Former LA Kings goaltending coach Dusty Imoo joined Leafs Lunch on Thursday to provide the skinny on new Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell.
You helped turn Jack Campbell’s career around. He came into the league with such high expectations as a first-round pick, but it didn’t come to him as quickly at the NHL level as he had hoped or the Dallas Stars and LA Kings had hoped. What have you seen in his game in terms of how you turned things around and got the numbers, especially last year, back to a place he thought they would be?
Imoo: To clarify, Soupy is the one who did it — not me. But he was a lost soul for a while there. He was not blaming the Stars or anybody in particular. I think he took ownership over it. It just took him a little bit to grasp that things weren’t happening the way that he had it all laid out. If you know Soup, he had it all laid out his whole life when he was 19 years old. When it didn’t happen like that, he didn’t know how to handle it.
It was just basically trying to get him to let go of all of that and be happy with himself as a person, and then we started to work on his game after that. Once he was kind of all in on my way of thinking and philosophy, he just blossomed.
One of the things that jumped out is that he was sort of between styles. He had been training in the summer with Connor Hellebuyck and started to mimic the style of Connor Hellebuyck maybe to his detriment. What did you see in that and what did you recommend?
Imoo: It was kind of funny, actually, because I had Helly in Winnipeg. When I first brought Soup to Vancouver, he was just basically trying anything and he was basically the last person he had seen and he was having success, so he started trying that. I was like, “Dude, when you are playing your best, how did you play? What would you kind of consider yourself? What kind of goalie?” He said, “athletic, making big saves, and jumping around and stuff.” I said, “Why don’t we just get back to something like that and being you?”
That was actually really easy for me to relate because I was more like that. I like guys that are athletic and whatnot. We just kind of built around that and just kind of did it one thing at a time. I’ll be honest with you — it was more up in his head than anything else. The guy has got talent like nobody else. It was just a matter of getting it to come out.
If you wanted to compare him at his best to a goalie who is established in the league, where would you go?
Imoo: That is a tough one. When we were kind of rebuilding Soup, one of the guys that we always kind of referred to is Tuukka. I am a big fan. We were trying to give him a little more control in his game but still with the athleticism. Tuukka is really like that. I don’t know if he plays like Tuukka at all, but that is kind of one of the guys we kept referring to. Really, honestly, it was more back to himself and trying to remember himself than anything else. But Tuukka was probably the one guy in the NHL that we tried to take things from, if you will.
There is a certain style that the Toronto Maple Leafs want to play, and that style seems to give up some high-quality chances that Frederik Andersen has to bail them out on. Do you see that being a style that Jack Campbell will kind of welcome? Does he want to be someone who is busy in the net and is facing chances?
Imoo: Most goalies play better when they are getting more work, but Soup really does relish that type of a game. I think he has had plenty of practice in the last couple of years with LA and rebuilding and what not. He has saved a lot of A chances trying to keep the games close and whatnot. I don’t think as far as the game is concerned it will be much of a shock to him having A chances coming at him. The biggest challenge for him now is just dealing with the trade and the new place and also the big market.
As a backup goaltender, a lot of the times you have to be good in the room, so to speak. What sort of person is joining the Toronto Maple Leafs?
Imoo: I was reading Twitter and you have a bunch of Leafs fans kind of unsure about Soup just looking at his numbers and whatnot. But I just want to let everyone know there that they got a gem. He is a special kid. In the locker room, you can ask anybody in LA, he is special that way. He will be an unbelievable addition for that organization in that regard.