Unless you've been under a rock for the past seven months, you're probably more than well aware of the Montreal Canadiens' goaltending controversy.
It's a story that's pretty much been beat to death, yet the issue over which goalie will stay in Montreal remains prevalent and also very relevant.
To give my reader a better sense of the gravity of the situation, I will put it like this: the future of the franchise could potentially be decided by which goalie Bob Gainey/future-GM-hired-by-the-Molsons.
The Montreal Canadiens possess perhaps the best young goaltending tandem in the National Hockey League today, as I outlined in an article a few weeks ago.
The problem with goaltending tandems, especially one that is made up of two young guns fighting for starts, is that they are almost certainly doomed to be broken up at one point or another.
That is where the problem begins for general manager Bob Gainey. The other problem is that he is quite possibly causing a regression in the development of both young goaltenders.
The Canadiens GM has shown a lot of confidence in Carey Price since his rookie season, yet in truth he has done nothing to mold the B.C. native into the elite goaltender he has the potential to become.
Since signing Price to a three-year, entry-level contract for the 2007-08 season (as well as the '07 AHL playoffs), Bob Gainey has basically thrown his gem into the fire and hoped for the best.
Can anyone really argue that?
Excluding Price's incredible Calder Cup run, he has played a grand total of 12 games in the American Hockey League.
That's right, just 12. How can a general manager with such great pedigree in Bob Gainey expect to build a champion in 12 games of minor league development?
It's almost too outlandish to even fathom the idea, but Carey Price has never been given a fair chance to thrive in the NHL.
While MANY will argue with me that Price has been given every chance and then some, my answer to you is, ''What chance?'' How many young goaltenders have been promoted to the big club in their rookie season, and have gone on to have consistent success in the following seasons? Not very many.
But that is the past. What's been is done in Price's case. Unfortunately, no one can go back in time and give him a full year in the minors.
As with all great goaltenders, the road to success can be a little bumpy. Just ask Patrick Roy, who had some of the worst statistics in the QMJHL.
However, if the Montreal Canadiens organization truly has a vision, a plan to bring the Cup back to Montreal, then they will be able to live with the bumps in the road that will come with the development of Carey Price.
Forget what you've heard about Price's feats in his junior and minor pro careers. While those were great, succeeding in Montreal is a whole different game, as I'm sure he has already figured out.
If you just watch Price during a game, and compare him to other goalies his age, or even some that are older than him, you will soon realize that he leaves them in the dust as far as talent goes.
His footwork is crisp, his positioning is almost always spot-on, he fights through screens and he has size to boot, as well as knack for handling the puck. All these assets fall into most people's definition of the ultimate goaltender.
All that is really missing in his game at this point is maturity. Any GM would be a fool to throw in the towel on a prospect with that skill set.
The maturity will come, yet it will not be instantaneous, as Bob Gainey seems to expect.
For the record, this article is no way meant to knock Jaroslav Halak.
Halak has been doing a phenomenal job in carrying his team, yet the ceiling for his potential is much lower than that of Price's. The Slovak will certainly go on to be a solid No. 1 in the NHL, but it will not be with the Canadiens.
It simply cannot be any other way. The best thing Gainey can do in his (hopefully) last season as GM is to trade Halak, thus relieving pressure off of Price, and get a veteran backup that will guide the way.
Even it means a few more up-and-down years, any Habs fan would be able to live with that if it meant that their team would have one of the elite goaltenders in the NHL someday.
Unfortunately, no matter who skates for the Canadiens each season, the expectations remain the same in Montreal: a Stanley Cup.
Unfair? Of course, but how can you blame a fanbase that that has been spoiled with greatness for the past hundred years?
Fortunately for the club, it is not the fans who are in charge, yet at times it seems that is the case, as evidenced by the hasty patchwork that was the 2009 offseason.
Patience used to be a trademark for the Habs development program. That spirit needs to return if Price, and inadvertently the Canadiens, are to ascend to a higher level.