Up Close: Francois Allaire Opines on Habs’ Carey Price [with AUDIO]

(Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

“Up Close” is an All Habs Hockey Magazine feature that gives readers a back-stage pass to athletes, management and sports personalities via our exclusive interviews.  Previous guests have included HNIC’s Steve Porter, NASCAR’s Andrew Ranger, Habs prospect Mark MacMillan, Montreal’s Annakin Slayd, Canadiens’ assistant captain Josh Gorges and Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender, Ken Dryden.   This week the spotlight is on legendary goalie coach Francois Allaire.


MONTREAL, QC. — After his sixth NHL season under the Montreal spotlight, Carey Price has experienced many high moments. Representing the Montreal Canadiens at three All-Star games is surely an accomplishment in itself. Posting 38 wins with a .923 save percentage in the 2010-11 regular season is another one of his achievements that stand out. However, in the minds of many, Carey Price still has a lot more to prove at the NHL level.

upcloseSpecifically, some would argue that Price has major consistency issues that need to be worked out. It is also believed by many that he has yet to deliver the goods when it matters most, in the postseason. There is even a sense that Price doesn’t have the mental fortitude or the passion needed to have success in a hockey-crazed city like Montreal.

It’s these negative connotations about Price, coupled with his six-year 39-million dollar contract that make him a prime target for frustration amongst Habs fans. But how do we decipher the exact root of Price’s deficiencies? Well, if there’s one coach out there who’s had success working alongside goaltenders over the past 30 years, it’s probably Francois Allaire.

Allaire, who recently agreed to the terms of a three-year contract with the Colorado Avalanche, shared his thoughts about Price during a candid interview with me earlier this week. Not only has Francois Allaire worked as a goalie coach for over 30 years at the pro level, he has also worked with some of the best goalies to ever strap on a pair of pads. Most notably, Allaire has worked with Patrick Roy during his stint with the Canadiens, and Jean-Sebastien Giguere in both Anaheim and Toronto. Although Allaire has never worked with Price, he nevertheless offered some of his thoughts.

(Photo by Rick Madonik | Toronto Star)
(Photo by Rick Madonik | Toronto Star)

As my conversation with Allaire began, the goalie coach spoke about Price’s production this past season: “The standards are so high in the pros right now and it doesn’t take too long to get to the bottom of the league [statistics-wise.]  If you just give one more goal per two games, your save percentage can go from .920 to .900 and you’re not part of the top-10 in the league. It’s a really thin line to be at the top [of the statistics for goaltending leaders] or to be average. Obviously Carey Price didn’t have the best playoffs ever and it’s easy to say he’s got this or he’s got that, but in reality, if he would have made one more save per game, that could have made a big difference.”

Allaire even addressed the comments made by ex-Habs goalie coach Rollie Melanson (1997-2009), who said that Price has developed many bad habits while working with his successor, Pierre Groulx. Melanson told L’Acadie Nouvelle, “Carey hasn’t stopped deteriorating since I left. He’s all over the place now. At some point, there has to be some accountability in the school yard. The position requires a lot of work and Carey hasn’t been consistent.”  Melanson also stated that he felt Price was a better goalie before Groulx arrived with the Canadiens for the 2009-10 season.

Allaire believes that Melanson is certainly entitled to his own opinion: “That’s his opinion. I know he feels that when he left Montreal four or five years ago that Carey Price was better. That’s his personal opinion. But the team has changed a lot and a lot of things have changed in Montreal since then so it’s not the same situation as four years ago. I mean, maybe he’s right, maybe he’s wrong. We don’t know. It’s completely personal and that’s his own idea.”

(Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

When Allaire was asked whether he believes Carey Price is worth the six and a half million dollars that he’s earning annually, he had the following response: “Well guys today get money at a really early age because it’s all about bargaining power. When a team feels they have a decent number one goalie and their player has some numbers, usually the player is going to get a pretty good contract. So that’s what happened I think. He had some really good bargaining power when it was time to negotiate his contract and his agent did a great job. And now you have to live with the contract and you have to support it. It’s fun to have a big contract but I think the people want more from him on a consistent basis. It’s also a little bit tougher with a big contract because people want more from you, to be a little bit more consistent, and to take the team a little bit further every year. And you have to play with that [on your mind] and sometimes for some guys it’s a little bit more difficult the first year of their contract than the last year because there’s a lot more motivation the last year of a contract. When it’s the first year of your contract sometimes there are some guys that are a little bit more nervous because they think too much about it.”

Allaire even offered the following advice to Price about the pressures of dealing with the Montreal media: “There are many different markets in the NHL. There are some markets where there’s a lot more media attention but its part of the business. If you look at baseball or basketball and if you play in a big city, it’s the same thing. And you can’t always choose your team. Usually you’re stuck with the team that drafted for you or traded for you. And some cities have more media and you need to deal with it. But media-wise, it’s usually a bit in the morning and after the game. You don’t have to read or listen to TV. It’s up to you if you want to do it, but you don’t have to. So there are some cities where there’s less media but when you’re the goaltender, you have to talk a little bit more than the guy on the fourth line. But that’s why you get more money and that’s part of the business.”

Contrary to popular belief, Allaire denied the notion that goalies take the longest of any position to reach their full potential. He also believes that it’s time for Price to take his game to the next level: “It’s different for every guy. For some guys, they come into their full potential really early in their career and for some guys it comes a little bit later. Right now he’s in his mid-twenties and of course when you have the contract of his dimension, people are going to expect you to be at your primetime. But it’s not coming with the money. And of course Carey Price is a really good athlete. That’s easy to see. But now he has to grow up and take full responsibility and become more consistent. It’s different for every guy. For some it comes really early and for others it comes later.  Hopefully for the Montreal Canadiens, it comes as soon as possible.”  Allaire cited Patrick Roy as an example of a goalie who experienced success early in his career with Eddie Belfour, Dominik Hašek and Tim Thomas illustrative as winners later on.

Although Francois Allaire recently agreed to join Patrick Roy’s staff as a goalie coach for the Colorado Avalanche, he did admit that there was talk with the Canadiens brass once it was decided that Pierre Groulx’s contract would not be renewed. He asserted that while the job to work with Carey Price was definitely inviting, negotiations with Colorado were more advanced since they were not participating in the Stanley Cup playoffs. He also added that having another opportunity to work with both Patrick Roy and Jean-Sebastien Giguere, were major factors in his decision.

AUDIO of All Habs Up Close interview with Francois Allaire