Yesterday the Maple Leafs announced the hiring of goaltender coach Francois Allaire. First, a bit of backstory on Allaire. Francois Allaire, for all intents and purposes, invented the butterfly. He found a worthy disciple in a young Quebecois and became Montreal's first full time goaltending coach in 1986. His story in Montreal is easy to summarize, the Habs won two Cups on Roy's back, and Roy himself won both Conn Smythes, three Vezinas, three William M Jennings' and six all star game appearances between 1986 and 1996. Allaire left Montreal with St. Patrick in 1996 and moved to Anaheim where he turned Guy Hebert from a nobody into an All Star. He helped JS Giguere (a Burke pick in Hartford) become an elite goaltender from 2003-2006 before developing an unknown from Switzerland, Jonas Hiller.
For the Leafs this is an important signing. Though the team in front of them hasn't been spectacular the Leafs goaltending has been its biggest weak point since the lockout. Having missed the playoffs by a single point twice in four seasons it's not hard to say that with better goaltending those two years the Leafs would have been able to bow out in game five of the first round.
Allaire comes to Toronto to replace Corey Hirsch. My mother always told me if you don't have anything nice to say that you should say nothing at all. She doesn't read the blog, so Corey Hirsch sucks. I don't know about anyone else, but I think I'd rather have the guy who invented the butterfly and changed goaltending as we know it over some plugger who spent a lot of time in the IHL.
The Leafs dumping Hirsch and Gilbert is indicative of a true culture change behind the scenes at MLSE. Last season Ron Wilson, Cliff Fletcher and Brian Burke attempted to clean out the locker room and it would appear that this season Brian Burke is cleaning out the front office. This is also a commitment to future goaltending beyond signing Gustavsson who as a butterfly goalie has to be interested now. Like Patrick Roy, Justin Pogge is a pretty large butterfly goaltender. When Allaire got to Anaheim in 1996 he turned Guy Hebert around in a hurry, hopefully he can work similar magic on Pogge.
The real positive here is that the Leafs are starting to hire executives that are the best available in their area. There's no question that Ron Wilson, Brian Burke, and now Francois Allaire were the best possible options for their three jobs and hopefully the Leafs continue this run. Building a contender starts with the front office, a point Detroit has made for the past decade and a half, and the Leafs seem to be on the right track.