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Arguing about the choice of wallpaper as the house burns

As you have doubtless observed from our incoherent ramblings, French Immersion is something of an authority on character flaws - our executives exhibit several of them.

Not surprisingly, some are typical of the society in which we live, which shares more with the mythical ROC than most in either place would care to admit, but tends as a rule to express it more emotionally.

Take our irrational fondness for nostalgia, for instance.

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Faded glories and historical injustices are a more or less constant preoccupation - we can no more get over the Plains of Abraham than we can 16 years of Stanley Cup drought.

Quebec is also big on the notion of entitlement; the peuple wants what it wants, and it should get it, dammit.

The main outlet for these sentiments used to be politics.

But there's no referendum talk to keep people occupied, and the Action démocratique du Quebec, which came within 10,000 votes of winning power in 2007 (brrrr, what was that, the cold hand of death?) is disintegrating and nobody seems to care.

Given there always needs to be a villain in the piece - your Chrétiens or Parizeaus, and more recently Muslims, Hasidim and brown people during the reasonable accommodations "debate" - these are lean times.

In a nationalistic society, factionalism is something of a natural consequence - and in lieu of societal debates on language, identity and immigration, folk pick up whatever's at hand, like, say, Habs goaltending.

That's a gross generalization, lots people find subjects to argue about other than hockey (like municipal corruption), but none draw as much saturation coverage. Besides, we specialize in gross generalizations.

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Which brings us, rather ramblingly, to Allan Walsh, Jaro Halak's California-based Mr. 10%.

Much of this ground has already been tilled, so we won't to go back over it, after all, we wouldn't want to dispel our work-shy rep.

Suffice it to say that on Saturday night, Walsh tweeted a snide mention of Carey Price's win-loss record. (If you didn't see the Interweb this weekend, there's a good wrap-up of the controversy here).

Walsh has created a stir in hockey circles, where the culture is to address player-management grievances privately and failure of same results in recriminations - see the uproar over Heatley, D., late of the Ottawa Senators, and the case of Kostitsyn, S.

But he's also toyed with important social conventions in the most rabid hockey market in the world (get over it, Toronto).

A healthy portion of the adulation reserved for Halak in many quarters stems from the fact he's the underdog, and suffers in silence.

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Well, this kinda undercuts the argument, eh?

What was a collective sense of entitlement on the part of many Habs fans now seems to be his sense of entitlement (as expressed by his representative).

It's one of the things people instinctively dislike about Price - that he would be anointed the franchise goalie, by Bob Gainey and others, without having had to fight for it, and receive preferential treatment.

And now Jaro wants what's his - or at least his agent does; for the purposes of irrational fandom, the two are indistinguishable.

Predictably, the reactions on talk radio and the Internet - and oh, has there been reaction - have ranged from the merely hysterical to the deranged.

Price is still the primary whipping boy, but there are more than a few people who think Halak's agent is well out of order, and we daresay it's starting to trend poorly for old Jaro.

Nice work, Al!

Maybe the idea is to force Gainey's hand and perhaps engineer a trade (we hear Carolina's nice this time of year), but it seems a weird way of going about it.

We have no issue with advocacy in the appropriate forum, and Walsh is paid to look out for his client's interests. But did his "Price is 10W, 32L in last 42 starts" tweet do anything to advance them?

Like that nice Australian man said, we report, you decide.

So Walsh is uncouth, and evidently a bit of a jackass (he tried passing it off as a joke), but all that is consistent with the agent's idiom.

Of course, he also got his facts wrong - which as FI's put-upon staffers know all too well from painful experience, is not great for the ol' credibility.

So for the record: Price's mark over his last 42 starts, including playoffs, is 13-23-5 with one no-decision (he was pulled in a game the Habs ultimately lost to Ottawa, he has also appeared in relief three times since Jan. 20), Halak is 18-11 over the same period (January to now).

Don't get us wrong, Carey's stats are distinctly underwhelming, but Jaro's are no screaming hell either.

The stat that seems to go unmentioned is that the Habs AS A TEAM are 31-34-5 in the 2009 calendar year. They are last year's, pre-Clouston Senators.

But wait, there's more.

It turns out that despite this collective fixation - we need instant gratification and a scapegoat NOW! - goaltending really isn't the problem.


Quebecers - and Habs fans outside the province - have let their passions distract them from the root of the problem.

Thankfully the cool-headed number-crunchers over at Habs Eyes on the Prize have broken it all down with an unbelievably exhaustive analysis - it has tables and mathematical data and everything, which to us is like shiny to a Magpie (speaking of which NUFC 3 - Peterborough United 1 on Saturday, howay the lads).

You can find all the statistical goodness here.

For those too lazy or gormless to go and read it themselves, the highlights are these:

- The problem isn't goaltending as much as defensive zone coverage and giving up quality chances in the slot. Twelve of the 25 goals Price gave up in October were from 10 feet out or less. Tim Thomas and Marty Brodeur, to name two, faced only 8 and 12 shots from that portion of the ice despite tons more minutes.

- Then there's the blue-cheese stinky special teams: they can't put it in on the power play or keep it out on the penalty kill. Not a good combination.

- Halak is almost as good while short-handed as he is 5-on-5, and appreciably better on the PK than Price (who has given up 12 goals with the Habs short-handed). But Carey is way better statistically at even strength.

- For all this talk of Price's weak glove hand, Jaro gives up more goals up there as a percentage of his total.

- Halak has faced weaker opposition, and both men have given up comparable numbers of bad or "suspect" goals. Jaro's been more consistent, but hasn't handily outplayed Price.

The conclusion: unless the Canadiens improve their defensive play sharpish, get some secondary scoring and convert some power plays, you could have Patrick Roy circa 1989 or Ken Dryden circa 1975 in nets and it wouldn't matter.

But it's easier for the casual fan to lay the blame at the goalie's feet than to single out a defenceman (where was Hamrlik on the Tanguay goal Saturday night? I mean, other than standing right next to him?).

Or roast heroes of the nation like Guillaume Latendresse, Max Lapierre and Marc-André Bergeron, who have done the square root of bupkus in the last two weeks.

But Habs fans being Habs fans, their turn is next.

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