Newest goaltending consultant to the Leafs, Francois Allaire, father of the modern butterfly with exceptional credentials including working with Patrick Roy, Brian Hayward, as well as the guy who morphed Guy Hebert into an All Star in 1997 and J.S. Giguere. Most recently he worked with Ducks back up-turned-starter, Jonas Hiller to backstop the Ducks to a seven-game Round 2 of the 2008-09, Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Fine credentials indeed, but what can he do with the batch of Leafs goaltenders?
I wonâ€™t mince words and openly admit my admiration for Vesa Toskala. Inconsistent and difficult season aside, I believe he could be one of the NHLâ€™s best entering the final season of his two-year contract.
In another post, I pointed out the notion of goaltender predictability after a drubbing of the Montreal Canadiens at the hands of the Maple Leafs, in light of the disastrous season of Carey Price.
In an interview on the FAN590, Allaire shirked talk about specific goaltenders before training camp, and also revealed something that had plagued my mind ever since the announcement of his hiring into the Leafs ranks.
Would he try to force the butterfly style on the Leafs stable of goalies?
The first reaction was that he would force improvement onto Vesa Toskala, and Justin Pogge using the butterfly style. It was comforting to hear him talk about working on speed and comfort level, as well as recovery.
It wasnâ€™t the butterfly style that made Roy a hall of fame goalie – despite its effective way of taking away the lower part of the net – it was his ability to recover and get back into position with ease.
This is how Allaire worked and helped mold him into a legendary goalie. The pattern was evident with his other goalies, and what Price missed in Montreal last season â€“ and partly why Roland Melanson was let go.
The Pogge era in Toronto was dead according to Steve Bufferyâ€™s article in the Toronto Sun. Brian Burke was quick to point out how a decision on the future of the 23-year old goaltender had not been made, noting this process as one of the unglamorous aspects of being a professional athlete, while management decides whether the athlete falls into the organizationâ€™s plans.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the 23-year old netminder, but it wasnâ€™t a death knell, yet.
The hiring of Allaire may prove to be a sign indicating Pogge will be return in Marlies silks; not a bad decision, given the alternative should he be cut loose. Unlikely the Fort McMurray, Alberta native lands a back up role with another NHL club – let alone a starting position – and likely to continue development in the minor ranks. To qualify him, the Leafs will have to offer his contract with a 10-percent increase. So why not keep him in the fold as an asset, allowing him to further develop as a homegrown talent in their revamped minor ranks?
The question remains; will Pogge develop into a viable NHL goaltender?
If Burke can hire just as good a candidate for the Leafs AHL affiliate, Poggeâ€™s retention falls under different circumstances with the Marlies; a new coach, new outlook, different, more complimentary style to that of Ron Wilson, with a crop of different more homegrown prospects to collectively develop.
Toronto will have to make a decision and soon, and the hiring of the â€˜Goalie Guruâ€™ is as good as it gets as a positive indication for the Leafs. Competition breeds Champions, and furthers along the development curve.
Along with infrastructure, the availability of Jonas â€œThe Monsterâ€ Gustavsson still out there, the added incentive to entice the goaltender by the hiring makes a lot of sense.
Joe Resnick, the agent for â€˜The Monsterâ€™ was on Hockeycentral last week and indicated how the goaltender would be visiting, Colorado, Dallas, San Jose and Toronto this week as part of a tour to make a decision on where he would like to sign.
There have been preliminary discussions with all teams, with the expectation he plays in the NHL next season. Burke indicated this would be the case in Toronto.
San Jose, with one of the best defenses in the league would surely help him, in particular, masking any deficiency.
However, mentoring under Toskala would be a plus, and while Gustavsson has worked with Allaire in the past, it isnâ€™t the main factor to have him sign in Toronto.
But it sure must be enticing, short and long term.
The tour starts this week, and could last about 8-9 days; the agent wants to have his placement sooner rather than later, so Gustavsson could attend summer camp working with goaltending coach.
Under the current collective bargaining agreement, The Monster falls under the definitions of the entry-level contract and will only get a one-year deal for the following season.
The vision, and components to make the vision a reality are being put into place, an encouraging overall development in the management staff and execution of the vision, and in Leafs development. Part of the reason late round picks develop into valid NHLers is how they challenge their players providing tools to grow.
The infrastructure is being slowly assembled, and from early indications, the 2009 NHL Entry Draft seems to be the only viable milestone to have it firmly in place, with assets ready to be dealt should the opportunity arise.
Interior management is being molded into the vision for the future Buds. With the addition of the legendary Allaire, a solid piece of development and affirmation of one of the most important positions, goaltending, is shaping up.
Let the player additions begin.