Primeau’s Progress On Par With Others

Expectation /ˌekspekˈtāSH(ə)n/ noun: a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future. A belief that someone will or should achieve something.

Everyone has expectations on different things. The issue is how many expectations you have, what they are, and if they are realistic or not. Sometimes, we tend to put unfair expectations on people. Who ends up frustrated and disappointed when they’re not met? Us, not them. So managing expectations is a skill, an art that gets mastered over time. Some never master it.

When it comes to Montreal Canadiens’ fans and media, unrealistic expectations placed on the team, its players, management or coaches, lead to an unhealthy, sometimes even nasty environment. When that happens, it can be felt on social media, on radio or TV sports shows, on podcasts and/or blogs, amongst other places. But here’s the issue… where does one draw the line as to what is and what is not a realistic expectation? Everyone thinks that THEIR expectation is realistic, whether it is or not. And that’s the issue. How do you argue that? It’s like the old adage where 75% of people think they’re smarter than the average, when the average is… 50%.

Fans on Primeau

After yet another loss, this time at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks, in a game where the Canadiens carried the play for most of the game, a few fans were targeting their frustration towards young goaltender Cayden Primeau. Primeau was once again pulled from the game, this time after the first period after allowing three goals.

It’s a sad state of affairs, when you think of it. Primeau is 22 years old. Because of the pandemic, he has only appeared in 20 games last season. This year, in spite of all of the call-ups in Montreal, he still managed to have a 2.77 GAA and .912 Sv% with the Rocket. He was called up to Montreal who is dead last in the NHL, with a defense that’s not worthy being called that. Yes, he has had ups and downs. Yes, maybe more downs than ups. But what are you expecting from a 7th round pick? Instant success at 22 years old?!?

On par with the NHL

Those who think he should be dominant by now, or consistant even, have not looked around the NHL. Here are the facts, although I’ll be the first to admit that some are subjective. But at least, they are based on other players, not just what’s in our heads.

While there are a few exceptions of goalies having an impact at the NHL level at a young age, most don’t turn into decent starters until they’re 24-26 years old. Yes, you’ll have the John Gibson, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tuuka Rask, M-A Fleury, Braden Holtby and Juuse Saros who will have success at 22-23 years old. But look at the names in the 24-26 years old:

Thacher Demko

Bobrovsky, Quick, Jarry, Hellebuyck, F. Andersen, Merzlikins, Binnington, Demko, Markstrom, Jones and Grubauer all started getting success as starters between the age of 24 to 26 years old. That’s two to four years from now if you look at Primeau!

Then you have guys like Craig Anderson, Mike Smith, Darcy Kuemper, Thomas Greiss and Igor Shesterkin, who broke out at 27 or older. Greiss and Shesterkin were 30. Then you have guys like Jack Campbell who had his first good season at age 26 but who has never played more than 31 games in a season. At 30 years old, he’s finally on pace to pass that mark!

Laval bound

It’s refreshing to read the good beat reporters stating that he needs to be sent down to Laval to continue his development, instead of joining the few who have given up on the kid. Because that’s what needs to happen. Considering the team in front of him, the NHL is clearly too high of a level at this stage of Primeau’s development. He’ll show flashes of greatness because he has the talent, but you risk shatering his confidence.

The Rocket form a good team. They are well coached and they have committed to making Primeau their undisputed starter this season, particularly after the criticism Michael McNiven has publicly done. Let him be the starter to continue his development in Laval and regain confidence. Call him up for a game once in a while if you must, but send him back down. He doesn’t have to go through waivers anyway.

Call up 31 year old Kevin Poulin instead, to practice with the team. Keep McNiven on the Taxi Squad and try running like that until one of Carey Price or Jake Allen comes back. Meanwhile, Primeau will continue his development where he should be. The team will benefit in the long run.

But folks, don’t be so quick at giving up on our young prospects. Just like the expectations placed on Cole Caufield were unrealistic, those young players need maturing and time to develop into impact players at the NHL level. It’s normal. You control your own expectations. The players will develop at their own pace no matter what expectation YOU place on them.

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