John makes an excellent point in my opinion. Consistent, high quality negatives certainly make printing less troublesome, but developing printing skill is where the biggest bang for the buck is. A great printer can often work wonders even with a crap quality negative and save the image. A mediocre printer on the other hand will probably make mediocre prints of perfect negatives, and be at a loss to print from crap negatives (which will inevitably happen). I'd take some proverbial pages out of Ansel's books on this issue. He was able to control most of his negatives very well, but some of his most powerful images exist despite relatively poor negative quality.