COMMENTARY | Imagine you just landed your dream job. You're psyched and pumped, and at first, you're just happy to be there. But as time goes by, you realize you earned it and you're capable of succeeding in your new position.
As low man on the totem pole, you pay your dues and soak up as much as you can, and before long you hit the ground running and your superiors are impressed.
The only problem is there appears to be little room for promotion. In your way is a stud employee--a perennial employee of the month, if you will. And as much as you can't ignore that fact, you put your head down and continue to work.
Fortunately enough for you, your positive results continue while your counterpart's begin to suffer. Could this be your chance? Maybe. Your supervisor, for the first time, prefers you to your co-worker for a particular project, and the decision sparks controversy in the office.
On cloud nine, you begin to think about the future and all the opportunities it could bring. All your hard work has paid off and you appear to be on your way to executive status.
Except the day following your triumph brings heartbreak. Your counterpart is handed a promotion and a hefty raise. You sink back into your cubicle chair and realize it's simply not your time yet.
This is, essentially, the story of Cam Talbot's surprise 2013-14 campaign up to this point.
After a strong training camp and impressive start to his AHL season, Talbot forced the New York Rangers' coaching staff to play its hand and demote 36-year-old veteran Marty Biron to Hartford to make room for him. As a result, Biron retired and Talbot was promoted.
He instantly impressed, allowing just two goals on 27 shots in his first start in a loss to Philadelphia on Oct. 24. He then went on to win six consecutive games-two in which he registered a shutout-allowing less two or fewer goals in each match.
Talbot became the first goaltender in Rangers history to allow fewer than two goals in his first seven starts and the first in the NHL since Boston's Frank Brimsek in 1938-39. Brimsek's streaked reached 12 games.
But while Talbot was reeling, starting goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was struggling. And not only that, but the Rangers as a whole were simply performing better in front of Talbot. Following the team's 5-2 victory versus the Vancouver Canucks on Nov. 30-in which Talbot started-Talbot boasted a 6-1-0 record while Lundqvist sat at 8-11-0.
Head coach Alain Vigneault had a decision to make heading into the team's showdown with Winnipeg two nights later. Stick with the hot hand of Talbot, for whom the team appears to be playing better for, or revert back to arguably the best goaltender in the world, despite his continuing struggles.
AV went with Talbot, and effectively kickstarted what the media believed was a "goaltending controversy." Except it wasn't, and it never would be.
As good as Talbot had been (.934 save percentage, 1.79 goals-against average), the Rangers still employed Lundqvist, a player who could potentially go down as the greatest Ranger in franchise history. Just because Vigneault decided to start Talbot in consecutive games (it was the first time Lundqvist sat two straight games while healthy since January 2011) did not mean, by any means whatsoever, there was ever a goaltending controversy. To believe otherwise was just silly.
And general manager Glen Sather confirmed that just two days after Talbot and the Rangers' loss to Winnipeg, on December 4, by signing Lundqvist to a massive seven-year, $59.5 million contract extension effective at the start of the 2014-15 season.
As much as it must have pained Talbot to see Lundqvist handed such a reward in the midst of what was happening (you know, the whole goaltending controversy and all), he couldn't really have thought he overthrew The King, right? Especially after just eight starts.
The truth is, unfortunately for Talbot, is that this is Lundqvist's Rangers. It's going to take much, much more than eight games to send him packing.
This contract means two things. One: there is no goaltending controversy and there never was. Typical media exaggeration. And two: Talbot has no future as a starting goaltender in the New York. He's been very impressive, and the organization no doubt welcomes his stellar back-up effort, but as long as Lundqvist is around and in his prime it's his net.
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- Henrik Lundqvist