and I wish I had news for myself, but I don’t. So, I’m just going to continue to try to take every step I can in order to play next year. That’s pretty much all I got for you. I’m sorry, I wish I knew more. I really do. I would feel better about the situation (if I knew), but I don’t. So, I’m just going to keep pushing forward.”
The Canadiens are stuck in a holding pattern, too. Just days after GM Kent Hughes said it would be ideal if clarity emerged in Price’s situation ahead free agency on July 13, the goaltender made it clear it most likely won’t.
According to hopkinsmedicine.org, a platelet rich plasma injection is meant to amplify the natural growth factors one’s body uses to heal tissue. There’s a chance this regenerative-medicine technique will do what it’s intended to enable Price to push through his summer routine with renewed confidence he can return to form.
There's also a chance it won’t. It typically takes three-to-four months for improvement to show (if it shows at all) and there’s not exactly a wealth of material available on how mixing in NHL-level goaltending exercises affect the process.
And even if there was, no two situations are alike and Price likely won’t fully know what his is until he puts his knee through a much harder test than the one it’ll be subjected to upon his initial return to the ice later this summer.
So, Hughes will have to wait, uncertain of how much salary-cap space he’ll have to play with ahead of crucial opportunities—the NHL Draft and the opening of free agency—to tweak and, to a degree, reshape his roster. Not ideal, and it almost felt like when Price said the words, “I’m sorry,” he was speaking directly to his GM.
But it’s an apology he doesn’t owe to Hughes or anyone else.
Price refuses to go down without a fight, and that’s why he was talking in the first place. It is that commendable attitude that saw him distinguished last week with one of the NHL’s greatest honours, and he shouldn’t feel even a morsel of guilt for taking as much time as he needs in order to assess whether or not he can continue to dedicate himself to the game.
And Price’s impatience with the process is perfectly understandable. He has said on multiple occasions that his rehabilitation from last summer’s surgery was the most mentally—and physically—grueling one he’s ever undergone, and now he’s once again stuck in limbo, waiting to see if he can push himself through another one.
That Price is even willing to speaks to why he was this year’s Masterton winner.
Report: Richardson candidate to become Blackhawks head coach makes sense
The Canadiens won’t stand in the way, nor should they.
Frank Seravalli of DailyFaceoff.com reported Thursday morning that the Chicago Blackhawks have asked the Canadiens for permission to interview assistant Luke Richardson, as well as Vancouver Canucks assistant coach Brad Shaw, about the potential vacancy on their bench, and that permission has been granted.
Had Richardson met the prerequisite of being able to communicate in French, he’d have been the logical choice to replace Dominique Ducharme behind the Canadiens’ bench in February. Especially after he helped guide the Canadiens past the Vegas Golden Knights and through the first couple of games of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final in Ducharme’s absence due to COVID-19. Because he didn’t (and still doesn’t), the Canadiens have been expecting other teams to come calling to potentially offer him an opportunity to run a bench elsewhere.
It’s the reason Martin St. Louis didn’t fully close the door on bringing another assistant coach on board before next season. Last week, he said, upon losing the interim tag and being given a three-year extension to remain as head coach of the Canadiens, that he’s not planning on it for now and that all his assistants were expected back.
But St. Louis didn’t outright strike the possibility of adding another coach because he knows Richardson has ambition to be a head coach and knows someone out there surely recognizes he’s worthy of being one.
Virtually every defenceman that’s played for Richardson since he landed in Montreal in 2018 has sung his praises for his calming influence and natural leadership. Surely, the Blackhawks have noticed, and they’re likely not the only team to have noticed how well he operated under the most unique and challenging circumstances of the 2021 playoffs.
Rehashing memories with Marie-Philip Poulin
After watching Poulin run from interview to interview following up her press conference and the announcement she was joining the Canadiens as a part-time development consultant, we got reacquainted.
I reminded her of last time we spoke—all the way back in 2014, when a contingent of her gold-medal winning Olympic team was honoured at the Bell Centre before a Colorado Avalanche-Canadiens game.
I was walking up from the seventh-floor media lounge to the eighth-floor press box with Poulin and co., just ahead of me. Right as they reached the top of the stairs, the elevator door opened and out walked a Hall of Famer who crossed right in front of Poulin.
She stopped dead in her tracks, put her hands over her mouth and indiscreetly whispered to a teammate, “Oh my God, that’s (Avalanche GM) Joe Sakic.”
I turned to her and said, “You should introduce yourself, he’s probably a huge fan of yours,” and Poulin and her teammates cracked up.
She was laughing again on Tuesday when I brought it up.
“I totally remember that,” Poulin said, as her cheeks turned crimson.
Personally, I’ll never forget—especially not after everyone I touched base with to build this profile explaining why she’ll excel in her new role vaunted her humility as her most admirable quality. This was a classic example.
The on-ice quality Poulin’s teammates say they admire most about her (outside of being the most clutch hockey player they’ve ever seen)? Her ability to steal pucks from her opponents.
“One of the things that I think of, and it’s something we’re really trying to get better at in the women’s game, is stick lifts,” said Natalie Spooner. “She’s hands down the best at it. If you see her backchecking you, you should be worried she’s going to lift your stick and take the puck. You learn so much just watching video of her doing it. She can just use her stick and her body so much better than others.”
Moments later, on a separate call, Erin Ambrose said the same thing, almost word for word.
“She’s the best in the world at stick lifts,” she started. “Backtracking from behind, she steals pucks off people all the time. It stands out. Auston Matthews does it so well with one hand, and that’s exactly what Pou does. She has an ability to put herself in positions to create turnovers, and then what she does off those turnovers speaks for itself. She has an ability to create something out of nothing every time she’s on the ice.”
Can Poulin teach that?
“For sure,” she said when I asked her. “it’s just practice, hard work and timing.”
Poulin talked about how, in preparing for the Olympics, the Canadian women’s team played exhibitions against men and worked exhaustively on this specific aspect of the game, which enabled her to improve dramatically at it. “It’s not like you want to spend so much time on angling and stick work in practice, but we did because we knew if we went straight for them, they’re physically much stronger and we’d bounce right off of them,” she said.
Poulin might not be able to teach others how to have the instincts to do it as well as she does, but her belief is she can influence them to work as hard as they have to in order to master this skill—and others—that will better equip them to succeed with the Canadiens.
I wouldn’t bet against her.