Down to the wire

Monday, 24.09.2007 / 4:35 PM / News
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Down to the wire
 Bob Gainey
MONTREAL – With the axe falling at Canadiens camp and 27 players suffering the consequences, Bob Gainey took the time to set the stage for what promises to be an eventful final week of training camp. 

Gone are camp darlings Matt D’Agostini and Sergei Kostitsyn, while man-child Carey Price remains in the running. As only Gainey could, he calmly provided his take on how the camp is shaping up.

With the hot button topic being Price’s odds of making the team, Gainey discussed how talk of the top job in either Montreal or Hamilton being the only possible alternative for Price was perhaps premature.

“Sometimes it’s tough for coaches to separate what is best for their current lineup and what will most benefit a young player’s development,” explained Gainey of the current battle between Price and Jaroslav Halak for the role as Cristobal Huet’s understudy. “For that reason, it may be my decision to make based on what makes the most sense for these players.”

Those wary of thrusting Price into the spotlight are not alone, but Gainey and Co. are hard at work deciding who is ready for prime time.

“It’s up to our hockey staff to decide what a normal growth pattern is for our young players,” said Gainey. “If a youngster say, skips from Grade 6 to 11, are there important steps that will be missed along the way? Can a given player handle that kind of a leap? Those are the types of questions we must ask ourselves as we look to best get these players to reach their potential.”

As for what’s best for both Price and Halak at this stage of their careers, that all depends, according to Gainey.

“Our goalie situation isn’t like New Jersey’s where you have Martin Brodeur playing over 70 games with a back-up being used sparingly,” said Gainey. “Our back-up will see action, and as for whom will fill what slot, that will be determined over the next week or so.

“I believe a young goalie can develop either in Hamilton playing a lot of games, or here in a back-up role,” added Gainey. “We have two available goalie positions: the No. 2 job here in Montreal and the No. 1 job in Hamilton. Both have room for a goalie’s growth.”

Asked to identify the biggest surprises at this year’s camp, Gainey pointed towards newly-cut Kostitsyn and D’Agostini.

“The most pleasant surprises would have to be Sergei Kostitsyn and Matt D’Agostini. They each had an impressive week with us,” said Gainey. “Playing in Hamilton will serve these promising players well.

“Coming off a first year of pro with the Bulldogs which saw him gain experience by winning the Calder Cup, D’Agostini will take on more responsibility this season and will be leaned on even more,” added Gainey. “As for Kostitsyn, he was dominant in the OHL once again, but this season he will be facing men in the AHL, not 17 and 18-year olds in junior.”

Other casualties on Monday included Yann Danis, Corey Locke and Jean-Philippe Cote to name a few who will have to clear waivers before reporting to Hamilton, but that doesn’t mean Gainey isn’t crossing his fingers.

“It’s normal to see players through waivers after having three years of pro hockey under their belts,” said Gainey. “No one knows what assets we have better than we do, so I’m not about to reveal which players I hope we don’t lose. I’ll leave it up to other teams to do their homework, instead.”

Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com