Some would say one of the biggest strengths of the Canadiens is their goaltending.  A second look will tell you it’s a strength and a weakness.

Yes, the team does have Carey Price and they have more than adequate backup in Peter Budaj.  But what would have happened if Carey Price had picked up that concussion in December and not March 20th?  Budaj played the final four games of the season and the Czech-born, Swiss citizen Robert Mayer became his backup.  Had Budaj gone down the fate of the Canadiens would have been in the hands of Mayer.

Traditionally, an NHL team’s third goaltender is the number one goaltender on their farm team.  Twenty eight year old Nathan Lawson was the Hamilton Bulldogs number one, working on a one year two-way contract after gaining unrestricted free agency from the Islanders organization.  Behind him at Bulldogs training camp in September were Mayer and Peter Delmas.

29-Robert Mayer - Hamilton Bulldogs

Mayer won the Bulldogs backup job and Delmas was sent to Wheeling of the ECHL for all but a few games.  Lawson was injured twice during the season; a concussion in January and a hip injury in March and Mayer took over responsibility with Delmas called up for Wheeling as his backup.   Finally, with the Price concussion, Mayer was called up to Montreal for the final four games of the season as Budaj’s backup.

In the eight draft years since the Canadiens took Jaroslav Halak as their last draft choice (271st) they have chosen three goaltenders, Luc Lacasse in 2002 (181st) Carey Price (5th overall -2005) and  6’8” Jason Missaen out of Peterborough.  Lacasse and Missaen are long gone. And the Canadiens future for the moment is left in the hands of Mayer and Delmas both of whom are free agent signings out of the QMJHL.

Under Bob Gainey and then Pierre Gauthier, the Canadiens policy was to have a veteran number one in Hamilton.  First it was Marc Denis, then Curtis Sanford with Cedrick Desjardins (another junior free agent) backing him up and, when Sanford was hurt late in the 2010-2011 season Gauthier traded for Drew MacIntyre who led them to the AHL semi-final.   The fact that Gauthier signed Lawson last summer tells us the organization wasn’t inclined to heap responsibility on either Mayer or Delmas and one look at the season’s statistics will tell you there’s no Halak or Carey Price in the pipeline quite yet .













39 Peter Delmas 4 185:32 1 2 0 0 7 2.26 79 0.919
52 Nathan Lawson 44 2402:26 19 17 4 5 103 2.57 1098 0.914
29 Robert Mayer 39 2000:38 14 18 1 0 98 2.94 974 0.909

For the record – at ECHL-Wheeling Delmas played in 37 games with a 2.60GAA and a .909 save%.

So, unless the Canadiens elect to resign Lawson or another free agent veteran for their Bulldogs farm team, their so-called third goaltender can only be termed a couple of works in progress, neither close to NHL calibre.  They might draft a long term project in June, but it appears for the moment they’re going to have to fill the role of number three goaltender from the veteran AHL ranks for the fifth straight year.