Habs fans hoping change pays off

Carey Price, goalie for the Canadiens practices with the team. (Craig Robertson/QMI Agency)

Carey Price, goalie for the Canadiens practices with the team. (Craig Robertson/QMI Agency)

MATT SHOTT, Sports Network

, Last Updated: 4:31 PM ET

TORONTO -- Three seasons ago, Montreal Canadiens faithful saw a glimpse of the glory days of Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy when a young rookie by the name of Carey Price helped lead the Canadiens to a first- place finish in the Eastern Conference.

Fast-forward to the present, and those same faithful are having second thoughts over whether their team kept the right goalie, after Les Habitants traded 2010 playoff hero Jaroslav Halak to the St. Louis Blues, handing Price the keys to the Montreal kingdom.

After a stellar rookie season that saw Price post a .920 save percentage and 2.57 GAA, while earning the love of the city of Montreal, Price had a bit of a sophomore slump, if you can call it that. He still managed a .905 save percentage and a 2.87 GAA during his second season but, in Montreal, either you improve your stats each year, or you receive disapproval from the ruthless fan base.

Even last season, when Price put up respectable numbers, he was still on the receiving end of a number of Bronx cheers from the crowd due to the city's high expectations. But now, Montreal has to deal with the "Price" its team chose for the future.

And the situation between the pipes was looking even worse when, going into the final month of the offseason, Price still had not signed a contract with Montreal, leaving the team with Alex Auld, Curtis Sanford, or Kari Ramo to tend to the net. Fortunately, the Habs did not face the worst of that scary scenario and got Price under contract, making it obvious that management sees him as the goalie that can help lead Le Bleu Blanc et Rouge back to the Cup final for the first time in just under two decades.

But the goalie scenario was not the only major headline in the City of Mary this summer.

Recently, the was a report naming American Brian Gionta as the Canadiens captain, which would make him the 28th player to wear the "C" in Montreal's storied history.

Why is this considered such a major story?

For one, it is a story involving a player who will be held responsible for explaining to the media why the team is not living up to the high expectations the city has for them. Next to the Toronto media, the Montreal journalists can be the harshest critics in the league, and if the Habs are not meeting the standards of a playoff-caliber team, you better be on your A-game in order to enlighten them as to why.

Secondly, Gionta could become only the second American player to captain the Canadiens, the first being Chris Chelios who split the duties with Guy Carboneau during the 1989-90 season. It may not seem like that big of a deal, but many Montreal fans, whether they like Gionta or not, could find it odd that the team is following the leadership of an American. Granted, the team had Saku Koivu of Finland as its captain for a decade, making him the first non-Canadian to wear the illustrious "C" full-time in the team's 100-year history, but it's still hard for some of the French-Canadian faithful -- however small-minded and provincial such sentiments might make them look -- to come to grips with.

Gionta has been around the league for 12 seasons and has won a Stanley Cup while playing on the Devils with current teammate Scott Gomez, something only one other player can say they have done, that being Hal Gill.

But this is a team shadowed by history, and as Canadiens fans enter another season without a Canadian-born player as their leader, it may be something that does not sit well with the traditionalists should the Habs falter.

Time will tell if Montreal can recreate the magical run it had to the Eastern Conference Final last season. Carey Price has led them to the promised land before, and a foreign captain has done the same as well.

So, if it's history Habs fans are so in love with, then it's history the city of Montreal will have to believe in order to remain optimistic about the upcoming season.


Videos

Photos