Translated from Le Journal de Montreal, May 25, 2007.
Montreal Canadiens goalie coach Roland Melanson isn't in need of a reality check. He knows that the entirety of the Montreal hockey media is comparing his newest protege Carey Price's professional debut to that of Patrick Roy twenty years ago.
To recap for those too young for the recollection, after his junior days with the Granby Bisons were over, Roy, along with winger and teammate Stephane Richer, were invited to join the ranks of the Canadiens farm team, then situated in Sherbrooke.
Similar to Price in the Western Hockey League, Roy never played on a very good team. Beginning the M\moment he hit Sherbrooke, his career took off to stratospheric heights.
The Calder Cup took a stroll down Sherbrooke's King St. two months later, in testament to Roy's outstanding performance.
One year later, Roy and Richer, along with five other Sherbrooke teammates, namely Brian Skrudland, Mike Lalor, Gaston Gingras, Serge Boivert, and John Kordic repeated the exploit, this time down St. Catherines St, with the biggest of prizes: the Stanley Cup.
Melanson, who was then a member of the Los Angeles Kings, has the details of the story at his fingertips. Quickly, he places facts into perspective.
"I don't want to suggest that there is a bad team in Montreal at the present time, but the team that won the 1986 Cup was superior and had way more experience."
Melanson is right, but it's funny how time changes perceptions.
At the time, the Canadiens were considered lucky to have won the Cup, and that it was accomplished mainly on Roy's shoulders.
"The team had five leaders with captaincy in their characters." adds Melanson.
There was Bob Gainey, who was captain at the time, and Guy Carbonneau and Chris Chelios, two youngsters who would become the teams next co-captains. There was also Larry Robinson, who had worn the "C" for half a season while Gainey was on the injured list. He may not have projected the same authority in the Gainey manner, but he was a well-respected leader by his teammates. Finally, there was Skrudland, the first Florida Panthers captain who helped his team to the Stanley Cup Final in only their third year of existence.
On defense, Robinson was paired with the steady Rick Green, while Chelios had bruiser Craig Ludwig as his partner. Up front was another rookie, one Claude Lemieux, who had the dastardly habit of scoring some very key goals while irritating every opponent he crossed.
All of this takes nothing away from Roy, quite to the contrary. It's just that Price isn't as likely to be so well-surrounded once he reaches the NHL himself.
"Price has everyone excited, including me," says Melanson, with a laugh. "His talent level is undeniable, but he must be given the time to develop. When he's ready to be in Montreal, he will need to be very much at ease."
Melanson wouldn't want to see Price thrown into a lion's den.
"We paid a price for five years. We can't have Carey facing 40 or 50 shots a night the way Jose Theodore had to in those times."
Melanson speaks of a rare jewel, a diamond in the rough, in regards to Price.
"He must be well-groomed, guarded with caution, and surrounded with care.
Melanson will be in charge of watching over Price and assures that "when he is called up, you can be sure that it will be because he's ready."