It shouldn’t be. It shouldn’t be anywhere near as big an issue as the media is making it out to be.
"But Therrien said—"
He’s only commenting on the issue (and being cryptic about it) because the media is asking him.
If the Canadiens’ organization knows what’s good for them, there is absolutely no reason to take Tokarski on and play 3 goalies this year. Use that extra space for another skater - we have so many youths who have proven themselves worthy of a spot at training camp.
Hasn’t Tokarski done the same, you might ask? He’s improved quite a bit since the spring’s playoff run, but he’s not quite there yet. I’m not going to completely break apart his technique because it’ll take too long, but the quick summary is: he’s still jumpy in the crease, and while his reflexes are good, it’s not going to be enough to consistently play against the real pros - not quite yet.
The thing about Tokarski is that he improves the more he plays. That’s a valuable tool for a goalie. However, if he becomes a backup goalie this season, he will barely play. Price is the Habs’ clear starter and neither Tokarski nor Budaj are anywhere near on his level. No one is taking his position away from him anytime soon. That means Tokarski will barely get any game experience. Tokarski needs to play another full season in the AHL, where he will play many games and continue to improve, so that he’ll be ready for next year.
Budaj has one more year left on his contract, and he is the definition of what a backup should be like. There is absolutely no need to rush Tokarski into a position where he’s not quite ready. Budaj is a more than capable backup in both skill and team-first mentality and he has proven himself time and time again.
I will say this, though: it’s important for Tokarski to remain with the Habs until the end of training camp. Here, he gets to work with Stephane Waite, who is an outstanding goalie coach, better than anything Tokarski would get back in Hamilton. Here, he gets to take shots from the pros, and get even more of a taste of what level he needs to be at to play at this level. Tokarski will be able to bring everything he’s learning with Waite back to Hamilton, where he can consistently apply his new lessons in game situations.
In short, I think the media and the fans are making this “goalie debate” out to be a way bigger issue than it really is. Cultivating our youth, especially when we have so much depth there these days, is an integral part of keeping our organization’s future bright. Putting Tokarski in a backup position where he will rarely play will stunt his potential and growth tremendously. Let him rack up one more full year of experience in Hamilton while Budaj finishes his contract, and then we’ll talk goalie issues.