Toronto Maple Leafs: What the Departure of Goalie Coach Francois Allaire Means

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Toronto Maple Leafs: What the Departure of Goalie Coach Francois Allaire Means
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On Monday morning, Renaud Lavoie of RDS tweeted that goaltending guru Francois Allaire would be leaving the Toronto Maple Leafs after three years of service.

Allaire was lured to Toronto from the Anaheim Ducks in June 2009 by Leafs GM Brian Burke, who had himself left the Ducks seven months prior.

According to the National Post, Allaire was offered a contract extension by Burke at the conclusion of the 2011-12 NHL season, but turned it down, saying:

“I didn’t feel like I could do my job last year,” he said. “I wasn’t getting enough ice time. I wasn’t the only guy with [the goalies]. It’s not fair to the kids, not fair to me, not fair to anybody … I didn’t feel like I could work in this situation.” (via NationalPost.com)

Allaire is known as the person who mentored Patrick Roy and J.S. Giguere, helping the former win two Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens (1986 and 1993) and helping the latter win the Conn Smythe trophy with the Anaheim Ducks in 2003, despite the fact that they lost to the New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Given these credentials, there were understandably high hopes when he was brought in to work with the Leaf goalies.

When he arrived in Toronto, Vesa Toskala was the starting netminder for the Leafs.

Allaire is a strong proponent of the butterfly style of goaltending, which in watered-down terms basically means teaching goalies to cover as much net as possible.

He is known as a coach who makes his charges conform to his style of play, unlike certain others who choose to identify what's there in terms of talent and go from there.

"Holy Mackinaw" doesn't quite say it all.

Allaire's style didn't sit well with Toskala and we all know how that turned out.

Toskala was traded along with winger Jason Blake to the Ducks in January 2010 for the aforementioned Giguere, who got to reunite with his mentor, Allaire.

Giggy played well for the Blue and White to close out the 2009-10 season, going 6-7-2 while allowing 2.49 goals a game and posting a 0.916 save percentage.

In 2010-11, his goals-against-average ballooned to 2.87 and his save percentage dove to 0.900.

That summer, he would join the Colorado Avalanche as a free agent.

Jonas Gustavsson was a highly-touted goalie prospect who signed with the Leafs as a free agent during the summer of 2009.

When J.S. joined the club a few months into the season, Gustavsson seemed to work very well the veteran Giguere, who in turn embraced his role as a mentor.

When Giguere went down due to injury roughly halfway through the 2010-11 season, James Reimer was given the opportunity to fill in for him.

Reimer would make the most of that opportunity, causing the Leafs to simply keep him at the NHL level along with the other two.

When Giguere left for free agency in 2011, Reimer and Gustavsson were given the opportunity to compete for the starting position.

Long story short, Gustavsson joined the Detroit Red Wings as a free agent in 2012 and we've now got Reimer and Ben Scrivens as the goalie tandem.

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Francois Allaire was a constant throughout this whole mess.

Regardless of whether or not any of the blame belongs to him, one has to wonder what he actually managed to achieve in his three years with the Leafs as their goalie coach/consultant.

As Howard Berger pointed out in a March 2012 blog post, and I don't want to question Allaire's expertise just as Berger didn't want to, it's a lot easier to coach someone with superior and innate talent than it is to create a great player out of a good one.

"The real challenge for someone in Allaire's position," Berger argues, "is garnering a level of progress and reliability among pupils not rubber-stamped for the Hall of Fame."

Clearly, there has been little of either during his time in Toronto.

Perhaps the Leafs are better off now that Allaire's gone.

After all, it can't get much worse. Can it?

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