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When the Blues traded for, and subsequently signed, goalie Jaroslav Halak, there was much rejoicing on Blues websites and forums. FINALLY, after years of “veteran backups” we have a young, very good goalie with the potential to become the best the Blues have seen for an awfully long time. However. The doubts still niggled away. The main one has been this almost whispered concern that Halak could turn out to be the Blues version of Cristobal Huet.
Huet had been another Canadiens goalie who had ousted Jose Theodore as starter. Huet had taken the Canadiens to the playoffs and had a great game against the Hurricanes, stopping 42 of 43 shots. The Canadiens lost the series to the Hurricanes but Huet was re-signed and was selected to the All-Star team. He was traded to the Capitals and then picked up via free agency by the Chicago Blackhawks, signing a 4 year, $22.4m deal. Since that time, his “streaky” play has led to rookie, Antti Niemi ousting him as number 1.
The Halak situation is completely different. How different is summed up by TSN analyst Pierre McGuire in an article in The Montreal Gazette. McGuire predicted Huet would crash and burn when the Canadiens traded him to the Capitals. McGuire was convinced that players had already figured out how to beat him. So what about Halak? Could the Blues be in the same situation? Not according to McGuire:
“This is totally different (from Huet),” McGuire said. “(Halak) is a player who is in his prime and this is a guy who’s really worked hard to get to where he is. Huet was not even close to being in his prime -he was past his prime and he had never made it in his prime. And he was a guy that really was a byproduct of players not being familiar with him … the tendency to drop early and beat him up high.”
The work ethic is the key. No matter what league Halak has played in, he has worked extremely hard to be the best he can be. He may not be the most naturally gifted – but I’ll take Halak’s hard work and good positioning over natural talent any day of the week. Halak has HAD to work hard to get where he is – and that builds character, it gives an inner strength and self-belief that simply cannot be taught. Halak has had his knocks and he’s bounced back stronger every time.
This is a player you can build around. This is why fans are excited. And this is why the Blues signed him to a 4 year, $15m deal. Halak will be the Blues #1 next season – and as his agent, Allan Walsh said on twitter: “St. Louis made a major commitment to him and Jaro is thrilled.”
Halak himself had this to say: “I’ve been looking forward to playing in St. Louis ever since the trade was announced. I believe in my abilities and hope to do some good things for the Blues.”
The future is bright – the future is Halak.