Since Francois Allaire was not returned as the Maple Leafs' goaltending coach it has opened a door on the internal machinations of the team's front office and coaching staff and the view is not particularly encouraging. Perhaps in an effort to reduce speculation and diminish the questioning from the local media, Burke provided his response to Allaire's parting comments to the team's official blogger Mike Ulmer. Then Damien "Deepthroat" Cox provided more details on the timeline of the erosion of Allaire's relationship with the coaching staff.
Allaire is understandably weary of what he perceives as a smear campaign against his methods . Since February he has been the target of other goalie coaches and the media as well as facing private criticisms by his colleagues Scott Gordon and Greg Cronin as well as the GM that hired him and the team's new head coach. This prompted an e-mail to The latter played a part in why, like St. Peter denying Our Lord three times, he refused turned down a trio of contracts offered prior to July 1st.
"The direction of the team was sealed after seeing the team's goalies get bogged down during the last 25 games of the season after Scott Gordon and Greg Cronin (2 assistant coaches with no experience training goalies) disastrously took charge of the goalies during a Western Canadian trip while I worked with the Marlies in Toronto. It's more proof that it's easier to criticize and point a finger than to coach and teach."
Let's not gloss over the fact that Burke reportedly tried to re-sign a goalie coach that he now says has been passed over by the evolution of the position three times. On the day that the team left on their way to visit their Western Canadian bastions of support the Maple Leafs were 28-22-6 and in the last playoff position. After the dilettante assistant coaches took over the reins from the professional goalie coach the team slumped to a 7-15-4 finish that saw their place sealed as the most inept team of the Lockout Interregnum. Note that for what it's worth, Allaire's timeline matches Cox's.
"From that moment, I tried to continue to be as professional as possible and offer my moral support to the young Leafs goalies although the damage done to their mental state and technical abilities were far too big to hope to find a short-term solution."
As the season unravelled there was no respite for the team regardless of who wore the mask behind the wobbly team. Meanwhile, the "past his time" Allaire put his "outdated" beliefs to work for the team's entry into the junior loop.
"I also continued to work with the Marlies (strangely, I was seen as a positive element by the group of coaches as I have been during my 27 years of professional coaching) in order to help Ben Scrivens work towards the lowest goals against average in the AHL and to lead the team to the Calder Cup Final"
Sources have noted that too often Allaire's success with Mark Owuya, Ben Scrivens, and James Reimer have been washed away because he failed to work miracles with the diabolical and reticent Vesa Toskala, the clearly injured Jean-Sebastien Giguere, and the sadly overrated Jonas Gustavsson. Prior to Reimer's concussion at the villainous hands of Brian Gionta he was being feted as the true successor to Messrs. Belfour and Joseph in the blue paint. Suddenly, coinciding with the power play by Gordon and Cronin, Allaire had gone from one of the best goalie coaches in the league to a blithering idiot with nary a clue how to get his young charges to stop the puck.
"Curiously, Ben Scrivens plays a hybrid style and even if he played 12 games with the Leafs no one remarked upon it. So where are the experts that could not distinguish that I did not train Ben Scrivens in the same approach as James Reimer??? I love training that kind of goalie (ie Martin Gerber, Ilya Bryzgalov, Jonas Hiller, and Ben Scrivens) but you have to have the proper candidate for that kind of training. I previously had a chance to work almost exclusively with Jean-Sebastien Giguere for the previous 10 years so a lot of people categorized me as a one-dimensional coach because of that long-term relationship"
It would appear that Allaire's greatest failing was trying to adapt his teaching style to the goalie that he had rather than trying to wedge one style to all comers. This is a great passage because a lot of the criticism from self-styled goaltending experts, the media, and a majority of Leafs fans was that the entire problem was that Allaire only coaches a blocking style of goaltending. It is as ludicrous of a solution as to suggest that Roberto Mancini or Pep Guardiola only coach in one manner. A close examination from game-to-game shows how they adjust their core philosophies as needed to suit the players at their disposal and their opponent. One advantage they hold over Allaire is that they work with better players and they are the boss so they're free from interference.
"It was clear that I would be the subject of a smear campaign on the part of the Leafs upon my departure. It's the price I paid for staying loyal to my profession, my principles, and my goalies."
It's ironic that the goalie coach that was martyred as a result of a falling out with two of Brian Burke's other hirings will now be replaced by Rick St-Croix (St. Cross).
"I think it's good news [for Rick]. Rick worked with Randy Carlyle and Dave Farish, two coaches who are used to working with and respecting goalie coaches. He'll also greatly enjoy working with the young goalies Reimer, Scrivens, Rynnas and Owuya who are all great individuals and possess a lot of energy and potential."
We'll see how things go. The actual move isn't necessarily a mistake but the manner in which it was approached and dealt with certainly suggest a level of incompetence and disarray that had previously been kept from the fans. As for his future after the debacle in Toronto?
"I have things to do"
Presumably, one of those will be keeping track of whether the internal machinations in Toronto are so byzantine that they derail the development of the team's four goalies any further.