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John Garrett: Coaching success

by John Garrett / Vancouver Canucks
Dan Lacosta got his first shutout for the Columbus Blue Jackets Tuesday night against the Colorado Avalanche. It was his third game of the season and just his second start.

The Jackets now have eight shutouts all-told, as Steve Mason has racked up seven in his 34 games in 2008-09. Last year Pascal Leclaire had nine.

Tim Thomas has a 24-6-5 record with three shutouts and a .930 save percentage. Niklas Backstrom has six shutouts and a 2.19 goals against average. Last year Backstrom had a 2.31 goals against and the year before that it was a lowly 1.91.

Stay with me here.

John Garrett is a former Canuck and currently the colour commentator for Sportsnet.

Ty Conklin has six shutouts this season. In his previous five years in the NHL he had three.

Dwayne Roloson has a 2.78 goals against this year. Last year it was 3.05, and the year before that it was 2.75. In the three seasons in Minnesota Roloson had a goals against of 1.88, 2.00 and 2.58.

So what’s the point?

There is a common thread here. The success of these goalies - and others throughout the league – doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with their talents between the pipes. Nor hot streaks, or luck, or their opponents’ collective head space.

The Columbus Blue Jackets have yet to make the playoffs in their six-year history, but since they welcomed Ken Hitchcock and his defensive-first coaching his philosophy into the fold, it’s led to great stats for the guys behind the mask.

Ed Belfour won his only Stanley Cup with Hitchcock behind the bench in sunny Dallas. Belfour went from having eight seasons where his goals against was under 2.50 just once (2.47 in 90-91), to having back-to-back years under the 2.0 line.

Jose Theodore won a Hart trophy and played over 65 games for coach Claude Julien. Who is the Coach of the Bruins and Tim Thomas? It’s Julien. And what do Theo’s numbers look like now?

Jacques Lemaire stresses defence and he undoubtedly helps make a goalie’s job easier – just ask Pavol Demitra about that.

Joel Quennville is the same kind of coach. He turned David Aebischer into a hot commodity. In Aebischer’s 174 games with the Avalanche he posted an accumulated goals against of under 2.5. In Montreal it was over three.

Some people thought Nikolai Khabibulin was done. He has a .922 save percentage and a 16-5-5 record for the playoff-bound Hawks under the tutelage of Quennville.

Marty Brodeur has 92 wins over the past two seasons – which should come as little surprise. Two year ago it was playing for Claude Julien. Last year it was Brent Sutter. Scott Clemmensen had played 28 games in the NHL in his seven pro seasons. With Brodeur out, he has played 35 and compiled a 22-11-1 record. Did he all of a sudden get that good?

Mike Babcock won a Stanley Cup with Chris Osgood and an ailing Dominik Hasek. They are favored again this year with the less-than-formidable Osgood-Conklin tandem. The Wings take the pressure off their goaltenders with their puck control style. The goalies know that this team can outscore most of their mistakes.

Alain Vigneault is one of those coaches. Jeff Hackett had his best year playing for Alain in Montreal. Jocelyn Thibault had his lowest goals against playing for Vigneault. Roberto Luongo had 109 wins in his five years in Florida and never made the playoffs. In two seasons with the Canucks, Luongo has racked up 92 wins.

His best goals against in Florida 2.43. In Vancouver it’s been 2.38 and 2.29. The coach can not go out there and stop the puck but he sure can make their lives a whole lot easier.
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