10 Thoughts on Francois Allaire

10 Thoughts on Francois Allaire

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Ben Scrivens
Photo: Marlies.ca

We had some Leafs news yesterday as Francois Allaire announced he isn’t returning and we found out the extent of Joe Colborne’s injury.

When it comes to Colborne’s injury, I’ll say a few things quickly.

Leafs management knew Joe was hurt in January, yet he played the rest of the year. To our knowledge, he didn’t further damage himself further physically by doing so but he didn’t play nearly as well as he was prior to the injury. To put it in perspective, Big Joe had 23 points in 22 games before hurting his hand, and only 16 in 43 after the incident. Colborne had surgery in June and is hoping to be back for October, which is over four months of recovery. He would have been back roughly around April/May had he gotten surgery immediately upon being injured.

Many fans have been wondering why Colborne played even though he was hurt, but ask yourself this: Would you rather have had him play those months injured, deal with that adversity and struggle down the second half of the AHL season but get to play in that playoff environment and pressure; or get surgery in January, miss basically the rest of the season, maybe comeback out of shape for the playoffs at some point, but be healthy and ready to go coming into this year?

I’d like to think he gained something by playing hurt all that time, but maybe that’s just being optimistic.

Anyways, here are 10 thoughts on Francois Allaire’s departure:

1) Couldn’t help but think about Ken Hitchcock when Francois Allaire made his announcement. Hitchcock, you may recall, was really put through the shredder when he was fired by Columbus. Many said he was out-dated, hadn’t changed with the times and that the game had passed him by. It led to articles like this to be written about him. Sounds familiar to the criticisms Allaire takes, no? Of course, last year all that prehistoric Hitchcock did was guide the Blues to a division championship, first round playoff victory, and win a Jack Adams. It’s amazing what these coaches do when they have good players at their disposal. It will be interesting to see if Allaire’s NHL career continues from here and how he does.

2) Many blamed Francois Allaire for ‘ruining’ Jonas Gustavsson, but many forget that Gustavsson was actually coached by Allaire before coming to the Leafs. During February this year, The Monster told the Post, “I’ve been working with François [since] before I came over here and I tried to play that kind of game back home too.” If you believe Allaire ‘ruined’ him, then he ruined the very product that he helped assemble.

3) Francois Allaire’s presence helped the Leafs recruit goalies such as Ben Scrivens, Mark Owuya and Jussi Rynnas. Both Scrivens and Owuya attended Allaire’s camp this summer and Reimer had nothing but good things to say about Allaire yesterday, too. Even though he’s no longer technically apart of the organization, it would appear that he’s going to still have an influence on some of the goaltenders on this team.

4) Brian Burke, from Behind The Moves: “What we’re selling free agents – like when we recruited Jussi Rynnas in April 2010 – is, ‘Look, we’ve got the best goalie coach in the world, and our Marlies team practices in the same building as the big club. You don’t only see the goalie coach three days a month, like most minor-league goalies; you see him 10 days a month.” It will be fascinating to see if the Leafs are able to recruit any other goalies here during the rest of Burke’s tenure. Whether you believe Allaire is the best goalie coach in the world or not, you’d have to think any prospective free agent goalie and agent will be asking Burke, “According to you, you had the best goalie coach in the world here, how on earth did you piss him off enough for him to want to leave? What kind of goalie environment is this for me to learn in?”

5) On that note, as I’m sure many have seen, Francois Allaire had some rather sobering comments regarding the organization yesterday. In particular, “To be honest, I don’t think the Leafs need a goalie coach. I think they have enough of them. They have two or three guys who were making decisions with the goalies.” There are many pot-shots taken at Burke for his large management and coaching staff, but the whole point of it is to hire the best available people at each position to do their specific job, and then leave them alone to do that job. Clearly that wasn’t happening in Toronto last year. Is this whole notion of a mega-staff not plausible, or are the people apart of the staff simply not executing and instead sticking their noses where they don’t belong? Everything seems to avalanche when you’re losing.

6) This quote from Reimer was also something: “I think there was some confusion last year and a couple of misunderstandings. I don’t know if everyone clicked last year. There was some trouble in some areas and … I don’t know if I want to get into it that much or comment on it too much. But I know that there were times when he was frustrated that we didn’t have more time to work on some stuff.” This made me think of Ron Wilson’s choice words about the goaltending last season. It’s just speculation on my part, but you could see how moments like those could foster everyone “not clicking,” and having internal controversies and arguments. On one hand, you had a coach in Wilson fighting for his job and thinking that the only way he could win was to outscore the teams problems. On the other hand, you had a goalie coach preaching patience with a long-term vision and asking for a more defensive-minded approach to protect his goalies. As Allaire said yesterday, “It’s difficult to have the numbers when you’re not playing defensively.”

7) I dug up this quote from Francois Allaire earlier in the year, when he responded to being asked if whether he was frustrated or not: “I had the same thing in Anaheim. We have to build something and you cannot do that overnight, OK? So I have been through that process. When we had Giguère, we were 15th overall in the West … So you have to build up and build up and build up and build up. And when I came here three years ago, the only goalie that we had basically was Reimer [coming] out of the [ECHL] and nobody [knew] about him, and Toskala was going out of the NHL no matter what. So we have James, and after that we tried to put through a process of recruiting guys, because we don’t have any draft choice. We don’t have any. So we have to recruit four guys in a hurry. And we have to build up those guys in a hurry again. But when you see the progression of James getting out of the [ECHL] to the NHL in a year-and-a-half, that’s a quick progression. A really quick progression. But that’s what we have.” He appeared highly committed to the process here. Things must have been really bad internally for him to essentially walk out on the team; that quote is from just this past February.

8.) Even though articles like this are part of the problem, we have to remember that, ultimately, if any of the goalies in the Leafs organization are going to be successful it is squarely on their shoulders to do so. Surely nobody is naïve enough to believe that players make the NHL without any help whatsoever, but in 9/10 NHL cities losing a goaltending coach is not news. At the very least, it’s not news the way this Francois Allaire departure has blown up. The Leafs have managed to actually bring in some goaltending talent over the last few years and it has begun to develop nicely at all levels. You know what’s more important than a goaltending coach in Toronto? Actually supporting the goalies on the ice with strong defensive play.

9) On the positive side for the Leafs, it appears much of the organization is going to be receiving a clean slate and fresh look. Obviously, Randy Carlyle is still relatively new behind the bench and he brought with him long-time assistant coach Dave Farrish to guide the defence. The Leafs also hired Barb Underhill as a new skating coach and it appears they already have a new goaltending coach in Rick St. Croix. It remains to be seen what kind of impact these relatively big coaching changes will have as the new voices instructing the players, but for Burke’s sake, they better get the job done. It’s doubtful he’s going to get the opportunity to fire and hire another head coach should this all not workout.

10) In regards to St. Croix, he’s been coaching with the St. John’s IceCaps and has previously been a goalie coach of the Dallas Stars overseeing Eddie Belfour and Marty Turco. So, he isn’t exactly a no-name sieve. On his goalie-school website he lists his four pillars of goaltending to be balance, angles, rebound control and save selection.

As with everything new this off season, only time will tell.

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