There Goes Allaire (in comes St. Croix)


Photo: The Star

Whether or not you were one of the zealots calling for Francois Allaire‘s head amid the Leafs continued goalie struggles last season, the report in yesterday’s National Post, especially the quotes within, were concerning for any Leafs fan. Allaire and Reimer’s quotes painted a picture of dysfunction and discord between Allaire and the rest of the coaching staff (whether that was the new or old coaching staff wasn’t discernible). Allaire was up front about his feelings: he wasn’t allowed the freedom and time to do his job and mentor properly.

There probably isn’t much sense in speculating on the who’s and why’s when we aren’t attuned to daily goings on in the Leafs dressing room, but it is certainly worrying to find out this was the cultural environment Leafs goalies were developing in last season. It sounds like Allaire believed his young goalies weren’t being put in an position to succeed with the way the team was playing defence. Perhaps some members of the coaching staff thought it was goaltending and Allaire’s teachings that was at fault. With four icepads in the MasterCard practice center, it doesn’t make sense that Allaire wouldn’t have gotten his desired practice time in with his goaltenders otherwise. This is the corrosive effect losing can have on an organization.

What’s important now is how this affects the direction of Leafs goaltending philosophy and coaching going forward.

Writes Justin Goldman over at The Goalie Guild (be sure to read his full, in-depth analysis of the situation):

PRO: Allaire’s dismissal opens the door for a new goalie coach to implement a philosophy that pulls Leafs goalies away from the “blocking” methodology. On the surface, that’s the crucial step the Leafs may need to “get with the times” and create a more competitive depth chart over the next few years. This is a key step because most pro-level coaches already understand that goalies must have a foundation of quality reflexes and athleticism to their game. Teams can no longer expect to have long-term success in goal with predominantly blocking goalies; the game is too fast, the shooters too accurate.

CON: For the current set of goalies the Leafs have right now in their system, Allaire’s absence could actually be a detriment to their future. When you are taught to play a specific way, it’s not that easy to suddenly change everything again. Just like it takes time to truly master Allaire’s teachings, it will take time to adjust to another methodology taught by another coach.

Goldman on potential candidates for Allaire’s replacement:

Andy Nowicki is one name to keep in mind, and one I think makes a lot of sense.

Growing up in Winnipeg, Reimer didn’t even have a full-time goalie coach until he joined the Red Deer Rebels. That’s where Nowicki, the former goalie coach for the Los Angeles Kings, entered the picture.

Nowicki, who was known for being more of a mental coach than a technical coach at the time, was instrumental in Reimer’s overall development.

Another name to possibly consider is Rick St. Croix, a former NHL goaltender who helped Eddy Belfour and the Dallas Stars to a Stanley Cup in 2009.

I also think there’s a chance we could see the Leafs stay within their system and promote Jean-Ian Filiatrault.

Or I would also consider former Flames goalie coach David Marcoux, who is remembered for mentoring and guiding Miikka Kiprusoff. He is still very active coaching goalies, and his style is current with today’s evolved goaltender.

A really long shot would be Steve McKichan, Toronto’s goalie coach during the 2006-07 season. As the owner of FuturePro, McKichan is still very active in the goalie coaching realm as well.

An alternative approach to replace Allaire would be to hire someone who has had success stopping puck for the Maple Leafs before. In that regard, Curtis Joseph, who is currently the goalie coach for Kingston (OHL), makes sense.

Elliotte Freidman is reporting Rick St. Croix is the likely replacement. Whoever it is, let’s hope the coaching staff is on the same page going forward. It’s hard enough being a young goaltender in the Toronto spotlight.


From the goalie coach to the medical staff.

The other bit of Leafs news yesterday was the revelation that the Marlies‘ Joe Colborne played through two torn ligaments and a broken bone in his wrist from January onwards last season, explaining his struggles in the second half of the season and leading to the inevitable question as to why he wasn’t shut down earlier by the medical staff.

As much as it makes you wonder, Colborne’s situation now has the benefit of hindsight and has probably been a little overblown. Resident sports-doctor-to-be Alex Tran provided his speculation on the situation and I have to say it makes a lot of sense given the timing:

Sometimes athletes play through torn ligaments although it can be quite painful. Your wrists get swollen and painful, but symptoms can be alleviated with splinting when not in use. They do not heal themselves and require surgery to fix.

I’d imagine the fracture is probably very small and significant inflammation (as with torn ligaments) may have obscured it during the MRI.

My best guess is that the original diagnosis was a torn/strained ligament and that they decided to play through it with splinting. They probably decided to re-evaluate if pain got significantly worse or in the offseason, at which point they were able to identify the small fracture.

I can’t imagine there would’ve been a push from the medical staff to keep Colborne playing for the Marlies to the detriment of his long-term health and best interest moving forward.


Your Tuesday morning links…

There sure were a lot of articles about Allaire’s departure yesterday. Is there a lockout or something?

James Reimer sounds like he’s going to miss Allaire.

Yeah, the lockout. If you’re like me you’ve tried not to get too caught up in all of it, but the latest is that negotiations won’t resume until Wednesday.

Ilya Kovalchuk is the latest to sign a KHL contract.

I’d worry about this if I was the Penguins and the NHL.

Ovechkin will lose 109,000 and change per game during a lockout. Psssh.

The NHL’s richest owners aren’t happy about the lockout. Everyone observe a moment of silence for Bell and Rogers. Kidding aside, this couldn’t be any more painfully true:

“It’s absolutely mystifying that, after three work stoppages and incontrovertible evidence that the 30-team NHL doesn’t work, Bettman is still able to sell his vision of the NHL to the board of governors. In the end, Bettman will win another round of concessions from the players and that will ensure his popularity among a group of teams that shouldn’t be in the NHL in the first place.”