Montreal Canadiens: A Bold Habs Decision On July 30, 2005 Paid Off Tremendously

LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 24: Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 24: Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The Montreal Canadiens made a bold choice at the 2005 NHL Draft. It has paid off extremely well for the organization.

The Montreal Canadiens are getting ready for their Best-of-5 play-in series with the Pittsburgh Penguins that is set to begin on Saturday. It is rare that the Habs are in the news late in July, but 2020 has been an odd year for everyone. So, here we are about to turn the calendar to August, and the Canadiens are in camp getting ready for a postseason series.

The last time the Habs were making headlines in the final days of July was 15 years ago. The 2004-05 season was not affected by a global pandemic like the current season, but was cancelled nonetheless.

Back then, NHL owners and the player’s association could not come to agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement. With no deal in place, the entire season was cancelled in January. That meant there would be no 2005 postseason and is also put the offseason activities like the NHL Draft and free agency in jeopardy as well.

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Eventually, the two sides would finally agree to a deal that included a new salary cap and a whole new interpretation of the rule book. While there was a limit on how much teams could spend on players, there was no cap on how penalties a referee could call in a single game. It also resulted in a late entry draft and a new system to decide who would get the first pick.

With no season of games to draw from at all, the league decided to host a lottery where each team had a chance at the first overall pick. Making things slightly more dramatic was the fact that Sidney Crosby, the most hyped prospect in years, was the prize being handed out to the team with the first pick.

As we of course know now, the Pittsburgh Penguins landed the future Hall of Fame player, but the Canadiens were fortunate to be granted the 5th overall selection that year.

That draft was pushed back to July 30, exactly 15 years ago today. When the Habs went to the podium to announce their pick, it was expected to be either Gilbert Brule, a big centre or Marc Staal, a big shutdown defenceman. Instead, they went a little off the board and selected Carey Price.

The TSN announcers, specifically Pierre McGuire, were not enthused with Bob Gainey’s decision to select a goaltender. The Habs had Jose Theodore who won the Hart and Vezina Trophy’s just three years earlier, and had also just traded for Cristobal Huet. It didn’t appear that goaltending was the team’s biggest need with such a high pick.

However, the Canadiens have been benefiting from having Price in their organization that past 15 years. He turned into the best goaltender in the world for a number of years. He is still a solid and capable goaltender, though he won’t be winning the Vezina trophy this season, he brought more to the table this season than Gilbert Brule or Marc Staal.

Price was at his best in 2015, ten years after being drafted. He won the Hart Trophy, Vezina Trophy, William Jennings Award and Ted Lindsay Award that season. He had carried the Habs to the Eastern Conference Final and won a gold medal at the Winter Olympics the year before. He would win the World Cup of Hockey the following year.

It was a dominant stretch of hockey for the Canadiens goaltender. It goes to show what can happen when a team is confident enough in its scouting to go off the board a little bit to make what they think is the right pick.

That’s exactly what the Habs did two years ago with Alexander Romanov who was ranked way later than the beginning of the second round. They did the same with Jayden Struble the following year. Now both look like great defensive prospects for the Habs.

Next. Why the Habs should break up their top line. dark

Don’t be surprised if the Canadiens go a little off the board when we finally get to the 2020 NHL Draft. Don’t worry if they do, they seem to be pretty good at drafting when they let Trevor Timmins call the shots.