Jack Todd: Price is stable Carey, but what does the future hold with Canadiens?

Montreal fans have spoken: You just had to hear the roar when the No. 31 stepped onto the ice to face the Islanders on Friday night. The earth moved.

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Montreal cheers, not that tepid kind of Toronto, where suits in expensive seats stop checking real estate prices long enough to offer a perfunctory clap or two.

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No, this town hits the real deal, a foundation-shaking wall of noise brought down from above by a unique combination of individual and circumstance that only a Montrealer could understand.

The cheers went down for The Rocket as the Forum was about to close, for Saku Koivu after her battle with lymphoma, for Carey Price as she returned to the ice cap she has possessed for the past 15 years.

If there is such a thing as unconditional love, it’s what fans feel for Price. Through injury and heartbreak, through high drama and farce, through all the ups and downs of life in the spotlight, the love story between Montreal fans and their 21st greatest hockey heroSt. century has never failed.

Criticize Price and they’ll set your tail on fire. Praise him and there will be dissenters, but they are a sulky minority. Montreal loves Carey against all odds. If you doubted it, you only had to listen to the roar as the No. 31 took to the ice to face the Islanders on Friday night. The earth moved.

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And the big guy did not disappoint. Were it not for an excellent Ilya Sorokin in the opposing net and a 3-0 break that led to Isles’ first goal, Price might have earned him a comeback after a full nine months on the shelf. As it was, Carey was assertive, always in control, always in position, brilliant when he had to handle the puck, his mere presence visibly lifting his teammates.

After two stints, I joked that Price was having an amazing season. Even now, he has a 2.04 goals against, which is not bad at all. The important thing is that Price tested at 34 years old and after a long rehabilitation from injuries, he can still score.

It was important to Price himself to prove himself in game action, important to Canadiens management, important to the league: The Man is still The Man. When he spoke afterward, Price seemed subdued, maybe even a little wistful. after missing what may have been the most tumultuous season in the club’s history.

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“Having a couple of setbacks has been frustrating, for sure,” he said, surely a huge understatement. “I just wanted everyone to know that I am doing well and that I am looking forward to the future. It’s definitely been a tough season for me and the team, so to be able to come back and feel somewhat normal, it didn’t feel very normal, but it felt pretty close. I felt a kind of overwhelming sense of focus.”

The focus is still there. The price is still elite. But which direction is best for the team he has led since Guy Carbonneau was head coach?

Everything that Jeff Gorton and Kent Hughes want to do in the future depends on Price. If Price stays, it’s $10.5 million in salary cap over the next four seasons, but it’s also a way to stay relevant as the youngsters mature, to compete for a playoff spot and possibly more each season.

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Given the contract, Price will do exactly what he wants to do. Does it make sense for him to stay here and hope the rebuild is quick enough to put him in position to compete for a Cup? Or is he better off with a contender who needs goalkeeping help in a situation that suits him and his family?

The fans have spoken: No. 31 will be hoisted to the rafters at the Bell Center one day, but for now, they want Carey Price between the pipes right here in Montreal. Somehow, you have to bet there will be more standing ovations in the future.

Remembering Bossy: Over a period of a year or two in the 1980s, I was lucky enough to write profiles on four prolific Quebec scoring machines in the NHL: Guy Lafleur, Marcel Dionne, Mike Bossy, and Mario Lemieux.

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They were all incredibly kind to an unknown writer, they generously gave of their time, they were remarkably honest. Only Dionne was in a bad mood and she was right: the stock market had crashed that day and all the players after a Rangers practice at Madison Square Garden were trying to figure out how much money they had lost.

I met Bossy after practice on Long Island and he was upbeat, funny and humble. Talking to him, you would never guess that he was, per game, the highest scorer in NHL history with 0.762 goals per game. Bigger than Lemieux, bigger than Alexander Ovechkin, bigger than Wayne Gretzky or Brett Hull or the Rocket. The best sniper the game has ever known.

Mike Bossy, a great player and a good man, is gone too soon.

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Heroes: Carey Price, Mike Bossy, Nick Suzuki, Romell Quioto, Djordje Mihailovic, &&&& last but not least, Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the heroic people of Ukraine.

zeros: Vladimir Putin, Alexander Ovechkin, Tom Wilson, Kyrie Irving, Matisse Thybulle, Claude Brochu, David Samson &&&& last but not least, Jeffrey Loria.

Now and always.

jacktodd46@outlook.com

twitter.com/jacktodd46

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