So there's this guy.
He's at almost all the Habs' practices, he's on the ice, he wears one of those spiffy CH tracksuits. Ball cap. Whistle. Left-handed stick.
His name isn't Kirk, or Perry, and it sure isn't Jacques.
He never played in the big pro leagues, or even in the small ones.
And he doesn't talk to the media - not ever - which is part of the reason no one ever talks about him.
You'll get a friendly smile and a nod, maybe a chance conversation in a hotel lobby, but it won't be about anything important. Part of that's down to the way the secrecy that typically pervades the Canadiens organization, part of it is natural reticence from the guy himself.
Because this, pretty people, is Pierre Groulx, the goalie whisperer.
And if this season our boy Carey has been able to once again stoke the fans' religious fervour in "Jesus" Price, messiah and saviour of an entire hockey nation, at least some of the credit has to go to the quiet guy off to the side.
As you know, French Immersion never spares its vast and competitively-priced resources in pursuit of a story.
So off we went a-hunting for an interview with the Talented Mr. Groulx to try and figure out the ingredients of the magic potion that turned Craig Anderson from bound-for-the-glue-factory into thoroughbred, Jaroslav Halak into the second coming of Ken Dryden, and seems to have worked similar miracles for a certain 23-year-old Vezina Trophy candidate.
Forget it, we were told by team officials. Okay, we said.
What, you don't actually expect us to go the extra mile do you? (Actually, in this case we did, and were gently brushed off by the man himself. See? Never try.) So we decided to ask the kid goalie what his impressions have been of working with Groulx over the past two seasons.
Would anyone be surprised that he likes PG's approach, which, contrary to his predecessor's, is far less prescriptive?
"It's nice to have a guy you can just talk to, we don't even talk about hockey a lot of the time, we just shoot it around, he's a really easy guy to talk to, no matter what it is," Price said.
But it's not just a question of being palsy-walsy with his goalies - although that's rendered easier given that Groulx is in more or less the same age bracket as Price and back-up Alex Auld.
"Whenever we hit a rough spot, we just get right back to basics. We just get back right back out there and iron things out, we do a lot of work down low. Goaltending is all about feeling comfortable, when you start to get uncomfortable, that's when you start breaking it down and getting it back to positioning," Price said. "We do a lot of work off the post, because that seems to be the biggest problem that a lot of goalies have when they're struggling."
FI also asked Auld to rev up the cliche-o-matic about a man he worked with in Florida and calls "a good friend."
"He's definitely a student of the game, he learns a lot by watching and asking, listening to guys and being open. The big thing is he doesn't try and change you and make you try to fit into a mould," said Auld. "Different goalie coaches will sometimes tend to over-complicate things, almost as if to justify their jobs. But when we go on early it's usually just the basic little details that are kind of hard to work on in practice . . . but his job is also made easier by how talented Carey is.
"It's a very good fit, the three of us."
Uh, yeah, we'd say so.
Tomas Vokoun may have been Tomas Vokoun before working with Groulx, but two of the three best statistical seasons of his NHL career came under his tutelage.
Halak was an ambitious, hard-charging back-up under Roland Melanson, but became a $15-million number one goaltender during his year under Groulx (although Brave Jaro is always quick to credit Rolie the Goalie with making him an NHL-grade netminder).
And Price? Let's just say a certain player agent no longer Tweets about his won-lost record.
So admit it, when you bitched about hiring the guy with the thin résumé and non-existent NHL goaltending bona fides, you were wrong. Dead wrong.
And when you whined last year about how he had ruined Carey, you were also wrong.
Give Groulx a round of applause, shower him with credit for his approach, and for his stick-with-it-ness: He started as an assistant coach and goalie instructor for the Junior A Cumberland Grads (best NHL alum: Claude Giroux) in the late 1990s, and eventually caught on with the Senators as the video guy in 2004.
From there he went to Florida - brought along by Jacques Martin, presumably to double the number of French-speaking guys from Ottawa working in Sunrise, Fla. - and they eventually turned the keys to Vokoun and Anderson over to him.
So no, he doesn't have the big reputation and the top-class playing pedigree.
But when you see the broken-down shambles that is Jean-Sebastien Giguère, the regression of Jonas Gustavsson and the all-of-a-sudden crumbling edifice that James Reimer has become, do you still wish Trader Bob had spent the dosh to bring in the Francois Allaire-sized object that everyone was craving in the summer of 2009?
Now, FI's been wrong before, children.
But while Gainey may never live down the Gomez trade, bringing in Pierre Groulx (or trusting Jacques Martin to bring in Pierre Groulx, which is the same thing) may end up being as good a move as hoodwinking the Sharks into giving up Josh Gorges and the pick that became Max Pacioretty for Craig Rivet.
Cos if the kid has become The Guy, it's with a bunch of help from Melanson, yes, but most of all from the guy in the background.