Toronto Maple Leafs Notes: Leafs Part Ways With Allaire
By Tony Ambrogio (@SNTonyAmbrogio)
The Toronto Maple Leafs were supposed to being training camp today.
Instead players are flying all over the world, hoping the NHL lockout will be over soon. Some like Nik Kulemin are playing in the KHL. Others, like goalie James Reimer, are heading home to work out (likely with the Leafs’ new goalie coach Rick St. Croix).
It has been quite a week for the Maple Leafs, starting with the news that goalie coach Francois Allaire and the team had parted ways. But not before the two sides had harsh words for each other.
Allaire never had much success in Toronto working with goalies like Vesa Toskala, Jonas Gustavsson, and James Reimer. The Leafs’ goaltending woes over the last three years speak for themselves. Too many soft goals allowed, little success killing penalties, and not a sniff of the playoffs.
But before Allaire left, he told the National Post, “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.”
That comment didn’t sit well with GM Brian Burke who told MapleLeafs.com, “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 sub-par.”
In short, Burke said Allaire’s blocking/butterfly technique was outdated and out of touch.
“The position has evolved in the last three to five years,” Burke said. “Nobody plays the classic stand-up any more either. Everything advances.”
Toronto Star columnist Damien Cox wrote this week:
In late fall, with the team trying to improve its penalty killing, assistant coach Greg Cronin wanted to have Allaire and the goalies sit in on penalty-killing meetings. Allaire didn’t want that. Cronin said he’d already talked to James Reimer.
Allaire warned Cronin not to speak to his goalies. Cronin responded in a most unfriendly way, and unrest within the staff was born.
Ron Wilson, dismayed with how Jonas Gustavsson and Reimer were playing so passively deep in the crease, asked Allaire in early February to get them to play more aggressively. Allaire said he had no intention of altering the way his goalies were playing.
Wilson, out of sheer frustration, finally went directly to the goalies, bypassing the celebrated goalie guru. Soon, Allaire and the other coaches weren’t even on speaking terms.
Randy Carlyle, who had worked with Allaire in Anaheim, gave the goalie coach a list of three conditions he would have to meet if he wanted to return for the 2012-13 season. The list included: working a maximum 17 days a month, including six with the Marlies, rather than being around the team every day; apologizing to the coaches on staff he had offended; and a commitment to teaching a more aggressive goaltending style.
Allaire refused to agree to any of the three conditions.
Welcome to the Days of Our Lives! Only in hockey-mad Toronto can the word of a goalie coach no longer working for his team make this kind of news.
It should be noted that James Reimer and Ben Scrivens were complimentary toward Allaire when they spoke to the Toronto media this week.
Reimer said the impact Allaire had was “huge.”
“With him, everything was black and white, so every situation that came up, he knew what to do,” Reimer said. “In the NHL game, everything happens so fast, so you need to know, ‘If this happens, do this, if that happens, do that.’”
“I have always been more of a butterfly, use-my-size-to-my-advantage kind of guy, which is exactly his style.”
Reimer said Allaire’s style fit “perfectly into my natural game.” He added: “That’s why it was so good for me. Could I adapt a little bit to a different style? Maybe. But the butterfly/blocking style was definitely more suited to me and that’s what I felt more comfortable playing.”
Meanwhile, Ben Scrivens told the Fan590: “The past couple years working with [Frankie] has been huge for me. When you have good games, he’s there to reinforce the positives from it and when you have bad games, which inevitably happens, he’s the guy to make sure you don’t get too low. He was huge for helping me battle mentally but also huge for my technique and my actual on-ice movement. He’s really helped guide my entire game as a whole.”
Tyler Biggs (1st round, 22nd overall) displayed the truculence that Brian Burke has long been looking for with his team during his Ontario Hockey League debut with the Oshawa Generals.
The 19 year-old Biggs is a 6-foot-2, 200-pound right winger who during the second period of the Generals 5-2 win over Peterborough on Thursday picked up 17 minutes in penalties when he fought the Petes Clark Seymour.
Seymour hit Oshawa’s Michael Dal Colle, the Generals’ first round pick in the most recent OHL draft, with an open ice hit. Biggs wasn’t happy, and that led to the fight.
“Someone has to step in and I was there,” Biggs said. “I got the minutes I did, but I’m not frustrated or anything. I’m still adjusting, but I want to be a go-to guy.”
You can bet that’s music to Brian Burke’s ears.