Sports Hockey

Carey Price named Postmedia male athlete of the year

By Michael Traikos, Postmedia Network

Brad Boyes of the Maple Leafs gets stopped by Carey Price of the Canadiens during NHL action at the Air Canda Centre in Toronto on Oct. 7, 2015. (Dave Abel/Toronto Sun)

Brad Boyes of the Maple Leafs gets stopped by Carey Price of the Canadiens during NHL action at the Air Canda Centre in Toronto on Oct. 7, 2015. (Dave Abel/Toronto Sun)

Just how good was Montreal Canadiens’ Carey Price last season?

Well, he won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goaltender and both the Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award as league MVP. He had the lowest goals-against average, the highest save percentage and the most wins.

But if you want a true understanding of his dominance, consider the column that the Montreal Gazette ran in March, which asked whether Sidney Crosby would still go No. 1 if you could re-do the 2005 NHL Entry Draft?

A year ago, when Crosby had won a second gold medal to go along with his two scoring titles, two league MVPs and one Stanley Cup ring, such a question would have been foolish. But that was then.

Today, as Jack Todd wrote, “It’s a no-brainer to put Price at the top of the list. Given that he could conceivably dominate the league for another decade, it’s possible that at the end of his career he will still rank above Crosby.”

While that is certainly up for debate, there is really no question that the last 12 months belonged to Price. He had a season for the ages. He was not only the best goaltender and the best player in the NHL in 2015, but he was also Canada’s best athlete, as voted on by Postmedia News.

“Possibly one of the great seasons by a goaltender in the history of our league,” said Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland.

The individual numbers — 1.96 goals-against average, .933 save percentage and nine shutouts — were obviously impressive. But that they came on a Montreal team that was amongst the worst at allowing shots made it even more so.

Price stole games. He wormed his way inside the heads of his opponents and almost single-handedly caused the league and its fans to question whether nets should be bigger.

On one night, he picked up a 6-2 win after being outshot 46-20 by the Los Angeles Kings. On another night, he took two points away from the Calgary Flames in a 2-1 overtime shootout win where Montreal had been outshot 38-19. He was that glitch in the video game that makes it impossible to score, that anti-acne cream that magically clears up blemishes on the spot.

“Let’s face it: Montreal’s not a good team,” said hockey analyst Don Cherry. “They’re not like the Detroit Red Wings when (Terry) Sawchuk was there. They’re not one of the most powerful teams in the league and he carried them almost on his shoulders in every game. I have to say that’s one of the greatest performances I ever saw.”

Montreal finished with the second-best record in the NHL last season. But overall, the Canadiens were not nearly as good as they appeared. It was just that Price was so good at covering up their blemishes that it was easy to forget their flaws — something that is becoming even more apparent this season with Price having missed 24 games as of Monday with an injury.

“You never want to get complacent and put it in the goaltender’s hands all the time, but Carey Price last year was pretty amazing with the things he accomplished,” said Toronto Maple Leafs forward P.A. Parenteau, who played for the Canadiens last season.

“Even when we had our worst nights, he was out there making a difference. He was consistently good, but beyond that he was consistently doing miracles. It’s something I’ve never experienced.”

It might have been new for Parenteau, but Price has been building towards this for a while now. The No. 5 pick in the 2005 draft won a gold medal for Canada in 2014 and might have led the Canadiens to a Stanley Cup in the same year had he not been injured in the Eastern Conference semifinal.

In 2015, it all started to come together.

“It wasn’t by accident,” said hockey analyst and former NHL goaltender Jamie McLennan. “If you’re going to build a goaltender, that’s what he looks like: he’s got the skills. He’s the whole package.”

“He’s becoming a legend of that town,” said hockey analyst and former NHL goaltender Corey Hirsch. “All he needs now is the Cup.”

That could be coming. After all, Montreal has the hard part taken care of. They have an all-world goaltender who wins games by himself and consistently performs at a level others hope to achieve once or twice per season.

Now, it is up to the rest of the team to follow suit.

“I had the pleasure of being around Martin Brodeur with the Canadian world championship team in 2005 and for me, they have similar demeanours,” said Holland. “He’s an all-world talent, but at the same time he’s just so relaxed and confident. It gives the rest of your team and your entire organization a level of comfort.”

mtraikos@postmedia.com

twitter.com/Michael_Traikos

The voting

Carey Price: 56%

Andre de Grasse: 20%

Andrew Wiggins: 12%

Damian Warner: 4%

Mikael Kingsbury: 4%

Connor McDavid: 4%

What they said: “He won every award possible this past season in the NHL and was a main reason why the Montreal Canadiens, who were outshot and out-chanced on a nightly basis, finished second in the standings and qualified for the playoffs.”



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