The Toronto Maple Leafs may not miss departing goaltending coach Francois Allaire - according to him, they have a few other guys who think they can do the job.
Allaire unloaded on the Maple Leafs after the two sides parted ways Monday, ending a somewhat acrimonious three-year partnership. Under Allaire's tutelage, the Maple Leafs finished with the second-worst goals-against average in the National Hockey League last season. Only the Tampa Bay Lightning had more trouble keeping the puck out of the net than Toronto, which surrendered 3.12 goals per game - a development that ultimately kept them out of the playoffs for the seventh year in a row.
Allaire, one of the best-known and most respected goaltending coaches in the NHL, felt he wasn't able to adequately do his job with others in the organization getting in his way.
"To be honest, I don't think the Leafs need a goalie coach," he told the National Post. "I think they have enough of them. They have two or three guys who were making decisions with the goalies. In the NHL, that's not the way it works. If that's the way they want to operate, then I'm not there."
Indeed, he is not.
Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke - never one to shy away from confrontation - laid out his own interpretation of things for Maple Leafs website blogger Mike Ulmer.
“I regret that I have to deal with this matter publicly but I feel the need to respond. Was there interference from the staff as he said there was? Yes. But it was done reluctantly and it was done to change elements of our goaltending that was subpar.”
Burke, clearly agitated by Allaire's decision to speak out about his departure, pointed to Allaire's unwillingness to change his coaching style to suit the evolution of the game.
“The position has evolved in the last three to five years,” Burke said. Nobody plays the classic stand-up any more either. Everything advances.”
Allaire is best known for helping develop Patrick Roy into a Hall of Fame netminder through his mastery of the butterfly style. Roy's success paved the way for a major influx of Quebec-born goaltenders who opted to emulate his style, leading to a minor revolution in the way the position was played at the professional level.
Allaire arrived in Toronto shortly after Burke and immediately clashed with then-starter Vesa Toskala, resulting in the netminder's abrupt departure (“Vesa is not a guy who likes to be coached,” Allaire said afterward) and the arrival of Jean-Sebastien Giguere from Anaheim - one of Allaire's former pupils. But injuries ravaged the Leafs' goaltending corps and resulted in the hasty promotion of James Reimer.
Allaire wasn't thrilled about the prospect of trying to build Toronto into a contender with Reimer and unproven Swede Jonas Gustavsson in net.
“We have two young kids in the net, not a lot of experience. Nobody has more than 90 games in the NHL, so that is normal, sometimes you get some bumps in the road. We will see if we are strong enough to get through."
For what it's worth, Burke said near the end of the 2011-12 season that Allaire wasn't going to be fired despite the team's struggles in goal.
“(Removing Allaire) is not changing our struggles in net," Burke told reporters in early March. "I’m not replacing a coach because we have two young goalies who are battling (confidence) right now.”